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Ronnie Whelan: Reds right to bite bullet

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Stoke City defender Ryan Shawcross holds off Liverpool's Rickie Lambert during their Premier League clash at Anfield. Photo: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Stoke City defender Ryan Shawcross holds off Liverpool's Rickie Lambert during their Premier League clash at Anfield. Photo: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Stoke City defender Ryan Shawcross holds off Liverpool's Rickie Lambert during their Premier League clash at Anfield. Photo: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

I think we've reached a crossroads now with Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool. He has returned to the things he knows best and it may even be working. There has been a subtle but significant change in his selection policy, forced upon him by events in the case of Rickie Lambert but by design when it comes to Lucas.

By picking the Brazilian defensive midfielder, he signalled a realisation that his always-on, always-pushing-to score mentality just wasn't working with the players he had.

He also signalled an understanding that the players he paid an awful lot of money for are not doing it for him and he must return to the core of last season's success for answers.

Dejan Lovren didn't start against Crystal Palace. Neither did Moreno, Lalana or Markovic. From the new arrivals, only Manquilo and Lambert raised a flag.

Rodgers knows what he will get from Lucas and, to be fair to him, he has made a big difference in a Liverpool midfield which now looks more stable.

Lambert has chipped in with a few goals and a couple of big assists. He's a big man and, again, what you see is what you get.

It is remarkable to think that he has contributed more in just a few games than the entire list of expensive signings has since the season started and at a very good time for Rodgers.

He is under pressure from outside the walls of Anfield and - according to himself - inside as well, and I wonder how much of that is down to this idea of a transfer committee.

Much has made of it of late and the possibility that Rodgers is not in full control of the buying and selling, which would be very worrying to me if it is true and a complete departure from a tried-and-trusted Anfield tradition.

If it is the case and Rodgers buys into the idea of group decision-making, I would fear for him. I thought he had gathered enough power from what was achieved last season to call the shots. He earned the right.

Pressure

But if other people have any part to play in the final call on a player, it's no wonder he feels that he is under pressure from within.

It doesn't matter right now how Markovic, Lallana and the rest of them got there. Rodgers has to deal with them and if that means dropping them, so be it even if they cost a lot of money and there would be a natural wish to see them do well. At some point he had to bite the bullet, whether they are his men or not.

I think he reached that point when he sat down to pick his team for Ludogrets and decided that he had to return to players who did well for him before.

Rodgers spoke about a turning point during the week and that the draw in Sofia would could be a launch pad for better things. He has followed that up with a win and if he can find a way to beat Basel in a few weeks and grab six points from winnable games against Leicester and Sunderland, his position would look a lot more stable.

These are small steps. He is in a fight now and he must claw his way out of the confusion and inconsistency which characterised the first half of the season.

Elsewhere, that was a serious statement of intent from Manchester City against Ronald Koeman's young team. They flexed their muscles against Southampton and if there was a dip in form last month, it's over.

Last week was a very good one for Manuel Pellegrini's team and he will be delighted to see them build on that really big win over Bayern Munich.

The Champions League has been a weight on their shoulders and by digging out a great win, they then hit Southampton in just the right mood.

Where better to lay down a marker than at the home of a precocious team and, in the process, put them in their place in the table as well?

Time will tell whether Southampton drop off the pace or not, but they were dismissed without any difficulty by Manchester City and this defeat will dent their confidence in a big way.

Stuttered

More importantly for Pellegrini and Manchester City, Chelsea's march towards the title stuttered again and you can be certain that Jose Mourinho only sees one team in his rear view mirror at the moment.

So, a month before Christmas, the Premier League is undoubtedly a two-horse race. Everyone else is arguing over scraps and European places. Liverpool are very firmly in that bracket.


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