Liverpool Focus – Thumping Villa defeat lowers expectations at Anfield

It was not supposed to be like this. It was not supposed to start like this. It was not supposed to end like this. Following Liverpool’s 3-2 victory over West Ham United last weekend, there was a sense of optimism among the Reds’ passionate supporters.

Brendan Rodgers’ young side had just climbed into the top half of the Premier League table for the very first time this season and a ‘winnable’ game against a struggling Aston Villa side was on the horizon. Following Villa’s visit to Anfield, the five time European champions would face Fulham, Stoke, Queens Park Rangers and Sunderland. A good run would allow them to challenge and move above their rivals, with fourth spot seemingly an achievable target.

But that positivity and confidence was destroyed as Paul Lambert’s side claimed a surprising 3-1 victory, leaving the Anfield faithful shocked. This run of supposedly favourable games was not supposed to start like this. Liverpool’s fixture against Villa was not supposed to end like this. Fulham are the next opponents, but there is now some doubt as to whether Rodgers’ Reds will kick-start their season for the umpteenth time when the Cottagers arrive on Merseyside.

Few valid excuses can be made for such a crushing result. Luis Suarez returned from suspension, while Lucas Leiva made another appearance after recently returning from a lengthy lay-off. Glen Johnson, Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel, who are some of the best defenders in the top-flight, also played, forming 75% of Liverpool’s defence. Inspirational skipper Steven Gerrard, too, played the full game, as did £15m summer signing Joe Allen. One of the brightest talents in English football, Raheem Sterling, started the fixture and remained on until the end. Given the strength of the Reds’ side, it is difficult to understand how they managed to slip to such a defeat.

The hosts enjoyed more possession and they managed to take many more shots than their opponents. Unfortunately for Rodgers, the same could be said for his side in a number of games they have featured in this season. Yet Liverpool find themselves in 12th spot and as close to the top four as they are to the bottom three. There is a sense that the purchase of a striker – or at the very least players who can score goals – will allow the Merseysiders to truly flourish. Only time will tell whether that is a valid case to make.

Liverpool have been strongly linked with Blackpool’s Thomas Ince and Chelsea’s Daniel Sturridge in recent weeks, while Demba Ba of Newcastle and Theo Walcott of Arsenal are also rumoured to be on the Reds’ radar. The addition of some of these players would possibly make Rodgers’ men a greater threat in front of goal, but before any of those attackers can be added to the squad, Liverpool must face three more opponents in the Premier League. Only positive results from those games will do if any potential new signings are to help the Reds fight for a top four place.

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