Liverpool's midfield struggled to adapt to the new formation
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers switched his formation to a flat four in midfield that ended up being outplayed by the opposing side. It was clearly an attempt to incorporate both Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge in their favoured roles, without losing either the impressive Jordan Henderson or captain Gerrard.
Raheem Sterling was the only player that emerged with any credit from the game, however, as Philipe Coutinho and Jordan Henderson struggled to impact the game. Indeed, the Brazilian made no telling offensive contributions at all and was withdrawn at half time. Gerrard also had a very difficult game.
Steven Gerrard is not a better defensive midfielder than Lucas
It was some surprise that Rodgers dropped Lucas for Gerrard, after recent comments that Rodgers envisaged Gerrard playing a deeper role later in his career. The Brazilian's return to the team after his longterm injury last year coincided with a general improvement in the way Liverpool played, and it is difficult to imagine Gerrard adopting the same selfless defensive role.
On the basis of this game, the England skipper wasn't up to the test, as he frequently failed to track runners - he lost Weimann for Villa's first goal - and provide the necessary screen for his defence.
With five goals conceded in two games, what areas of defence need attention ?
After conceding three to goal shy Stoke last week, and two to Villa at home this weekend, we wonder why are Liverpool struggling in defence ? Firstly, since his blunder at Manchester City, Simon Mignolet has looked shakier than he did earlier in the season - something that would spread apprehension throughout his back-four. Martin Skrtel and Glen Johnson's performances have dipped in that time too, and this is a defence with a struggling Kolo Toure playing every week, as well as a very uncertain left-back position. Jon Flanagan looked solid there until he was injured, but Aly Cissoko doesn't look like a viable option.
Kolo Toure showed that he is not an elite central defender any more
The Ivorian struggled throughout the game against the pace of Agbonlahor and Weimann, and the power of Benteke and Holt. He was dragged around over the course of the match, and out-muscled on more than one occasion, failing to deal with the situation on either of the Villa goals. Firstly, he let Agbonlahor get round him too easily for Weimann's strike, and secondly he lost Benteke with a free header for their second. Toure should be very much at the bottom of Liverpool's central defender list, otherwise the team will keep conceding sloppy goals.
Suarez clearly doesn't care about being loved - he cares about winning matches
Luis Suarez must have clocked double figures for the amount of times he hit the ground after a challenge that saw him come off second best. That many of them looked fairly tame and incapable of the kind of pain Suarez expressed isn't the point here - neither is the fact that Jonathan Moss ignored most of them until the equally debatable penalty was awarded. The emphasis is that everybody needs to accept that Suarez is prepared to do whatever is necessary to secure the result for his team (remeber his Uruguay World Cup handball). He's not in the game to make friends, he's in it to win - something quite alien to British players and something the Uruguayan is normally very good at.
image: © dannymol