Ten steps: Liverpool’s win over Aston Villa
Liverpool recorded a comfortable 3-0 victory over Gerard Houllier’s Aston Villa at Anfield on Monday night.
Note – this article originally featured photos from the match, which have had to be removed for copyright reasons.
The scoreline reflects the home side’s dominance – they were good, Villa were particularly bad. The game looked over after Ryan Babel made it 2-0 on 15 minutes, and Villa offered little threat for the rest of the contest. Houllier switched to 4-4-2 at half-time, as he did in the game against Arsenal when Villa were also 2-0 down at the break, but there was little sign of a fightback.
Roy Hodgson used a 4-4-2 system – his spine of Jamie Carragher, Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres were all out. Ryan Babel and David Ngog started upfront, with Maxi Rodriguez keeping his place on the left despite the return of Joe Cole. Sotirios Kyrgiakos started at centre-back alongside Martin Skrtel.
Villa still had a midfield crisis and were also without the suspended Ashley Young, though they welcomed back Marc Albrighton. Stephen Ireland started rather than Robert Pires, and Gabriel Agbonlahor was the lone striker in a 4-4-1-1 / 4-2-3-1 system that saw Albrighton and Stewart Downing switching around throughout.
1. Villa play surprisingly high line
2. Liverpool play higher up the pitch
3. Ireland very deep
4. Liverpool wingers narrow
5. Lucas drops back to collect
6. Liverpool able to play out from the back
That was a rare occasion Lucas had to do that, however – Villa made little attempt to press Liverpool at goal-kicks, and therefore the home side were able to build attacks from deep. Pepe Reina played simple passes out towards his two centre-backs (and sometimes Lucas) and wasn’t forced to hit the ball long to the two strikers who didn’t fare well in the air.
7. Villa crosses unsuccessful
Without a ‘big man’ playing upfront and thriving on crosses, Villa’s width produced little. Only one of 14 crosses was successful.
8. Agbonlahor struggles
A good lone striker will win aerial challenges and link the play. A decent lone striker will do one or the other well. Agbonlahor was able to do neither (more because of (a) his height and (b) his lack of support, rather than his own failings) and therefore served little purpose.
9. Liverpool’s central midfield duo dovetails well
Of Steven Gerrard, Lucas Leiva and Raul Meireles, Gerrard is clearly the most talented footballer. But is Lucas and Meireles the best of the three potential partnerships? Their understanding was good, they shared defensive and attacking responsibilities, and they ended with near-identical passing records – though Lucas’ assist gives him the edge.
Liverpool played much deeper after the break, soaking up pressure and denying Villa’s pacey players space in behind. The chalkboard of Liverpool’s interceptions shows this well.