Rodgers demands Liverpool rally after Cup calamity
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has called on his players to bounce back from their humiliating defeat by Oldham and keep their slim hopes of making the top four alive by beating Arsenal in the Premier League at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday.
The Reds were knocked out of the FA Cup by third-tier League One side Oldham on Sunday, which left Rodgers furious with the younger players in his squad who let him down.
Facing Arsenal will be a tough ask, however, considering Liverpool are yet to beat a team in the top half of the table so far this season.
“Sunday hurt, very much so,” said Rodgers. “It is bitterly disappointing when you lose such a game.
“As a manager it has to give you greater motivation to push on.
“If we are going to progress we have to make sure the players are hungry in every game. We need to do better against teams in the top half. There’s no doubt in big games we want to do better.
“It is a very important game. It is a game we go into, if you put Sunday aside, with confidence. It is a tough game but one we will look to try and win and one we are capable of winning.”
Rodgers is set to restore Steven Gerrard to his starting line-up having brought the Liverpool skipper on as a substitute against Oldham and he warned his younger players they must learn from the Reds legend or face up to playing in the lower tiers of English football.
“They won’t have a greater role model to follow. If they are clever and bright enough they will learn from him; if not they might find themselves playing in League One. They will regret the opportunity that they had playing with world-class players.”
Jose Enrique (hamstring), Glen Johnson (hamstring) and Pepe Reina (thigh) are all set to return at the Emirates.
Meanwhile Theo Walcott believes Arsenal’s season is beginning to gather some momentum after the Gunners followed up the 5-1 league victory over West Ham with a hard-fought 3-2 FA Cup win at Brighton.
Walcott himself has been in fine form, scoring in three successive matches including the late winner at Brighton that took his goals tally for this season to 17.
The England international accepts the visit of Liverpool will provide a stern examination but believes Arsene Wenger’s side, who currently lie sixth, are now ready to step up the pressure on the top four.
“It’s going to be an intense game against Liverpool,” Walcott said.
“Both teams are fighting for that fourth position and are very close together. But I think the way we played at home the other day against West Ham shows that we are strong enough to beat them.”
And he added: “Yes the momentum (is growing). It has been up and down, there have been patches of brilliance, but we need to do it in every game.
“We have tended to start slowly and then wake up and that’s something we need to get out of our system. It’s concentration.”
Walcott recently agreed a new long-term deal with Arsenal and is showing signs of developing an effective understanding with striker Olivier Giroud.
“I’m definitely enjoying my football,” Walcott said. “I think the last two years have been strong as well but I’ve always enjoyed my football, no matter what. I always listen to the right people and always enjoy every time I get a chance to play.”
Walcott started on the bench at Brighton along with Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere but all three are expected to feature against Liverpool from the kick-off, along with recalled full-backs Bacary Sagna and Kieran Gibbs.