Disappointing at home to Aston Villa, and their coach Paul Lambert, is not a new experience for Liverpool, but the manner of Brendan Rodgers’ side’s Anfield defeat will have some Kopites wondering if their beloved club have indeed ‘done a Spurs’.
Last season’s Premier League runners-up are all the way out to 16/1 to go one better this season with Ladbrokes.com, with Manchester United and Arsenal now rated more likely candidates to triumph over all at 9/1 and 12/1 respectively.
A whopping £36m was added to the Luis Suarez sale-funded transfer war chest handed to Rodgers after Champions League qualification was assured, but the early evidence suggests that, like Spurs after Gareth Bale’s departure last summer, optimum value for money has not been achieved.
New forward recruits Mario Balotelli and Adam Lallana made the least and third-least number of touches of the players who started in the Villa match, with goalkeeper Simon Mignolet’s presence sandwiched between them telling too much about the pair’s performances.
Between them, £45m full debutants Lallana and Lazar Markovic managed four shots, all off target, and one dribble. Philippe Coutinho fired in 50 per cent more attempts than the pair, while Raheem Sterling claimed a man-beating run in his half-hour cameo from the bench.
The big question from the fixture is why, after losing one England forward in Daniel Sturridge due to injury during the international break, Rodgers felt the need to bench another one in Sterling, a contender for the Premier League’s player of the season so far?
Liverpool’s Champions League return against Ludogorets at Anfield, a match the hosts are 2/9 to win, will be held up as mitigation for resting the 19-year-old, but Rodgers should have fancied his side’s chances at home to the Bulgarians with or without a fully-charged Sterling.
Now the Northern Irishman is left with the worst of all worlds, having sent Sterling on to rescue a game (to no avail) which his under strength side were expected to dominate. Villa were 10/1 to win at Anfield, despite claiming four points from two prior fixtures there under Lambert.
The elephant in the room from Liverpool’s display, however, is the performance of their defenders, particularly centre-halves Dejan Lovren and Mamadou Sakho.
Lovren touched the ball more times than any other player bar Jordan Henderson, but the £20m Croatian was brought in ostensibly to clear Liverpool’s lines when set piece and corner deliveries are whipped in dangerously.
His complete dereliction of duty for Gabriel Agbonlahor’s winner should give Merseysiders even more to worry about than whether their cadre of new attackers click.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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