1) New boys need more time to settle in
On a day when both Sturridge and Sterling were both absent from the starting line-up, much of the pre-match buildup talk circulated around Liverpool’s new look attacking front: Mario Balotelli, Adam Lallana and Lazar Markovic. Much was expected of this trio, who have cost the Reds around £60 million in transfer fees this summer, but against an organized Aston Villa yesterday, all three did not quite fully impress while ultimately failing to break down the visitors’ resolute defence. Lallana had looked impressive at certain points of the game, with his clever runs into the box and the centre of the pitch as he linked up pretty well with Henderson and Coutinho. However the former Saints man had looked frustrated whenever he did not see much of the ball and picked up an early booking for a rash challenge.
Markovic on the other flank looked lively in the opening half, making several decent runs down his flank and into the box while seeing an early volley rise over the bar and a header going just over. As for Balotelli, the former Manchester City man was largely anonymous throughout his 71 minutes on the pitch, with the Villains starving him of supply and space. A dipping shot from the edge of the box which looked destined for the top corner had it not taken a deflection off a Villa defender in the first half was perhaps the Italian’s highlight of the game. It’s still early days for Liverpool this season, but it is clear that the new signings will be needing some time to fully settle into a Liverpool side who are still recovering from the loss of Luis Suarez.
2) Liverpool’s defensive problems looks largely unsolved
Liverpool’s title push last season was arguably hampered in the end by their defensive problems, as seen in the heartbreaking 3-3 draw with Palace last season, when the Reds somehow let a 3-0 lead slip through their fingers in a matter of minutes. Rodgers had certainly looked to fix those problems in the summer, by bringing in Dejan Lovren from Southampton in a massive deal and signing Spanish duo Manquillo (loan) and Moreno.
However, it was similar defensive issues that arose again yesterday, with Villa scoring after nine minutes from a corner which Liverpool could have dealt with better. Senderos had saw his header from the corner blocked but not cleared, and a resulting scramble in the box ended up with Agbonlahor squeezing a shot past Mignolet and into the net. In fact, Villa had the right to be upset at not going two up when Senderos failed to divert a header into the net when he was somehow left totally unmarked to rise high and make good contact with a Westwood free-kick.
While there was the unstoppable Suarez and Sturridge last season whose goals were always there to bail out the backline’s mistakes, at Anfield yesterday there was no bail out for the poor defending against Villa’s set pieces.
3) Liverpool seem to struggle against deep lying sides
It isn’t the first time Liverpool have found themselves beaten by a team that lay deep after going ahead. Last season against Chelsea at Anfield, the Reds struggled to break down a Chelsea side that had decided to “park the bus” after capitalizing on a rare Gerrard error in the first half. Similar to yesterday’s second half of the game, Liverpool raised their overall performance and dominated possession in the second half but ultimately failed to find the cutting edge in the last third of the pitch.
With sides now recognizing the Reds’ for their fast-paced attacking style, more and more sides may in turn decide to sit deep whenever they visit Anfield and Liverpool will need to find an alternative to breaking down these deep-lying sides.