Aston Villa and the rude awakening

Dave Woodhall searches for silver linings as Villa lose at Liverpool.

After a good couple of weeks it was back to the old defensive frailties at Anfield, a ground where you’ll never get a result if you play at anything less than your full ability. This performance fell far short of such heights.

Having Emiliano Martinez back was a confidence boost and playing with three central defenders showed that Unai Emery seemed more concerned with frustrating Liverpool than with taking the game to them. Unfortunately, conceding a goal after three minutes did for that particular gameplan. There might have been a deflection, but at this level you can’t afford to leave an opponent without a defender in sight from a corner and expect to get away with it.

An old newspaper adage says that if the opposite of the story would be more surprising then there isn’t a story. If that’s the case Villa having another player going off injured, in this case Diego Carlos, isn’t a story at all, although sadly it was true. Also true was Matty Cash finding the net again, although it was at the wrong end when he had no chance of getting out of the way of a shot off the post that bounced back into the net.

Two down midway through the first half and the game was over. Cash had a good header saved in the second half then another corner, some more slack marking and Liverpool had their third. Substitutes came, and in the case of Leon Bailey went, but to no avail. Three-nil was how it ended and in truth Villa couldn’t have expected anything different given the way they played.

Carlos’s injury undoubtedly had an adverse effect and Villa’s lethargy might have partly been caused by having had a game on Thursday, which is a thing we have to get used to. That, though, is not to make any excuses. It was a poor performance and one to learn from. Boubacar Kamara, to name but one, hasn’t yet hit the form of last season and there aren’t enough of our new arrivals who have slotted straight into the team. It seems that Unai Emery has signed players to coach into his system rather than ones who can hit the ground running. I’d say that he might be better off going back to basics until they know what they should be doing, although the same thing was said last season and back then it all worked out fine in the end.

Another straw to clutch at is six points from four games and painless entry into the Conference League group stages. That was the realistic aim and the only concern is that in the two games we’ve lost, Villa have struggled after conceding an early goal. We’re clearly missing Tyrone Mings for more than just his playing ability.

With injuries piling up and players out of form it seems that, for once, the international break has come at the right time. Unai’s got two weeks to sort it out. So far, he always has.