Obviously, Brendan Rodgers wanted to avoid the embarrassment of losing to Oldham in the FA Cup for a second straight season. He managed to get by that difficulty comfortably enough (2-0), but it seemed like finally giving Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho some rest and on the way getting Iago Aspas to actually score a goal might have been just as important as Liverpool winning the match.
Playing at home, there was no aerial attack from the visitors like we saw last season as Liverpool stumbled to that 3-2 loss. Aspas found himself playing as a striker for once, Luis Alberto was in the lineup for the first time this season, Victor Moses was back in it, Kolo Toure got himself a chance to get some playing time and even Brad Jones made an appearance.
This was a learning and resting experience that went well. Without injuries, and eventually putting on an almost full lineup in the second half, as Lucas and Philippe Coutinho came on at half time for Luis Alberto and Victor Moses, helping push Liverpool to their opening goal by Aspas, who has been waiting for this since preseason, the last time he scored for the club.
Luis Suarez also made an appearance, coming on for Steven Gerrard, but the second goal, an own goal, came mostly due to the work of Raheem Sterling, who has been looking a lot more dangerous as a finisher over the last month – a sharp contrast to the exciting but ineffective player we saw for most of last season before he fizzled away with the workload of a full season becoming too much.
This is something to watch for – Luis Suarez did get a late start to the season, but some might expect him to see a drop in his scoring form if his minutes aren’t managed more properly. Luckily for Liverpool, there is only the FA Cup providing a distraction. The same goes for Coutinho, although he’s also had some time off. Jordan Henderson is a player who has hardly rested a minute this season, and even though he’s one of the fittest in the Premier League, it’s impossible to expect him to play at the same level for an entire season.
The ‘old-schoolers’ don’t want to hear it, but the FA Cup is a distraction. If you do reach the later stages than it becomes a bit more interesting, but when there’s something to play for in the league, there’s really nothing to the competition but a chance to give certain players some minutes that more serious matches don’t allow that. Most managers don’t admit it, as the few who do get scorned by the media and some fans. However, the focus is always where the money is, and it isn’t in the oldest cup competition in the world.