Dismal Display In Villa Loss
Liverpool fell to a 1-0 defeat at Anfield on Saturday after Paul Lambert's Villa side found an early goal and protected their lead. With Sturridge missing and Sterling rested, Brendan Rodgers opted for a very different team and a very different set up for this fixture and unfortunately it just didn't work out.
The Reds began the game in a slow fashion. There was no real sense of urgency from the lads and for me the set up lacked balance. With the likes of Markovic, Coutinho, Lallana and co all jostling to collect the ball and push forward, it just felt like nobody was on the same page and this was immediately noticeable.
Balotelli leading the line for me was always going to be an issue because he's just not that sort of player, he needs support which is why the missing Daniel Sturridge is a bigger problem than just us lacking his goal tally.
A half chance for Liverpool to start with saw Markovic turn a header wide. It became evident though that Liverpool would struggle to get any action in front of the Villa net during this game.
Shortly afterwards Mamadou Sakho found himself having to deal with Gabby Agbonlahor. After conceding a corner, Sakho joined his defensive line to hopefully clear the set piece, however it was a shambles. Liverpool just weren't alert at all and the resulting corner eventually found its way to Agbonlahor who turned home his side's only goal of the game.
With such an early goal Liverpool of course still had the opportunity to get back into this game but Aston Villa were difficult to break down, remaining very compact. Shortly after their goal a free kick was awarded when Lallana made a bad challenge on Cleverley.
The free kick found its way to Senderos who was again left unmarked after roaming free for the earlier corner. It was just ridiculous, the defence were all over the shop. Another set piece followed with the Reds only narrowly avoiding more damage to the scoreline.
Late on in the first half Balotelli managed to hold the ball up well and play in Lallana but the ex Southampton man's effort flew just wide.
It just wasn't clicking for Liverpool and to be honest I just didn't like the way we had set up. I also was frustrated that Sterling wasn't starting. I can appreciate that Rodgers wants to look after one of his star men but for me he should have started the game and then came off earlier not the other way around.
Sterling did eventually appear in the second half for Liverpool and immediately lifted spirits. Aston Villa had been staunchly consistent in their defending and whilst the Reds had created some good spells with the introduction of Sterling, they just couldn't find a goal.
A corner in to Balotelli looked as though the Reds could be off the mark but the Italian couldn't quite get the power behind it to convert. The best chance for Liverpool was a Countinho effort after he weaved into the box and his strike smashed out off the post.
For me it was just a strange game overall. I've already mentioned my dislike of the set up but I was also annoyed when Balotelli was taken off for Lambert with Borini also coming on too.
Balotelli for me desperately needs someone up front with him. Yes, he had a pretty dull game and wasn't creating much but that's exactly why he needed Lambert to come on. I just didn't see the point in taking Balo off because he would have benefited from the introduction of Lambert. Borini being thrown in too just didn't make sense for me.
It felt as though Rodgers was testing the waters to some extent. He started a very different XI and then failed to try something simple at the end by playing two up front in an attempt to find that all important goal. It was just all a bit weird.
However, I must give credit to Aston Villa. They played their game perfectly, scoring early and defending well, holding on to those precious three points. They are definitely turning in to a bit of a bogey team.
For Liverpool it was a disappointing loss but if anything it shows the variety of players we have available, we just need time I think to figure out who works best where and with who.
One other thing that I picked upon is a lot of people groaning about Balotelli's movement. He was particularly lacklustre today but anyone thinking he's going to be a spring chicken needs to give up now. Balotelli is a lazy player, he hangs around and is often in the right place at the right time, it's what he does best. But crucially, he needs that support and when he has it, he will find goals. It's very early doors at the moment and here's hoping he can settle into his rhythm.
I asked you for your thoughts on the game on Twitter and here are a few of the tweets I received...
@_TheLiverBird General feeling amongst the opposition, is that if you press us early then our defensive fragilities will be exposed.
— James (@442Diamond) September 13, 2014
@LFCKirstyLFC He was a marked man today, needs to have a partner & learn we move the ball fast in prem league, but it will come for sure
— Califoina dreaming (@copesta1YNWA) September 13, 2014
@LFCKirstyLFC a very different squad Kirsty with great players but we need time. Too much expectation now after last season
— Welsh_LFC_Warrior (@WelshLFCWarrior) September 13, 2014
Definitely a result that we all would like to forget about and what better way to do so than getting ready for the return of the Champions League to Anfield on Tuesday night?!?!