The not so good, the terrible & the goalkeepers – Debating Aston Villa 7-2 Liverpool

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Liverpool were emphatically humbled in their latest Premier League outing, with Aston Villa dismantling Jurgen Klopp‘s side to the tune of 7-2 – leaving plenty to discuss.

It was a performance few will ever have the desire to look back on later down the line, such was the insipid display on show from the first whistle to the last.

Uncharacteristic and baffling in equal measure, Liverpool conceded in the fourth minute and never refound their feet despite Mohamed Salah ensuring they were not without a goal to their name as Villa wiped the floor with the reigning champions.

It certainly leaves a sour taste with the international break now upon us and a response will be expected when action resumes against Everton on October 17.

Here, This Is Anfield’s Joanna Durkan (@JoannaDurkan_) and Jack Lusby (@jacklusby_) are joined by John O’Sullivan (@NotoriousJOS) to delve into the few highs and all the lows from Liverpool’s defeat at Aston Villa and discuss the goalkeeping situation.

 

The not so good…

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - Sunday, October 4, 2020: Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah (R) celebrates with team-mate Roberto Firmino after scoring his side's second goal, to make the score 5-2 during the FA Premier League match between Aston Villa FC and Liverpool FC at Villa Park. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

JOHN: Positives were few and far between. Being mauled by a team who managed to escape relegation by the skin of their teeth last season was bad enough, but the performance – in large parts – was worse.

One cause for optimism, however, was the performance of Diogo Jota and how well he dovetailed with Andy Robertson down the left. It’s a nascent partnership, but there were signs of a synergy between the two.

This will be the craziest of seasons and injuries, and, sadly, illness, will happen, so it’s good to see Jota look as if he’s getting up to speed quickly.

Another positive note was just how sharp Salah looked. Obviously, the two goals were great but some of his link-up play, including a deft little pass to put Roberto Firmino through on goal in the first half, was very good.

Also, Klopp and Virgil van Dijk taking responsibility is a good sign. You see how City players – Aymeric Laporte, Rodri and Bernardo Silva – react to setbacks and try and deflect and it’s not a good look.

The Reds’ players and staff know the buck stops with them and they’ve taken their medicine and accepted the justified criticism. It fills me with confidence that they will react in a positive way.

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - Sunday, October 4, 2020: Liverpool’s Diogo Jota during the FA Premier League match between Aston Villa FC and Liverpool FC at Villa Park. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

JACK: There were glimmers of positivity despite the humiliating result, and the overriding one was Salah’s clinical edge in front of goal.

Like John, I thought he looked so sharp and barely needed an opening to persuade him to shoot, and five goals for the season already bodes well for the months to come.

Given he’s not set for international duty this month either, it should be that Salah is able to maintain this as we prepare for the Merseyside derby.

Jota was bright on his debut and, as has often been the case in recent poor performances, Robertson was the key outlet driving down the left; their pressing, along with Naby Keita, led to Salah’s goal at 2-1.

JOANNA: It’s a rare occurrence when the positives are greatly outweighed by the negatives, but there was little for Liverpool to hang their hat on here.

As John pointed out, Jota’s performance was a source of satisfaction in the sense that he had bright moments within a pathetic overall game from the team, while Salah was clearly our best performer with two goals and nice linkup play when he was given the opportunity.

I suppose it was also nice that I could only laugh at the predicament instead of burst into a fit of rage such was the absurdity of it all.

It’s certainly an anomaly but it’s a timely wake-up call and one which will provide invaluable lessons moving forward.

 

The terrible…

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - Sunday, October 4, 2020: Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk looks dejected as Aston Villa score the opening goal during the FA Premier League match between Aston Villa FC and Liverpool FC at Villa Park. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

JOHN: Everything, bar a couple of nicely woven attacks.

Defensively, it was a complete rabble and Villa could have scored more than seven. The high line will justifiably be scorned, but the lack of pressure on the ball from the midfield exposed the back line. It was all-around terrible.

Roberto Firmino‘s performances have been extremely worrying for a number of months.

