Aston Villa 0 Liverpool 2: Lessons learned from a Villa Park victory
What did we learn from Liverpool's comfortable 2-0 Premier League victory over Aston Villa at Villa Park on Sunday?
Jonjo Shelvey sparkles on his return
Jonjo Shelvey, recalled from his loan spell at Blackpool to provide cover for the injured Lucas Leiva, was impressive throughout Sunday’s clash. He was ever-present in the Liverpool midfield and helped create the visitor’s first goal. His innovative flick from Stewart Downing’s 12th-minute corner forced Brad Guzan into a save, but the Villa goalkeeper could only parry into the path of Craig Bellamy, who tapped home from close range. Aside from his assist, Shevely’s distrubution was flawless and he showed early signs of developing an understanding with Luis SuÃ¡rez as the pair combined to test Guzan just before half-time.
Is Luis SuÃ¡rez cursed?
Liverpool’s £22.8m signing from Ajax has thrilled since swapping the Eriedivisie for the Premier League but, somewhat surprisingly, SuÃ¡rez has only scored nine league goals since January. The bright Uruguay forward was twice denied by the woodwork in the second half at Villa Park. His first chance came after he robbed Richard Dunne of possession and rifled a shot against the crossbar. And moments later, his inventive chip beat Guzan but bounced off the post. It was the fifth time SuÃ¡rez has hit the woodwork this season and the 17th time in his last 41 league appearances for both Ajax and Liverpool. (via @optajoe)
Villa’s set-piece vulnerability
When Alex McLeish guided Birmingham City back into the Premier League in 2009 and subsequently managed to avoid relegation, he built his side’s success on an impermeable defensive unit ruthlessly marshalled by Roger Johnson and Scott Dann. But McLeish’s back four at Villa look frail in comparison to the rearguard he left behind at St Andrew’s. Liverpool’s two first-half goals highlighted this weakness, with the movement of Shelvey and Martin Skrtel causing disarray in Guzan’s area. Worryingly for the Scot, only Bolton Wanderers have conceded more from corners and free-kicks this term.
Kenny Dalglish’s shrewd summer signings
Rafael BenÃtez was roundly criticised for his often questionable judgement in the transfer market – but Dalglish has shown his ability to pick out a bargain. Craig Bellamy arrived at Anfield on a free transfer from Manchester City and the striker kept Villa’s Alan Hutton on the back-foot all afternoon, providing a constant outlet with his raw pace on the left wing. The 32-year-old broke the deadlock after 12 minutes with a simple tap-in, while his electric run just after half-time created an excellent opportunity for Daniel Agger. Meanwhile, José Enrique was solid at left-back, keeping the potentially dangerous Marc Albrighton quiet. The Spanish defender was signed from Newcastle United for £5m already and looks to be one of the buys of the season.
Aston Villa’s woes in front of goal continue
Villa have scored just 18 times this season, and with the absence of leading goal scorers Darren Bent and Gabriel Agbonlahor ““ both with five strikes in the league ““ it always promised to be a bleak afternoon in front of goal for McLeish’s side. Nathan Delfouneso returned to the starting line-up but failed to trouble Liverpool’s defence, while Emile Heskey was largely muted and was taken off after 55 minutes. It was only Charles N’Zogbia who exerted any resemblance of pressure on Liverpool’s rearguard – and the return of Bent and Agbonlahor will be key to Villa ending a poor sequence of results.