Despite a spirited defensive effort, Aston Villa fell to a 1-0 defeat at Liverpool on Saturday with Mohamed Salah’s penalty sealing the win at Anfield.
Villa opted to focus on defensive organisation and shape throughout to frustrate the hosts, and although the Reds had a few openings, it was a great shift from the Villa players to keep them out.
However, our hopes of taking something from the game took a huge blow in the second half as Salah converted from the spot after being brought down by Tyrone Mings, and although we pushed for an equaliser thereafter, we were unable to grab a share of the spoils.
Next up is Norwich City away and a reunion with Dean Smith, followed by the visit of Burnley next Saturday as Steven Gerrard will hope to see us get back to winning ways.
Villa approach can only work for so long
The decision from Gerrard to sit back and keep things tight was the right call for the opening 15 to 20 minutes, as that first wave of pressure from Liverpool can be overwhelming for some sides and the game could be over before you know it.
However, at a time when we needed to then kick on and be a bit braver to get on the ball and make things happen, we continued to sit deep and soak up too much pressure while playing it long to Ollie Watkins over and over again with no success.
While it was a commendable defensive shift from the entire team, it felt inevitable that Liverpool would find a breakthrough, and while it came via a contentious penalty, Villa left it too late to try and flip the pressure on the Reds.
Konsa a class above
Ezri Konsa has been one of the most consistent top performers for Villa for some time now, and he continues to showcase elite-level defensive qualities.
He was solid throughout this encounter and read things really well to keep Liverpool at bay, but there was one scenario late in the second half where he faced a 3 v 1 situation.
With Liverpool’s front three racing at him on the counter attack, he managed to get himself in the right position throughout the entire attack to then block the effort and leave Emiliano Martinez with nothing to do. It was just another example of his class.
Time for Sanson to start?
Marvelous Nakamba has perhaps been one of the biggest benefactors of Gerrard’s arrival, and he will no doubt continue to play a key role for us moving forward.
However, particularly given the opposition ahead next week, Villa will want to get on the front foot and be more aggressive to dominate the game.
That in turn could convince Gerrard to give Morgan Sanson a starting spot. The Frenchman has built up his minutes in recent weeks and could have a start in his legs now. With his technical quality and tenacity, he will be an ideal addition to our midfield if he can stay injury-free.
Buendia absence noticeable
It was disappointing to see Emiliano Buendia start on the bench, as this was a game where his characteristics would arguably have been ideal.
The Argentine would have offered defensive graft and pressing off the ball and his eye for a pass and creativity may have created an opening from nothing for someone like Watkins.
He made a positive impression after coming on, and so it’s hoped that he continues to get the nod moving forward and kicks on after picking things up in recent weeks.
Gerrard deals with Anfield return flawlessly
Facing questions as early as last week, Gerrard dealt with the occasion of going back to Anfield perfectly.
His focus and priority throughout was Villa and our fans, as it should be, and although it would have been emotional and strange for him, it didn’t impact him in terms of his job.
He’ll be disappointed that he couldn’t take anything from the game, but it was another sign of class from our Head Coach as he looks to have settled into the job well.