Liverpool are off to Wembley after registering a hard earned 1-0 victory against Blackburn at Ewood Park in the FA Cup sixth-round replay on Wednesday.
Phillipe Coutinho’s second half strike proved to be the difference between the two sides and the Reds will now face Aston Villa in the semi-final.
With that victory, the Reds returned to winning ways, after two back to back demoralising defeats to Manchester United and Arsenal.
The top four challenge seems difficult at the moment even though mathematically Liverpool are still in the race, but at least they’re in the last four of the FA Cup and have a realistic chance of winning silverware.
Liverpool lined up with a back four in a 4-3-3 system for the first time since December. So far Liverpool had been playing 3-4-2-1 that enabled them to rise up the ladder after a dismal start to the campaign, but following two disappointing defeats, it was time for Rodgers to go back to the drawing board again.
Short-term strategy is a common syndrome with Rodgers, a reason why he divides opinion among the pundits. He came to Liverpool with a clear footballing vision and a strong philosophy and preached the concept of “death by football”. While Liverpool played attractive football, the results didn’t often go in their way. By January the sterile passing football was abandoned and a more direct approach was introduced. The short-term strategy worked.
The following season, Liverpool tried various systems like 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1, 4-1-3-2 but in the end the 4-4-2 diamond system worked and Rodgers continued with it, as the Reds went on to mount a strong title challenge.
This season it has been a similar story again. After the defeat against Basle, Rodgers implemented the 3-4-3/variation system that led Liverpool to go on an excellent run. And there again, once the opposition had a response, he moved to another short term strategy. It contradicts the principle he had set when first joined at Liverpool.
Although it can be argued that the shift to 4-3-3, the system he mainly followed at Swansea, was a forced change, as the defence required protection due to the absence of Martin Skrtel and Emre Can.
It took Liverpool 70 minutes to break the deadlock and Coutinho once again tuned out to be the saviour.
Rodgers once hailed Coutinho as a “little magician”. The 22-year-old has enjoyed his best campaign this season, scoring six goals and managing four assists. The Brazilian is a highly talented footballer but needs to improve on his output.
He was criticised for being too inconsistent in previous seasons, and although this term he has become one of the key players for Liverpool, the end product is often missing from his game.
Coutinho is not a natural goal scorer but he scores in crucial moments and more often than not it turns out to be the match winner. For instance, his first goal of the season came in the 90th minute against QPR, a match Liverpool went on to win 3-2 at Loftus Road.
He scored an important goal in Liverpool’s 2-0 win over Southampton and scored winners against Bolton (FA Cup) and Manchester City (Premier League) as well.
The past few weeks have been tormenting for Liverpool. The top four challenge is waning but by winning the FA Cup they still have a chance to save their season.