Saturday, October 31, 2020

Assessing Liverpool’s 7-2 Loss To Aston Villa

Liverpool were stunned on Sunday after their 7-2 loss away to Aston Villa. In a match that the Reds were expected to win, the reigning champions were poor. They looked back to their old defensive selves from 2017.

Liverpool have been defensively solid since the arrival of Virgil Van Dijk and Allison in 2018. However, the red half of Merseyside looked far from what has become expected of them. So what went wrong on Sunday?

Key Men Missing

Without Mane through coronavirus and Allison via an injury picked up in training, Liverpool were without two key men. Liverpool looked lacklustre in attack with Mohamed Salah the only attacker who played well.

Liverpool players look dejected in the 7-2 loss.

Adrian came in for Alisson and whilst he made a couple of important saves, he was largely at fault for the opening goal scored by Aston Villa’s Ollie Watkins after his poor distribution.

Joe Gomez was also a man to blame after his poor defensive display throughout the game. He fell asleep for the second goal and was responsible for plenty more errors throughout the game.

This now leads the question as to how Liverpool will lineup at the back in their next game in two weekends time. This game happens to be at home to local neighbours Everton, who are currently top of the Premier League.

As a Liverpool fan, this has me worried. Everton look good going forward with Dom Calvert-Lewin the league’s top goalscorer and James Rodríguez arguably the signing of the summer so far.

We saw last season how error prone Adrian can be, with high profile mistakes. There was his error in the FA Cup defeat to Chelsea. His distribution against Atlético Madrid also cost Liverpool a place in the Champions League quarter final last season.

Adrian’s error in Liverpool’s FA Cup defeat to Chelsea.

He is a keeper lacking in confidence, which we also saw in the penalty shootout against Arsenal last week in the League Cup. Adrian went the right way but allowed the ball to go through him.

This has to be addressed fast, which may be helped by giving Joe Gomez some time on the bench. The centre back has been in bad form for some time and has been somewhat fortunate that Joel Matip has been injured.

Last season, Gomez had some bright moments but was also exposed at times during the 2019/20 season.

Fabinho started at centre back in the 2-0 win over Chelsea this season, the Red’s only league clean sheet to date so far this season.

Fabinho in Liverpool’s win over Chelsea this season.

I expect Fabinho to start at centre back, as we saw when Gomez was taken off for Curtis Jones and Fabinho moved to centre back. Is this a sign of things to come?

I am not sure where the offside trap started with Liverpool but it has creeped into their game.

We saw the way Liverpool ended the season after they were confirmed as Premier League champions and it can be blamed on the mental side of the game when you know you are already champions.

This cannot be the excuse now.

Attacking wise, Liverpool clearly missed the aggression and work rate of Sadio Mane. Diogo Jota replaced Mane and really lacked the end product.

He looked bright in spells but just lacked that final ball or attacking prowess that Liverpool have become accustomed to with their Senegalese attacker.

Struggling Brazilian

My favourite Liverpool player is Roberto Firmino but it is clear that the Brazilian number 9 is way off the pace right now. Firmino’s form has been poor for a while now.

I heard YouTuber ‘Stunt Pegg’ talk about Firmino and his role at Liverpool and she made a good point.

She referred to when Coutinho was at Liverpool, he did the work Bobby does now.

Firmino and Coutinho together at Liverpool.

This therefore allowed Firmino to stay forward but now Coutinho is not at the club, Firmino has to get deeper back and help out Salah and Mane. She also asked whether Thiago will change this once he beds in.

This got me thinking.

We also saw this during the second half of the 2017/18 season when Coutinho left. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain did an excellent job at being direct and helping win the ball back for the front three before his injury which has halted his progress at Liverpool.

Oxlade-Chamberlain after his Champions League quarter final goal against Man City.

Liverpool’s normal midfield three of Jordan Henderson, Gini Wijnaldum and Fabinho are all great midfielders but lack that attacking threat in midfield that was once there.

Firmino’s best goalscoring season was during the 2017/18 season. The more each season has gone on, the further back Firmino has gone to help the team and the less goals he has scored.

Despite all of this, i still believe this is a one off in what seems to be a current theme of the Premier League. We saw Manchester United lose 6-1 to Tottenham Hotspur a few hours before the Aston Villa 7-2 win and saw Leicester win 5-2 away against Manchester City.

Liverpool will hope that the international break will break the flow in Everton’s form and give the players the time to reflect and hopefully get back to winning ways. Whatever happens, it is going to be a tough game and arguably the hardest Everton team Liverpool have played against in many years.

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