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Benitez and O'Neill on the offensive

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Phil McNulty | 00:40 UK time, Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Rafael Benitez marched briskly through Anfield's main entrance nearly two hours after defeat to Aston Villa and moved to reassure a concerned Liverpool supporter with the words: "We keep going."

Early days to be delivering such a message - but there is no doubt unease is in the air at Anfield as Liverpool's second loss in their opening three league games ensured they equalled their total for the whole of last season.

Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill, himself subjected to the first undercurrent of questioning about his tenure before this win, complained that it was "staggering" that prophecies were being made about a team's fate on the basis of one or two games.

And there is no reason for Liverpool to be discounted as Premier League title contenders on the basis of what can reasonably be described as undistinguished opening fortnight.

No-one, however, can escape from the reality that this has not been the start Benitez or Liverpool planned and it was reflected in the mood of deflation as the manager pointed an accusing finger at his senior professionals.

Benitez's (pictured below, left) body language was downbeat as he repeated the complaints he made about Liverpool in their defeat at Spurs - too careless in possession, lacking in precision. All words that once again drew attention to the Xabi Alonso-sized hole in Liverpool's team that Alberto Aquilani will be expected to fill when fit.Rafael Benitez and Martin O'Neill were visibly frustrated on the touchline

How ironic that Benitez's programme notes went under the banner headline of "Long unbeaten home record shows we're doing right things" when they sprinkled their work with so many wrong things against Villa.

It was reference to a sequence that stretches back to Carlos Tevez's winner for Manchester United in December 2007 - now they must make Anfield inpregnable once more.

Other, more unpredictable, factors were at work as Villa used Anfield as the stage to effectively start their own season after faltering first steps.

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, under the gaze of England coach Fabio Capello, had one of his poorest games in recent memory after a lively opening. Gerrard epitomised the failure to keep possession that so irked Benitez, rounding off his night by rashly chopping down Nigel Reo-Coker to give away a crucial penalty that gave Ashley Young Villa's third goal.

And Fernando Torres, for all his undoubted brilliance, once again allowed himself to be sidetracked into the pointless bickering with officials and the opposition that earned him a public rebuke from Benitez after similar behaviour at Spurs.

Sure, Torres took a few heavy knocks, but his petulance and regular habit of going to ground reduced his threat and signalled a moral victory for Villa's stout defence, despite his late goal. Benitez may need to make his point more forcibly.

As with Manchester United in the post-Cristiano Ronaldo days, every Liverpool performance has a tendency to be examined in the context of Alonso's absence.

And while it is too simplistic to put Liverpool's faltering start to their campaign down to the Spaniard's departure for Real Madrid, a layer of creation is missing from Liverpool's midfield, as it was at White Hart Lane.

Lucas - an unfortunate soul whose own goal that gave Villa the lead only adds to the suspicion that he is accident-prone - and Javier Mascherano cannot dictate tempo and provide ammunition in the manner of Alonso.

Liverpool lacked the rhythm and pace that made them almost irresistible in the final three months of last season, notably when they thrashed Villa 5-0 at Anfield in March.

Yossi Benayoun and Dirk Kuyt were marginal figures, leaving Liverpool without the width and craft to unlock Villa, although new boy Glen Johnson did deliver occasional quality.

And for all the complaints about Villa's corner in added on time in the first half, the poor marking that allowed Curtis Davies to glance in a vital second goal has been witnessed before. Often.

On this evidence, Aquilani's swift recovery from his latest injury is essential. Liverpool and Benitez have a lot riding on the Italian because the word is Rafa is more or less spent up in the transfer market.

Benitez's dissatisfaction was predictable and easy to understand, but opposite number O'Neill was hardly the life and soul of the party either despite releasing Liverpool's eight-year stranglehold on Villa, avenging that fearful Anfield thumping, inflicting defeat on an old managerial adversary and putting his first Premier League points of the season on the board.

Surely enough for any manager? Not O'Neill. He had an itch he had to scratch and the irritation was caused by something close to home.

This is the man who once lectured Robbie Williams about his career live on television - so he had no hesitation in serving it up to the Villa fans who jeered the side off at half-time in their opening day defeat at home to Wigan Athletic.

He has proved before he has a long memory for critics and it was clear he was deeply wounded by what he regarded as a premature panning of his team.

