Five things we learned from Aston Villa's FA Cup semi-final win over Liverpool
Jack Grealish was one obvious talking point after his brilliant performance in Aston Villa's 2-1 win over Liverpool at Wembley today. Here are four more.
Liverpool are paying the price for a dreadful recruitment policy
Rodgers is now the first Liverpool manager not to win a trophy inside his first three seasons since the 1950s and will face renewed scrutiny after this defeat. How he must wish he could turn the clock back to pre-season so he could spend the £75million received from Luis Suarez’s sale properly. For such a crucial game in the club’s season the pressure was on the likes of Lazar Markovic, Dejan Lovren and Mario Balotelli to perform but they struggled once again and the finger has to be pointed at Rodgers and his recruitment team. After last season’s achievements Rodgers deserves more time but he will face a renewed examination over his signings this summer.
Aston Villa are the sleeping giant that has woken up
Roy Keane once famously claimed Aston Villa were not merely sleeping, “but in a coma”. This was a first cup semi-final success since 2000 yet it was proof that Tim Sherwood has kicked the former European Cup winners into life and there should be huge optimism for the future. After the ultra-cautious days of earlier this season, Villa are now exciting and ambitious and possess a squad that has been under-performing for too long. Sherwood may polarise opinion but deserved this triumph and maybe his mission to fly the flag for English managers wasn’t just a nice soundbite after all. Villa now need to ensure they avoid relegation, find a new buyer in the summer and then look forward to a new era.
Jack Grealish is ready to become a Premier League star
For the last three years Grealish has been the name on the lips of everyone at Villa, tipped as a teenager likely to make it big and attracting interest from the Chelsea before he made his senior debut. This was only the 19-year-old’s fifth start for the club but he could not have produced a more mature, composed yet streetwise performance. He has the aura of arrogance that all naturally talented footballers possess and there was one piece of skill late in the first half – when he took a high ball down on his instep – that was pure class. Roy Hodgson was in attendance and will surely be campaigning for Grealish to choose England over Ireland.
Is Daniel Sturridge the new Harry Kewell?
Sturridge’s failure to recover from a hip strain was widely expected but will do little to ease the growing irritation within Anfield circles over his fitness. There is definite frustration at Liverpool that not even an FA Cup semi-final can get Sturridge to play through what amounts to a small injury. Harry Kewell also had a reputation for being one of the most talented Liverpool in recent years but there were constant doubts over his fitness. However, even Kewell made the starting line-up for the 2005 Champions League Final, though he limped off early on. Sturridge’s absence was keenly felt by Liverpool and proved costly.
Christian Benteke is set to spark a summer transfer scramble
Benteke now has nine goals in his last seven games and is finally looking like the striker who was coveted across Europe two years ago. Liverpool have always struggled to contain the Belgium international and it became clear very early on that Martin Skrtel and Dejan Lovren were intimidated by the Villa forward. Sherwood has already spoken of potentially offering Benteke a new contract and days like this will undoubtedly strengthen the club’s hopes of keeping him. A clause of over £30million was inserted into Benteke’s contract when he agreed a new deal nearly two years ago but that looks like a bargain on current form.