Much of the early sheen has worn off when it comes to Kolo Toure; his form hasn't tanked completely, and he's still probably one of the two or three best interviews in the squad, but three performances alongside Martin Skrtel in three of Liverpool's shakiest defensive displays of the season--at Hull City, at Stoke City, and yesterday against Villa--have underlined that in a full-strength squad, he's still very much the third- or fourth-choice central defender Liverpool thought they were getting in June.
With Mamadou Sakho and Daniel Agger out through injury, however, there are few other options available, and in fairness to both Skrtel and the Ivorian, yesterday's frailties were a product of their manager's faulty setup rather than anything they had done. That Aston Villa only scored twice in the first half was a minor miracle, one aided by a handful of last-gasp interventions by the duo.
For Toure's part--and this always seems like Toure's part--there's still reason to be hopeful, especially with things so tight at the top of the Premier League table:
"For us, we just need to think about the next game 100 per cent, try to win and be positive. What we have done so far no-one was expecting at the start of the season. We need to take that on board and just keep going. When you have hard times you see a strong team and we are a strong team. The first half was very hard but the reaction from the team was great after going 2-0 down to a good Villa side - last year they won here and it wasn't easy for us.
"We got a point and that showed the character of the team. We don't want to lose and that is very important, especially at home. Other teams will make errors. We just need to maintain our focus and believe in ourselves. In 16 games a lot can happen."
For two successive weekends that hasn't yet been the case, with every team in the top seven gaining maximum points in matches most assumed they could and should win. Spurs drew level on points with a win at Swansea earlier in the day, and after Chelsea and Manchester United finish up today, Everton will travel to a West Brom side playing under their new manager for the first time.
No doubt that Kolo Toure's right in noting the likelihood that there's more to come in terms of help from other sides, even if the past two weekends indicate otherwise. Relying on that is awfully tricky, however, and when Liverpool actively hurt themselves, the help doesn't really matter all that much.