I feel like I'm usually pretty good at finding positives in losing efforts. None of that today. The only remotely encouraging sign was Gabriel Agbonlahor looking to be mostly back to normal. Aside from that Villa were played off the pitch in every conceivable way to the point that Liverpool spent the better part of the second half toying with Villa, playing flashy football in the attacking end and channeling their inner Brazil while passing the ball around the back in possession. Villa spent the first ten minutes or so looking frantic and David Ngog scored in the 14th. Ryan Babel put Liverpool up 2-0 just two minutes later. Of the 90+ minutes that were played in this one, Villa looked to be somewhat competitive for somewhere in the neighborhood of four of them. They were outplayed in every phase of the game, and the worst part is that Liverpool didn't play particularly well in their own right. Their first two goals were largely gifted and their third was a result of Villa pressing forward, desperately trying to get back into the game and leaving themselves exposed in the process. A better effort from Liverpool and the final scoreline could have been much uglier.
The defense was once again the story today, and though Richard Dunne and James Collins have had better games the lion's share of the blame has to fall to Luke Young and (to a far greater extent) Stephen Warnock. Luke Young being poor isn't much of a surprise, and we're really beginning to understand why Martin O'Neill favored Carlos Cuellar at the position. With Stephen Warnock, it's baffling. Warnock was a standout player last season, well above-average as at the position and at the top of the non-Ashley Cole class in the Premier League. This season he's been a huge liability, consistently one of the worst players on the field. His problems don't seem to be physical, and at 28 it's a bit early to assume that he has entered his decline. Rather he has been constantly out of position, unable to get back to defend the counter and a regular recipient of bookings. Quite simply he's gone from being one of Villa's more dependable and consistent regulars to being a liability in almost every game, and it's baffling.
I honestly have very little else to say about this game. Nathan Delfouneso came on for the bloodied Ciaran Clark at half time and was poor. John Carew came on for Gabriel Agbonlahor (in a move most likely designed to give Gabby a bit of rest) and was poor. Robert Pires came on for Marc Albrighton and was poor, slow, old and had annoying hair. If you're looking for good news, well, Stephen Ireland was not a complete disaster. Losing this game isn't much of a shocker but the way in which it lost was. Villa looked for most of the game like the wind had been completely taken out of them. That's new, and it's scary. Even at their worst this season Villa have been spirited and determined, but today that spark wasn't there. It wasn't so much a question of effort. Frankly, they looked afraid. I think the team realizes the gravity of the situation, and I think it's begun to get to them. This team needs a win, and desperately. They aren't this bad, but if they start to feel like they are, well...things could get very nervy.
The less said about this one the better. It happened, it sucked a lot, it's over. Time to look forward.