The lack of goals is a secondary concern relative to the fact that his linkup play – despite an assist for Salah – has been subpar for months.

Heavy touches, underhit passes and poor decisions from the Brazilian have really hampered the teams’ attacking flow. Surely it’s the time to give Takumi Minamino a run in the team now.

JACK: Adrian, Gomez, Firmino…much has already been spoken and written about their struggles at Villa Park, so I’ll gloss over that.

I’d actually pick up where Jamie Carragher left off in his assessment of the high line – it clearly wasn’t suited as Villa exploited it time and again, and it seemed almost dogmatic to stick to it for this particular game despite its success overall.

Van Dijk’s tired, desperate tackle on Ross Barkley near the halfway line was one of my least favourite moments of the night.

It looked like he just couldn’t be arsed, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was partly due to playing 60 minutes in the League Cup just 72 hours previous.

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - Sunday, October 4, 2020: Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino sees his shot saved during the FA Premier League match between Aston Villa FC and Liverpool FC at Villa Park. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

JOANNA: Robbo was right when he assessed the performance as “embarrassing,” it was shambolic from start to finish.

There was zero pressure off the ball, the midfield was virtually non-existent and with Adrian and Gomez void of confidence, it was all a recipe for disaster.

I have to agree with John that Firmino’s form is worrying.

He’s easily one of my favourite players but he seems a fraction too slow in touch and mind, losing the ball and breaking up any resemblance of momentum, and I’m not just talking about his performance at Villa – although his pass for Salah’s second was excellent.

It was as though they sleepwalked into the game after seeing results over the weekend and then went on to go through a living nightmare – and Villa certainly deserves credit for that.

 

And with Alisson out for potentially six weeks, do you feel safe in Adrian’s hands or should Liverpool look to the transfer window?

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - Sunday, October 4, 2020: Liverpool’s goalkeeper Adrián San Miguel del Castillo looks dejected as his side lose 7-2 during the FA Premier League match between Aston Villa FC and Liverpool FC at Villa Park. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

JOHN: Adrian clearly enjoys no confidence from his team-mates and his presence – like Dejan Lovren used to have on the team – causes panic throughout.

I don’t think Liverpool will dip into the market to replace him, they are not the type of club to panic, but if I could call the shots, depending on who is available, I would upgrade on him gladly.

JACK: For now, no. Liverpool should stick with Adrian – or perhaps test Caoimhin Kelleher – for the time being.

Adrian is clearly a talented goalkeeper, but his style is not suited to the system, and with fingers crossed over Alisson‘s injury, it may be that, like last season, the Reds need to adapt to mask his deficiencies for the short term.

His distribution – particularly from his hands – was woeful on Sunday night, and though the early error is far from encouraging in this respect, Adrian should be instructed to keep it simple whenever possible.

With his contract up at the end of the season, let’s keep faith in Adrian for now, while setting John Achterberg and the recruitment staff to task in finding a more suitable backup to Alisson.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, October 22, 2019: Liverpool's goalkeeper Adrián San Miguel del Castillo and Alisson Becker during a training session at Melwood Training Ground ahead of the UEFA Champions League Group E match between KRC Genk and Liverpool FC. (Pic by Paul Greenwood/Propaganda)

JOANNA: Heading into the game I was looking at Adrian in goal with an optimistic look as his nine starts in the league last season returned nine wins – but that included just two clean sheets.

I had evidently wiped his Atletico blunder out of my mind but was quickly reminded of his error-prone ways with just four minutes on the clock.

Now, while it will be second nature for players to turn to their ‘keeper during games, Adrian is not Alisson and as such tweaks need to be made to account for the gulf in quality.

In saying that, though, as John noted, the lack of confidence from his team-mates was glaring and he was unable to read the flight of the ball or put himself in a position to make a save.

With Alisson potentially out for six weeks, I would be turning to the transfer market as the errors keep mounting and we can’t be digging ourselves out of holes before we even touch the ball in games.

To mark the end of the 30-year wait for a league title, the ‘Liverpool Mishmash’ poster is available to order exclusively on This Is Anfield — the history of the Reds in one image!

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