Aston Villa vs Liverpool: Five things we learned

Daniel Sturridge Liverpool

The Merseysiders made it two wins from two games with a 1-0 win at Villa Park on Saturday.

A first-half strike from Daniel Sturridge was good enough to see Liverpool maintain their 100 per cent Premier League record and subject Aston Villa to their second defeat in four days.

Although the game was tense and the hosts had chances to get something out of the fixture in the second-half, there were a number of things that became apparent over the 90 minutes of action in Birmingham yesterday.

Daniel Sturridge’s big season

I have said previously that Sturridge has the potential to be as important to Liverpool as Luis Suarez was last season, and in the Uruguayan’s absence the striker provided the winning goal once more yesterday.

The poise, clever feet and ingenuity with which the former Chelsea attacker took his goal was outstanding. Sturridge’s problem over his short career to date has been the frustration of not being given a concerted chance in the first-team of the sides he has represented. If Liverpool continue to back the England international there is no reason why he won’t score 20 goals this season for them.

Liverpool’s dynamic will be interesting once, and if, Suarez returns. Although Iago Aspas has shown promising signs in his opening two appearances for the Merseysiders, a striker partnership of an in-form Sturridge and Suarez could be devastating.

For Sturridge’s sake however, Liverpool should have him in the centre forward’s role with Suarez playing off him. The England man looked wasted out wide on occasion last term, and playing both of the main goal threats through the middle will see Brendan Rodgers’ side as dangerous as anyone in the division.

Mignolet worth every penny

New Reds goalkeeper Simon Mignolet was the hero of the hour last week by saving a last-gasp penalty, and the Kop have the Belgian stopper to thank again for the three points this week.

Another assured performance was rounded off with a fantastic save at the death from countryman Christian Benteke, when Villa looked likely to get something from the game.

Pepe Reina has been an important man in the past for Liverpool and some eyebrows were raised when he was replaced by Mignolet. The skeptics are now very quiet, as Mignolet has had a superb start to his time on Merseyside.

Liverpool have had a good start, but rode their luck

Six points from their first two games is the best Premier League start that Liverpool have had in five years, and the fans should be pleased as Brendan Rodgers’ men look to be making progress.

The fact of the matter remains however that the Reds have ridden their luck slightly. Jonathan Walters’ penalty miss last week was a let-off, while Liverpool retreated in the second half this week to allow Villa to have chances.

Although it is a good start for the Reds, who are playing ever-improving football, it could have easily have been two draws rather than two wins.

The real test is next week

With wins over Stoke and Villa under their belt, an acid test of just how serious Liverpool are in their bid to qualify for the Champions League will occur next weekend.

Premier League champions Manchester United are the visitors to Anfield next Sunday, in what should be an absolutely electric fixture. Another win for the home side and the fans will quite rightly be thinking about a really successful season.

However, if Liverpool hope to get anything from the game they will need to improve further and will not be able to rely on Mignolet to keep them in the game. The clash will be a real indicator of just how far Liverpool have come.

Villa fans should be encouraged

Despite losing two of their opening three games of the season, there is a real case for optimism amongst Aston Villa supporters. Playing Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool in eight days, two away from home, is as tough a start as anyone has had this term, and Villa have competed well in all three games.

Villa’s new signings look to have added quality to the squad, and with Benteke amongst the goals so far the Birmingham-based side already look much better than the team that escaped relegation last term.

With a home game against a struggling Newcastle next up for Paul Lambert’s men, Villa fans should be looking at the campaign with hope after a good start to the season in difficult circumstances.

image: © kuaver

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