Liverpool fall apart after Christian Benteke's opener, getting only a late consolation after producing one of their worst performances of the season.
So that was the same as nearly every other time, which makes writing the recap some sort of sadomasochistic endeavor in which I'm not quite prepared to engage. Just a supremely disappointing performance, especially given they fought back against West Ham after they'd gone about their business in a style somewhat similar to what we saw today. Good for the first fifteen, absolutely dreadful after.
Some bullet points, as I've got little interest in re-treading familiar ground today:
- Joe Allen, Steven Gerrard, and Raheem Sterling need to be rested. Yes, the squad is small, but they're taking away more than they're providing right now. Allen's continued his worrying slide, Gerrard's mostly the same (which isn't a good thing), and Sterling was an attacking graveyard today. For Sterling and Allen it seems to be a product of fatigue and playing too much, while Gerrard just hasn't had much to offer at all thus far under Brendan Rodgers.
- The defending on all three Villa goals was absurd. Allen takes some sort of blame in all three, particularly the first two--chased the ball and left Christian Benteke alone for the first, didn't track Andreas Weimann on the second, and failed to dispossess Bentenke for the third. The last one would have been a big ask, and Martin Skrtel's indecision left the big Belgian completely free. For a side that's openly spoken about their steel and solidity at the back, all three were awfully soft from a defensive standpoint. If you're Villa they were superb, but preventable from the Liverpool standpoint.
- Inability to finish is nothing new, and yet again it bit Liverpool in the ass. A flurry of chances in the opening minutes and a fair few sprinkled throughout, but nothing to truly test Brad Guzan until Gerrard managed to be in the right place at the right time to nod in Liverpool's only goal of the day. Far too many breaks and clear chances were wasted. The narrative. It never dies.
- Stewart Downing was probably Liverpool's best on the day. I feel like I should be saying that ironically or with some sort of caveat, but I don't think there is one. It's certainly an indictment of the rest of the squad, but the converted left-back was solid at both ends and had one of his more consistent displays of the season. Still don't think he's around past January, but a much more positive performance.
- Rodgers was lauded earlier in the season for changes he's made to keep Liverpool in matches, and rightly so. On this occasion, though, he made the same substitutions as last time with little effect. Villa were more adaptable than West Ham, and Rodgers didn't seem to have much of an answer.
- Bringing Jordan Henderson on was a good choice because the young midfielder's in the best patch of form of his Liverpool career, but taking Lucas off and leaving the aforementioned Allen and Gerrard on was puzzling. Henderson deserves a start at this point, but Rodgers' other substitution--Joe Cole--did little to continue the positive sentiment that's been extended his way over the past few weeks.
- Just as last week didn't make Liverpool's season some sort of massive success, this week doesn't mean that everything's gone completely to shit. On the day it did, no question. But overall there's still a sense of some sort of progress, even if the inconsistency in execution is maddening. We know today exactly what we did last Sunday--Liverpool are capable of being very good for spells and very bad for others. Today the latter dominated despite flashes of the former, and it conspired to give Aston Villa a very deserved victory.