That was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad game. From the off, Aston Villa were all over Liverpool with high pressure and swift counter attacks. An Adrian gift gave Villa the lead, but a combination of shambolic defending and ridiculous deflections quickly turned the game into a caricature of a match.
Join us as we try and separate narrative from reality of the match up and how it all went down in the end.
Somehow, despite giving up seven goals on the day, Andy Robertson was one of the bright spots for Liverpool. The Scottish defender was a constant threat getting up the left flank, and put several enticing balls across the face of goal. He also had laser of a shot well saved to keep him off the score sheet.
The Portuguese attacker found himself starting as Sadio Mane was out after contracting the coronavirus. Jota was a live wire, combining well with Robertson on the left flank. He also got himself in dangerous positions throughout much of the first half, getting a decent number of touches in and around the box.
The Egyptian striker didn’t get too many looks at goal, but he didn’t make any mistakes on the ones he did, burying two nice finishes. He also has 3 key passes, and a 90% passing percentage.
The English forward made a big money signing for Aston Villa a few weeks ago, and was an absolute dynamo today. He scored a hat trick, crashed another shot off of the crossbar, and also provided an assist.
The Gods of Chaos
Look, Liverpool made plenty of mistakes today, and Aston Villa deserved the win. The ridiculousness of the scoreline, however, was something that is hard to describe. Three of the seven goals came off of major deflections on shots from outside the box, which I have never personally seen in a game before.
Joe Gomez had an absolute nightmare of a game. His positioning was poor, he missed tackles left and right, and he had several costly turnovers. He has had one really good game in this nascent season, and several average to poor games. Hopefully some competition from Joel Matip will help get Gomez back on track.
Ok, let’s start with the obvious. The pass to no one that led to the first goal was just awful. Adrian is definitely not nearly as comfortable with the ball at his feet as Alisson, and he panicked under some pressure. Beyond that, Liverpool suffer playing a high line with Adrian behind them. Just this past week, Audun wrote a great piece about how effective Liverpool’s aggressive defensive line is, but how it is predicated on having a proactive keeper behind the defense. Adrian is not that keeper, he is a stay at home shot stopper. For those clambering for a new back up keeper, just realize that these types of keepers are scarce, thus expensive, so finding a back up “better” than Adrian would be extremely expensive and unlikely.
Fabinho and Naby Keita
While there were many of defensive breakdowns at the back, many of the issues started in the midfield. Fabinho and Keita were both caught multiple times not tracking runners as the Aston Villa players blew past them on the counter. That lead to overloaded defensive lines, and several clear cut opportunities.
I love Bobby Firmino. He has not been very good to start the season. Sure, I’d love it if he scored more goals, but it’s his touch inside the box that has me most concerned. He was on the end of several balls into dangerous areas early in the game, and turned the ball over more often than not. He still does so much dirty work, and his movement and understanding of space are fantastic, but he’s got to start connecting with others or getting shots on target.
Credit to the Opposition
Dean Smith spoke ahead of the game saying that his team respected but did not fear Liverpool. Taking a page from Marco Bielsa and Leeds, he set his team up to pressure Liverpool all over the pitch. Right from the first whistle, Aston Villa were aggressively pressuring, making Liverpool beat them on the press. Liverpool were sloppy with their possession, and Villa were swift and decisive on the counter. After squeaking by in a relegation battle last season, Aston Villa have been perfect to start this new season, and look to be a difficult team to play against.
What Happens Next
A dreaded international break kicks off, as many Liverpool players will head off to their national teams. Hopefully the players will be able to avoid both injury and contracting the coronavirus, as the first game back is against the top of the table <retching noises> Everton </retching noises> in the Merseyside Derby on October 17. Alisson is expected to be out, so Adrian will be in net to face the extremely in form Dominic Calvert-Lewin and James (don’t call me Bond) Rodriguez