A friend of mine recorded this match for me, so I got to watch it again last night and a few things stood out to me this time than before. First, Jermaine Pennant actually played quite well. I don't know why I thought he played rubbish, maybe it was because he didn't have any of his trademark crazy-legged dribbles down the sideline, but overall, he was good and made some crucial passes. Unlike last year, the offense didn't go through him most of the match as we saw a major contribution from Dirk Kuyt. Was a bit surprised to see Riise taking corners over JP though, I hope it doesn't mean that Rafa has lost confidence in Pennant's ability.
Speaking of Kuyt, he was simply superb and made some great passes down low. Though I still think the Man of the Match was Carragher, who was just a force in the box making play after play. The handball will always be what he is most remembered for, but if you get a chance to watch this match again, just count how many times Carra makes a stop, a block, or a clearance, you might be a little shocked.
By far, our worst player was Xabi. I don't want to single him out, but it seemed as if he didn't know what his role was supposed be. Maybe it was because he was paired with Stevie-G, but at times I didn't even realize Alonso was on the pitch. Most everyone else had solid efforts and the thing about Torres' display, is that he, like Pennant I might add, was constantly forcing the Villa defense to pay a lot of attention to him which allowed Steven Gerrard and Kuyt to gain space.
As for Gerrard, he should have had a hat trick. If it wasn't for the amazing free kick, I'm pretty sure I'd be trashing him right now. He had a point-blank miss that was inexcusable for a player of his ability. It was the one that Gardner 'blocked' which Stevie-G should have put in the lower left corner instead of nearly in the middle.
The only other player I thought stood out was Babel, not that anyone else played poorly. Babel's pace is blistering and he showed a vast improvement on the right than when he first played there in the preseason. If his runs and shots were just a preview of his ability, than the kid is going to be a thoroughbred for us for years to come.
Overall as a team our defense was superb. Everyone really stepped up on the backline, though offensively I didn't feel we really flowed as a whole. Most of our attacks culminated in three or four passes and a shot. I'm hoping that as the season wears on, we'll become more cohesive as a squad and resolve that slight issue, though our movement off the ball and our spacing seemed to be better. If we can give Gerrard the kind of space he needs, not many clubs are going to beat us.