Liverpool 0-1 Aston Villa: 6 things we learned

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Liverpool suffered their second defeat of the season with Aston Villa snatching a 1-0 victory at Anfield due to a first half Gabby Agbonlahor goal. Here are six things we learned from the performance...

Defensive issues remain

The Reds conceded no less than 50 Premier League goals last season and manager Brendan Rodgers tried to counter the issue by spending extensive funds to deal with the problem.

However, the problems still very much remain at Anfield. Despite Villa scoring just the once, it could have been at least three in the first half.

Dejan Lovren made the switch from Southampton to Merseyside  for £20M this summer, however he still has a lot to learn. He is a defender who wants to win the ball all the time and is immediately drawn to the ball. 

Unfortunately, this is not the way to defend in every situation. Instead the Croatian International needs to learn when to commit and when to lay-off the ball and read the play better. Lovren has been brought in to lead the Liverpool defence and is desperately trying to impress. 

He was very much at fault for the goal, when grappling with Philippe Senderos during an Aston Villa corner; instead of marking the Switzerland International normally, Lovren allowed Senderos to win the initial header

Mamadou Sakho looks a player who does not fit Brendan Rodgers' formula. He looks like a defender who wants to get rid of the ball as soon as he gets it and looks uncomfortable trying to play from the back. 

New full-back's Alberto Moreno and Javier Manquillo didn't do too badly at the back, yet they still look like they need time to settle into the Liverpool side and must communicate more with their team-mates.

Two strikers is a must

In three of Liverpool's four opening games, they have struggled to score goals.

It is no coincidence that in those games the Reds only had one striker on the pitch.

Against Tottenham, Liverpool looked a completely different side when they had both Daniel Sturridge and Mario Balotelli on the pitch and threatened in front of goal constantly.

Liverpool lacked fire-power against Aston Villa and despite Balotelli not having a bad game, he could not influence the game as he had wished - the Italian held the ball up throughout the game yet, begged for support when he was on it and always had to wait a couple of seconds longer than he wanted to, to release it.

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Balotelli is maturing

Nonetheless, the £16M signing seems to have turned a corner, attitude wise.

Throughout the game, he was on the receiving end of bad challenges and welcomed by a kick by Philippe Senderos in the first-half. 

Defenders know how to get under his skin and will go to all lengths possible to annoy the striker and try to get him dismissed.

However, Balotelli was not his usual self - instead he kept his cool and let his football do the talking.

His performance also highlights how the Italian is coming of age. Despite being left frustrated by the lack of service throughout the game, the former Inter Milan man stuck to the game-plan instead of trying to go for glory and win it alone.

Although he had a lack of chances and still awaits his first Liverpool goal, it will come. Balotelli recognises that he does not need to force it and instead wait for the right opportunity.

Sterling is key

Brendan Rodgers decided to leave out Raheem Sterling after him playing two games for England last week. 

However, you could clearly see that his presence was missed from the start. 

Liverpool lacked that cutting edge factor when going forward which the youngster has been providing so far this season, having picked up two man of the match awards.

Instead, the Reds looked to be missing that killer instinct - someone who could run and penetrate the Villa defence with speed and quick feet, forcing a goal or a foul inside the box.

Sterling clearly is being rested for Liverpool's Champions League game on Tuesday against Ludogrets, however he's not exactly the age of Steven Gerrard. Instead, Rodgers should have selected who is, at the minute, Liverpool's best player.

The Northern Irishman knows the troubles that Villa have caused his side at Anfield. Despite Liverpool having improved their squad significantly, Rodgers should not have ignored the fact that the Birmingham side would be well organised at the back and played his strongest side possible.

New faces need to settle

Lazar Markovic and Mario Balotelli made their Anfield debuts yesterday, with £25M summer signing Adam Lallana making his first appearance in a Red shirt.

Markovic showed indications of his ability he depicted at Benfica, however you wanted to see him really threatening the Aston Villa defenders with his pace and tricks he possesses. 

You could see that he was working hard and he desperately searched for his first Liverpool goal and fired two attempts over.

Lallana didn't do too badly either and had a decent effort go just wide in the first half. He showed signs of why he the sum was paid for him with a number of clever passes and an excellent work rate. For a debut performance, he and Rodgers should be pleased.

Unfortunately, starting with all three leading the front line was a poor decision. The trio do not know how to gel together and it would have been much wiser if Sterling had been on the pitch from the start, as the chemistry of the side would have been much better.

Villa have shocked most

A lot of people, me included, thought that Aston Villa would struggle this season. However, after four games, they remain unbeaten and sit second in the Premier League.

Paul Lambert has had a difficult time since moving to Villa Park. Yet his policy he developed since he joined from Norwich City on developing the young talents at the club has worked at last.

Fabian Delph and Andreas Weidmann are linking up ever so well and becoming a real force together, and new signing Tom Cleverley - a reject at Manchester United - kept the Liverpool forward line quiet for much of the game and could fulfil his potential at his new club.

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Aston Villa
Daniel Sturridge
Raheem Sterling
Mario Balotelli
Premier League

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