Aston Villa 0-2 Liverpool: Five things Brendan Rodgers learnt

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Liverpool extended their unbeaten streak in the Premier League to six matches with a 2-0 victory away at Aston Villa.

Brendan Rodgers made just one change to the Reds' starting XI, resting captain Steven Gerrard after picking up an injury against Sunderland last week and replacing him with Raheem Sterling.

The Merseyside outfit started brightly and in the 24th minute, Jordan Henderson cross found Fabio Borini, who smartly finished the strike on the volley.

The top flight's lowest scoring team had their chances in the second-half, with Christian Benteke first being denied by Simon Mignolet and then an excellent block from Martin Skrtel.

Rickie Lambert came off the bench and with ten minutes left on the clock, his shot from 18 yards accurately beat Brad Guzan to wrap the three points up in the Midlands.

Martin Skrtel Has Greatly Improved

In the first third of the season, Skrtel just wasn't performing for Liverpool. He looked clueless at the back, not knowing how to position himself and was at the brunt end of several mistakes.

Kopites had their doubts about the Slovakian playing at the heart of the defence and many wondered why he wasn't sold when Manchester City were interested in the summer transfer window.

However, now not playing alongside Dejan Lovren and in a back-three, the 30-year-old looks a different player who goes about his game with clarity and plays positively.

It was a case of deja vu for Skrtel on Saturday. He had little to do in the first-half against Sunderland and was called into action regularly after the break - against Villa it was the same.

Any defender will have trouble marking Benteke. The Belgian is blessed with a massive stature as well as a brilliant first touch and an eye for goal.

Benteke had one chance when he escaped the former Zenit St. Petersburg man when Mignolet made a solid save.

His other chance a little later, he looked destined to score when eight yards out. The Villa striker hit his effort with plenty of power low across the ground and seemingly Mignolet would have had no chance. 

It needed a big challenge to deny Benteke and Skrtel came good, putting his body on the line sliding in and made an excellent block to see the ball go out for a corner. 

The Anfield veteran made a number of superb clearances as well as winning most of his aerial duals with Benteke.

Skrtel is rumoured to be in new contract talks to extend his time on Merseyside and if his form is anything like what he's played like in recent weeks it's an excellent move from Rodgers.

Fabio Borini Can Do His Bit

It was pleasing to see Fabio Borini net his first Premier League goal this season.

The Italian could have quite easily left Anfield this summer to be guaranteed regular football elsewhere.

However, he decided to fight for his place in Rodgers' side and that alone shows his passion to succeed.

Granted, Daniel Sturridge is close to returning from injury and will automatically take his place at the spearhead of the Liverpool attack and will see Borini, Rickie Lambert and Mario Balotelli fighting for a place to come off the bench.

Out of the three, it is the ex-AS Roma man who suits Liverpool's style the most and done well in the Midlands. 

What Borini brings to the table is excellent movement, creating gaps for his team-mates to penetrate. 

His movement to thrust into the box for his goal was very good and the finish was sublime, showing excellent technique to put his effort past Guzan.

The Reds have plenty of games approaching in the second-half of the season and will be hunting to end the season with a piece of silverware. 

Sturridge will likely be wrapped in cotton wool, not risking that he picks up another serious injury and given plenty of rests. 

Out of the other three strikers, it is Borini who suits the most. There is plenty of improvement needed him based on Saturday's performance - his decision making was poor and his first-touch looked a little off.

However, he was positive the way the went about his game and with plenty of time on the pitch, he's bound to show what he did when on loan at Sunderland last term.

Where Does This Leave Mario Balotelli

With Sturridge close to return and Borini putting in a decent performance, it seems that their will be a battle between Lambert and Balotelli for a spot on the Liverpool bench.

Prior to the Villa clash, you'd expect that it would be the £16 million summer signing who commands the position, given he is probably more naturally gifted than the Kirkby-native.

With the former Inter Milan man missing the drive down the M6 due to illness, Lambert was given the call-up by his boss to come on with 20 minutes remaining and repaid the faith put in.

The 32-year-old finished his goal excellently from 18 yards out, showing his experience and what an eye for goal he has. 

As well as that, his work-rate was faultless and played several neat touches and overall his performance was decent.

Now, he places a serious dilemma in Rodgers' head.

Balotelli has been poor this season, lacking in attitude and put in some dreadful displays.

However, he has so much potential waiting to be unleashed and every football fan is waiting for him to finally grow up and take football seriously.

The two are fairly similar to their styles of football - they're big target men who like to hold the ball up and get into the box.

Lambert sits on three goals - two in the Premier League - as opposed to Balotelli's two and is yet to score in the top flight. 

It would be unjust to have both sitting on the bench, when one would likely not come on. Therefore, Rodgers will have some big decision making about who he selects in his 18 man squad.

Jordan Henderson Is Coming Of Age

With Gerrard out of the side, Jordan Henderson once again took the captain's armband and put in a shift that oozed class.

It seems as if there is a burden on the former Sunderland man when Gerrard plays, like he does not want to take his limelight away from the Anfield legend.

However, with the 34-year-old absent from the side, the inexperienced Liverpool side needed a leader and Henderson did just that.

He bossed the centre of the park, winning the ball for his side on a number of occasions and starting attacks for his side. The 24-year-old may have the best engine in the Premier League, as he never stops working for the first to the final whistle.

His ball to find Borini for Liverpool's opener was too, top class and his forward play has improved significantly this season.

Healthy Competition For Brendan Rodgers

It was a frustrating first few months of the season for the Reds' boss. 

Brendan Rodgers had plenty of summer recruits who had class, but just could not get it all to click. He chopped and changed the line-up so many times, trying to find out his best side and at one stage, it looked like things would never go right.

However, it is now the complete opposite for the former Swansea City boss as he's found that playing three in the defence is working.

Liverpool are top of the form table, unbeaten in their last six and have plenty of momentum behind them.

Add that to the return of Sturridge, Adam Lallana, a refreshed Raheem Sterling, the recall of Jordan Ibe who impressed on loan at Derby County and Gerrard and Balotelli were not in the squad.

It is an excellent squad that Rodgers has assembled and although he has once had this problem, he now knows how to best utilise his players the best way possible.

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