Aston Villa stunned the footballing world when they managed to defeat the defending champions Liverpool 7-2 on Sunday night. This is the first time in the Premier League era that defending champions have conceded 7 goals in a single match and it also meant that Liverpool conceded 7 goals in a single game for the first time since 1963.
Aston Villa started the game with a 4-2-3-1 formation. Their plan was simple, attack that high line of Liverpool with quick breaks and try to find their forwards Watkins, Trezeguet and Barkley who were excellent in making those late runs between the two centre backs and get on to the end of a long through ball. Whenever Villa had control of the ball for a sustained period, their formation shifted to 4-3-3 with Grealish dropping deep to receive the ball. He has that ability to attract opponent players to him and find a way through them.
Ross Barkley joined Villa last week and was given his debut against Liverpool in a different role to that he had at Chelsea. Here he turned back the time and played as a no.10 and was given freedom to move anywhere on the pitch. He was the free man on the pitch for Villa and whenever someone was in a pinch or wanted to take some heat of them, they would pass the ball to Barkley. Not only that he made smart late runs into the box which were never marked. Quite frankly, he should have score more than 1 goal in this match.
Aston Villa changed their formation to 4-4-2 without possession and were remarkable off the ball as well. Their forwards Watkins, Trezeguet, Barkley and Grealish were man marking the back 4 of Liverpool which completely broke the link between centre backs and midfielders. That created some spaces for Liverpool players to operate but to get the ball in those areas they had to play long balls. This was a gamble that played in Villa's favour and led to Villa's first goal of the day when they pressed Adrian into commiting a very silly error. Villa's forward pressing completely changed Liverpool's strategy for the whole 90 minutes.
Liverpool started with 4-3-3 formation, but their tactics for the game were thrown out of the window after the brilliant forward pressing from Villa forwards. With all the passing lanes between the centre backs and midfielders shut down, Liverpool had to rely on long balls. They have Robertson, Fabinho, TAA and van Dijk who are good at playing those balls, but playing long balls work 50/50 in your favour and if you do not have that physicality to protect the ball in aerial confrontations then you are going to concede possession.
Liverpool's defensive positioning and marking was shocking. We can see few instances were they failed to see the only player who was waiting on the far post. There was lack of communication between the defenders which created spaces for players like Grealish and Watkins to attack into. Midfielders too were not able to pick the late runs of Ross Barkley. A shambolic display of defending from Liverpool players.
It was not long time ago Aston Villa players were celebrating their stay in Premier League after managing to avoid relegation by just one point. Now the Villans are enjoying their stay this season by winning all the 3 matches and keeping 2 clean sheets in the process which was very scarce last season. Dean Smith's team have come a long way since lockdown and performances like this can help them to re-establish their Premier League legacy.
For Liverpool this was one of those results where you just forget about it and get ready for next game. Sure you got tactically outplayed in this one but the mistakes you made can be corrected. Klopp will study what happened in this game, work on a strategy to avoid these things from happening again and implement it and come back strongly in the next game.
Aston Villa: E. Martinez, M. Cash, T. Mings, E. Konsa, M. Targett, J. McGinn, D. Luiz, J. Grealish, R. Barkley, Trezeguet, O. Watkin.
Liverpool: Ederson, K. Walker, R. Dias, A. Laporte, B. Mendy, Rodri, K. de Bruyne, P. Foden, F. Torres, R. Sterling, R. Mahrez.