Despite producing a top performance, Aston Villa suffered a 2-1 defeat to Liverpool in midweek with Douglas Luiz’s early goal cancelled out by Joel Matip and Sadio Mane.
Villa made a lively start and took the lead just three minutes into the game, but that lead only lasted three minutes itself as Matip found an immediate response for the visitors with what was a scrappy, poor goal to concede from a Villa perspective.
Despite Villa creating great chances and enjoying spells on top in the encounter, ultimately we couldn’t make them count and it ended up costing us as Mane scored just after the hour mark to seal all three points for the title-chasing Reds.
While there were certainly positives to take from the game, there will be a lot of frustration and disappointment too that we couldn’t translate such a solid performance into a winning one.
Villa have crucial gap to bridge to top sides
In his post-match interview, Steven Gerrard spoke about how moments defined the game and that’s ultimately where we lost it despite making life very difficult for Liverpool.
In order to go from our current position to knocking on the door for European places, Villa must become more ruthless and clinical consistently, as these games can indeed be won and lost on key moments.
If the roles were reversed, the likes of Mane and Salah are putting those chances away and that is what separates us from the top tier clubs in the league. Similarly at the other end, if you don’t defend well enough at this level, you’ll get found out and we gave away two poor goals again with our defensive inconsistency an issue too.
Buendia unfortunate not to start
After his starring role in our win over Burnley last weekend, the expectation was that Emiliano Buendia would be allowed to build some momentum and kick on after one of his best performances in a Villa shirt to date.
Instead, Gerrard opted to rotate and brought Philippe Coutinho back into the starting XI, and while the Brazilian enjoyed some moments, Buendia’s introduction off the bench in the latter stages once again showed that the Argentine is capable of pulling the strings and being a creative force for us.
What he needs now is a consistent run of games to find his best form and top condition, and we’ll no doubt see more from him in the closing weeks of the campaign.
Douglas Luiz shows his strengths and weaknesses
Having been moved into a more advanced role in the last two games, we’ve seen where Douglas Luiz is more comfortable and importantly, more effective for us in our midfield.
His distribution and technical quality is key in that department, and when given the licence to get forward, he can offer an attacking threat too, as evidenced by his goal.
However, soon after being pushed back into the defensive midfield role, he started to struggle and look uncomfortable, and that was never more evident that in the build-up to the second Liverpool goal. Gerrard’s decision with that substitution just before the Mane goal was a poor one.
Nakamba upgrade needed to become elite
Back in the starting XI, Marvelous Nakamba impressed in the Villa midfield for the most part, but also showed his limitations that require Villa to upgrade in that position this summer.
His ability to read the game to make interceptions and get stuck into tackles to disrupt the opposition is excellent, but when that turns into the attacking phase and passing it forward quickly to our attacking players, he falls short.
He has a key role to play in the squad moving forward as his characteristics and attributes will be needed, but Villa must sign a top-class No.6 ahead of next season.
Chukwuemeka must do more to impact games
While there is a lot of hype and expectation surrounding Carney Chukwuemeka, and rightly so after the impressive nature of his performances at youth level, there is still a lot for him to learn.
Whether it was the errant pass in the build-up to what proved to be the winning goal or the slow nature of his ability to get up to the speed of the game and put in a shift defensively, there are clear areas he needs to improve on.
His contract situation and future at Villa continue to be major talking points, but we need to see more from him on the pitch for him to deserve being given a more significant role.