On Sunday 4th October, Liverpool fans rejoiced when Manchester United were humbled 6-1 at home by Tottenham Hotspur, but little did we know that we were going to have our own personal nightmare a few hours later. We headed to Villa Park to take on Aston Villa in what many predicted would be a routine three points us, but boy were we in for a shock. Villa played us off the park and dispatched us 7-2, and they could have hit double figures if truth be told. So, where did it all go wrong for us? This is what we attempt to figure out below.
The High Line Failed to Work
The high line is a part of many managers’ game plan nowadays and is popular because it allows you to make the playing area smaller and suffocate your opposition. Liverpool have been using this tactic for the last couple of years now and it has brought us plenty of success – we won the Champions League, Premier League, and the Club World Cup using a high line. When done properly it works a treat, but against Villa it was done anything but properly.
When you are using a high line, you need to be committed to pressing the opposing players. Failure to do so will result in them having plenty of time to pick their heads up, have a look around, and then ping a pass to their teammates who are running in behind your defense. Furthermore, when relying on an offside trap to catch opposing players offside, the defense all have to be singing from the same hymn sheet. Against Villa, Liverpool failed to press with commitment and their defenders were not in cohesion with each other, and we paid a hefty price time and time again.
Adrian had a poor game, even he will be the first to admit that, but to place all the blame at his feet is to paper over the cracks of what was a dodgy defensive performance. For instance, Villa’s captain, Jack Grealish, gave Joe Gomez a torrid time and made him look distinctly average, and it was painful to watch to be honest. We really hope that his poor performance does not play on his mind when we take on Everton in the Merseyside Derby.
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We Missed Our Captain
We did miss some chances that would have made the game a much closer affair, but to use this an excuse for the defeat would be quite absurd. From the moment we went 2-0 down, it was obvious that we were going to struggle to get anything out of the game. One thing is for certain though, and that is that we missed Henderson. I am still not entirely sure why he was sitting on the bench if he was not fit to play, and if he was fit then it is pretty baffling why Klopp did not send him on to try and impose some type of order.
What impact would he have had? Well, we all know his leadership qualities and I am certain that he would have made sure that we were more tenacious in our pressing, more alert defensively, as well as more astute when it came to our game management. He could have helped to steer the sinking ship towards some calmer waters, a ship that was clearly disrupted by Mane and Alcantara testing positive for Covid, and Allisson picking up an injury while training.
We needed to score first in the second half, but that did not happen so we should have then switched to damage limitation. This was clearly a night where we needed Henderson out on the field to give his teammates the push that they needed.
Credit Must Go to Aston Villa
Now, as much as we were bad, Aston Villa were simply outstanding and executed Dean Smith’s plans to the letter. Smith analyzed Liverpool’s defense, drilled it into his players in training, and they went out and did the business. People might point to the three deflected goals that they scored, but if you do not buy a lottery ticket, then you are not going to win the lottery. We should not forget that Ross Barkley had at least three other opportunities to score, which he squandered, and the Ollie Watkins hit the bar from 15 yards out. If they carry on playing like that, then their fans have absolutely nothing to worry about this season in terms of potential relegation.
How Will We Respond?
Due to the international break, Klopp has not been able to have any training sessions with his players since that horrendous result, and he will only get two sessions with them before the Everton match to show them what went wrong, how they can make sure they do not make the same mistakes again, and to restore belief in the players. This will not be an easy thing to do, but he is not recognized as one of the best managers in the world for nothing. We are sure that he will be able to get them back up on running and will be able to end Everton’s winning streak.