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Four things we learned from Liverpool's 2-1 defeat to Aston Villa

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Steven Gerrard's fairytale end to his Liverpool career was not to be as goals from Christian Benteke and Fabian Delph seen Aston Villa beat the Reds 2-1 at Wembley to advance to the FA Cup final.

Gerrard leaves the Merseyside club this summer for Los Angeles Galaxy and many hoped winning the world's oldest club competition would be a fitting swansong for the academy graduate, especially with the final being on his 35th birthday.

All looked to be going to plan as Philippe Coutinho gave Liverpool the lead in the 30th minute.

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However, Villa were soon level when Benteke finished a superb team goal from 18 yards out just five minutes later.

After the break, Fabian Delph - who committed his long-term future to the club earlier this year - fired his team into the final of the FA Cup for the first time since 2000.

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Rodgers' Questionable Tactics

If I'm honest, I am even boring myself as, after most weeks pass, I continue to write the same thing.

What was Brendan Rodgers thinking throughout the game?

Liverpool started playing their usual 3-4-2-1 and Villa did start the better of the two, pressing high and giving the Reds back-three little time on the ball.

Rodgers reverted to a flat back-four which seen more solidarity to the team.

However, Emre Can is not a full-back - far from it, in fact.

The German was forced to play on the right-hand side of defence and was not comfortable playing in the role. 

When he was putting pen to paper at the beginning of the season, instead of inking a deal with Europe's aristocratic sides such as Bayern Munich, he would have likely rejected a move to Anfield if he knew he'd be playing right-back in an FA Cup semi-final.

Lazar Markovic didn't have the most active first 45 minutes, however, towards the end of the first-half he showed a few glimpses he was getting into the game, very similar to when Liverpool were 3-0 down at Arsenal two weeks ago.

However, Rodgers dragged the Serb off at the break, a tactic which is becoming a common occurrence when the former Benfica man is given a start.

Mario Balotelli replaced Markovic, much to the displeasure to many-a Kopite. The Italian's season at the Merseyside outfit has been disastrous to say the least and the sight of him emerging from the tunnel after half-time would have brought delight to Ron Vlaar and co.

At 2-1 down, it took the Liverpool boss over 20 minutes to make a change. Even if Lionel Messi had been sitting on the bench next to Brad Jones and Javier Manquillo, 10 minutes is nowhere near enough time for a substitute to make a difference.

It wasn't the attacking pair of Fabio Borini or Rickie Lambert who replaced Joe Allen - but Glen Johnson to fill in a right-back.

With ten minutes to go in a game to reach the final of the FA Cup, you do not bring on a defender. 

Albeit, Can pushed further up the pitch, however, the Northern Irishman should have sank or swam and left three at the back and pushed the former Bayer Leverkusen up regardless. Whether it was 2-1 or 5-1, goals would not have mattered and Liverpool fans would have rather seen a bold move made.

Lambert has been harshly treated throughout the season after making his dream move to his boyhood club last summer. He's barely had any game-time and been used as a late substitute when the former Swansea City boss has given the Kirkby-native a call-up.

Insult was further added to Lambert's already ridiculed Anfield career when he was asked to come on for injury-time. 

Can's Future Is In Advanced Role

Can has been a very useful player in the Reds camp this season and been excellent playing at the back.

As each game passes, however, you can see that the 21-year-old wants to push further and further up the pitch. His positioning has been poor in the past, but he's luckily got away with it for the majority of the season.

Unfortunately, on a day when there was no margin for error, Can's instincts got the better of him and caused Liverpool's downfall.

The German got far too tight to Fabian Delph in an advanced goal, leaving plenty of space in behind him that lead to Benteke's strike. There was acres of room where Can should have been positioned and his restriction would have lead to a much slower build-up from Villa.

For Delph's goal, he too was caught out again as Benteke latched on to a through ball was ease.

Can looked encouraging going up the field with the ball at his feet at times, although he did give it away too easily too often. Nonetheless, the desire was there from him, which can't be said about many of his team-mates.

Team Lacks Leaders

Villa have been in an exceptional vein of form in recent weeks and the semi-final at Wembley was always going to be a tough clash.

In a big clash at Wembley, people need to majorly step their game up to achieve legendry status at Anfield.

Steven Gerrard was virtually making his first appearance in almost three months and was never going to prosper. Conditions were not suited to him on the big pitch on a warm Sunday afternoon and people needed to step up to counter that.

Since Jordan Henderson has become a major player in Rodgers' team, his form has dipped significantly. Remember when he used to run around like a dog from the first to the final whistle? That was non-existent at Wembley and he was nowhere to be seen for Delph's strike.

Coutinho done well in patches, but, considering he is up for PFA Player of the Year, he should have been much more influential.

And what about Sterling? £180,000 a week he's demanded to stay at the Reds. Yes, his ball to assist Coutinho was smart, however, he was virtually non-existent for the rest of the game.

Time Up For Rodgers?

When Brendan Rodgers went for his job interview at Liverpool, he made his intentions clear.

It was to make them a Champions League side in three years and to bring trophies to Anfield.

None of those have happened.

The Reds went close to winning the league last year, but, that effort just goes down as a failed attempt.

He got Liverpool into the Champions League last season, however, his unfamiliarity and inexperience as a manager was again was proven when the Northern Irishman's side won just one game in Group B and were demoted to the Europa League. There, the Reds did not forge any better as they were dumped out by Besiktas in the last 32.

Kenny Dalglish was given the axe by owners Fenway Sports Group after just a one-and-a-half seasons at the Anfield helm. In that time he won the Capital One Cup and got to the final of the FA Cup.

Dalglish's second stint at Liverpool was deemed a failure, as he guided them to a miserable seventh in the league.

Rodgers looks to be guiding the Reds to fifth this term - and that's if their league form does not dip.

Without a trophy and a Champions League finish will mean the Merseyside outfit will struggle to attract the world's elite footballers in the summer transfer window, especially now there is meant to be bad blood in the camp following Liverpool's 4-1 loss against Arsenal a few weeks ago.

Things do not look good for Rodgers and it will not be a surprise if he's not in charge at Anfield next term.

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Topics:
Football
Premier League
FA Cup
Liverpool
Aston Villa

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