Liverpool came into Saturday’s match on the heels of back to back victories and with a healthy Sturridge seemed to be rounding into form for a hugely important stretch of matches.

Aston Villa on the other hand were visiting Anfield having just one win in the Premier League in the last 45 days. This fixture last year was a jewel in Villa’s crown as they won 3-1 with much thanks to the Christian Benteke.

Brendan Rodger’s side started the game in a 4-4-2 formation which saw Lucas get the drop as Sturridge returned to the line-up. Paul Lambert’s Villa countered with a 4-3-3 instead of the 3-5-1-1 that was used in their last League outing against Arsenal in a 2-1 loss.

How the Teams Lined Up.

How the Teams Lined Up.

From the get go of the match it was clear that Liverpool were uncomfortable within not only the formation but the squad selection was strange as well. Gerrard again returning to the holding role after what seemed to be (Maybe not in Brendan’s eyes) an unproductive time against Stoke. Coutinho was stuck out on the wing and was given no area to express him self, as Weimann and El Ahmadi did a phenomenal job of closing him down. Through the first 25 minutes it was clear the Red’s has a massive disconnect between defense and offense, there was nobody to carry the transition. The middle of the park was being dominated by Villa’s three central midfielders. They passed circles around a helpless Henderson who ran his arse off to try and clog the midfield. Sterling who did perhaps the best job of tracking back, receiving the ball and running up field with it, was as well given very little time to think. Andreas Weimann’s 25th minute goal was a long time coming and Kolo Touré was of a little use trying to stop Agbonlahor down the left, with Glen Johnson seemingly nowhere to be found. Strangely enough immediately after the goal there was not even a kick back from Liverpool, who just let Villa continue where they left off. The Red’s completed just 68% of their passes in the first 25 minutes. Close to 20% less than their season average.

Agbonlahor’s cross in the 36th minute was flailed at by Mignolet but he failed to get enough on it. Benteke nodded home his 6th of the year and Villa looked to take a 2-0 lead into half. Mignolet again made a very frustrating mistake for the second week in a row. It certainly is a different game if he could have made up his mind and either punched the ball, or stuck in his net. Mignolet this year has his lowest WhoScored.Com rating of his entire Premier League career, take that as you will. Sturridge nicked one back for the Red’s before half off a lovely flick from Henderson to invigorate Anfield.

Much to the pleasure of the crowd, Lucas Leiva came on for Coutinho at half and saw Liverpool return to the 4-3-3 with Lucas dropping deep. During the 20 minute period in which Lucas was on the field (subbed off with a “click” in his knee in the 65th minute for Joe Allen) Liverpool had and 86% pass completion percentage, six goal attempts, one goal and over 61% possession. Villa’s pass completion percentage dropped to 62% and had one goal attempt. If this is not enough to tell you how crucial Lucas is to Liverpool, than I don’t know what is.

The last 25 minutes of this match in which you’d think Liverpool would be forcing the issue, at home to a bottom half of the table side and just needing one goal, actually saw Villa control the majority of the pitch.

Action Areas For The Last 25 Minutes

Action Areas For The Last 25 Minutes

The game flickered out without much of a fuss put out by Liverpool which was rather disheartening but the thickness of the Villa midfield was just too much to go through on this day.

Liverpool’s Positioning

Liverpool’s Positioning

The first half was a perfect storm of three crucial factors. Villa’s preparedness, Rodger’s team selection and subsequently the formation. Fitting square pegs into round holes is a term that works nicely today. Gerrard is not a holding midfielder, Coutinho is not a left winger, Touré can’t deal with Benteke or Agbonlahor and Aly Cissokho is not Premier League quality. To nail home this point we only have to look at Liverpool’s positioning on the pitch:

We desperately miss José Enrique and Jon Flanagan. Thankfully Liverpool have a week before their match up against Bournemouth in the FA Cup, perhaps BR can iron out the issues. The points are becoming more and more meaningful and every point dropped is a step in the wrong direction. I hope John Henry saw what was almost an epitome of our last 5 years; starting off poorly and then rallying, but just missing that one piece to put us over the top.I mean goodness, does Coutinho not understand what left winger means? When you have one side that is so brutally dysfunctional as the Red’s left side you are bound to struggle.

Liverpool 2 – 2 Aston Villa Post Match Analysis by Michael Blundell

 



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About The Author

Michael Blundell

was born in Vancouver, Canada to a Canadian mother and American Father. His father played University Soccer in New York and raised Michael a Liverpool supporter. Though only being a University student himself, he has experienced both the highs and lows at the club. Naivety may be a blessing and curse in this case, but it is well for the heart to be naive and the mind not to be.

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