Liverpool were shocked by Aston Villa on Saturday, in an absolutely appalling display that lacked any quality whatsoever in the final third.
But let’s have look at the performance in depth and pinpoint the key areas where the Reds could improve. First of all Liverpool had to be far more incisive with their passing, because they did not look like penetrating the Villa back line at any point during the game. Villa used the sort of tactic Liverpool should be best prepared for, the hit and run. Villa scored early on, after errors from the defence and then had no intention of attacking from then on.
Villa were aggressive to say the least on the Liverpool players, and they were certainly kicking our forward players up in the air, as they should all be used to by now. This is no excuse for the poor performances produced by Coutinho, Lallana and Markovic who all were very poor for Liverpool for large parts of the game, especially Markovic. Coutinho had points during the game where he looked like providing a spark and he did hit the post. Lallana also showed flashes with a few close shots but all in all, for our £50million worth of talent, it was a horrendous showing.
Villa set up with two solid banks of four, and were just happy for Liverpool to have the ball in front of them. The Reds barely penetrated the first line of defence, let alone the back four. For me this shows just how important Joe Allen is for Liverpool, he finds good areas for the team to have possession and either picks out the pass or moves into that space. So far this season he has been Liverpools best player, bar Raheem Sterling.
With regards to Mario Balotelli, I was quite impressed with him for not retaliating to Senderos’ treatment of him and his ball retention was pretty cool and collected. Senderos knows he was lucky to still be on the pitch for some of his challenges and if Paul Lambert told him to behave that then I do think it was disgraceful, considering how poor Liverpool were playing anyway there was no need for that sort of challenge.
My final point goes on the team selection, Brendan Rodgers will be the first person to tell you he got it wrong. He included an out of form Coutinho, Adam Lallana who was making his debut and Lazar Markovic who has a lot of adapting to do.
Yet he left out our best player so far this season out of the starting XI, despite the absence of Sturridge anyway. He will say he will regret not including Sterling at the end of the season if we miss out on our targets by just a couple of points, perhaps not in public, but surely on a personal note he will regret it.
Now Brendan must show he has built a Liverpool team that is capable of bouncing back well from disappointment – something that has been a consistent feature during his reign so far, and something I do expect them to do on Tuesday, in our long awaited return to the Champions League.