O'Neill rightly praised Villa's defence for their stout resistance - Brad Friedel continues to be an outstanding goalkeeper - and the efforts in midfield and attack that not only ensured protection but carried threat.

But he was visibly still irked by the Wigan experience and it was duly noted that he stood motionless in his technical area, a landmark moment in itself, when Villa's fans demanded a wave from their mercurial manager in the second half.Young celebrates with the Aston Villa fans, who came under criticism from O'Neill

O'Neill may have been deep in contemplation, and he did acknowledge Villa's fans later, but his obvious disquiet later suggested otherwise.

I asked O'Neill whether he was hurt by the criticism and he said: "We have won at Anfield and the players were simply brilliant.

"I said at the time if you are booed off at the end of the game when you have not played well and you deserve that then fine, but I was disconcerted by it at half-time against Wigan. I didn't hear Liverpool being booed off at half-time when they were two goals down here."

Point made and he had one. It is a big season for O'Neill, his fourth at Villa and one when he needs to at least make close acquaintance with silverware, but to deliver a resounding raspberry in the general direction of such a manager and his team 45 minutes into a new season is nonsensical.

O'Neill will be delighted that after two defeats there were signs on show at Anfield that he has foundations in place, with Stewart Downing to come later in the season - although he will need to fill his squad out inside the next seven days for battles ahead.

Villa fit the traditional O'Neill template of pace on the flanks and power at the back. He must now ensure they do not run out of steam, as they did so spectacularly last season.

Expectations are even higher at Anfield and Benitez knows every defeat will bring more scrutiny as Liverpool attempt to end a 20-year wait for the title in a season when many pundits believe they have the team to achieve it.

Benitez will simply hope this is a false start as opposed to Liverpool failing to cope with the heightened expectations and pressure. It was a performance, however, with ominous undertones.

Liverpool's manager was unhappy. Aston Villa's manager was only marginally happier. And yet there was no doubt who departed Anfield the more contented man.

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Comments

Page 1 of 4

  • Comment number 1.

    A Utd fan here. Every Man Utd victory tastes sweet. But every Liverpool defeat tastes even sweeter. Bliss

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 3.

    didn't you predict liverpool to be champions? i know it's early days, but i can't see it!

  • Comment number 4.

    You can't win the league in August/September, but you can certainlly loose it. If they muck up too many more they will be playing catch up, big time; we all know Man U and Cheslsea come strong after Christmas, so for Liverpool - and Arsenal (if you didn't see my nick name) - now is the time to get the results in.

    Phil - you tipped Liverpool to win the league - honestly, if this had been Arsenal's start (2 losses, 1 at home) - you would now be bloggin saying top 4 is out of reach - surely you can't see Liverpool winning the title, unless they pull out some big time transfer business?

  • Comment number 5.

    Villa fans do seem hard to please(being one myself).

    I think the main problem is that we feel that MON had money to spend and in some respects he's flittered it away on overpriced substandard players(ie, shorey). There have been promises to add to the squad but in the summer we ended up selling one of our best players and still haven't replaced him(in my mind).

    I think that and the fact that we haven't won anything and had such a poor end to last season adds to the frustration of a villa fan.

  • Comment number 6.

    Its becoming clear that the players are not confident of winning the league. They seem to have come to the conclusion that their owners are only not concerned about winning trophies, only winning in the business stakes.
    This showed when with 15 mins to go and 3-1 down, Liverpool looked like they had given up. The last few seasons would have seen immense pressure until the last second but this season this doesn't look like its going to happen.
    To the Man Utd fan above, concentrate on your own team if thats possible for you? Not sure everything is so rosy in Greater Manchester either.

  • Comment number 7.

    Its been an eye-opening start to the campaign for Liverpool. He must look to the youth team now if no money is available. Swallow his pride & drop the signings he has made if they aren't good enough.

  • Comment number 8.

    If Liverpool fail to meet expectations this season Benitez will be sacked and Stevie G could end up in west London. Hmmm.

  • Comment number 9.

    I dont know what is wrong with some "fans" these days.

    Booing their own club?!

    Constantly asking for changes of manager??

    It's a sad reflection of our times. No guts. No patience. No loyalty.

  • Comment number 10.

    Yawn yawn yawn BBC and their love affair with Liverpool yawwwwwwwwwwwwn.

  • Comment number 11.

    I bet you and alan green are in mourning ,this morning...

  • Comment number 12.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 13.

    #1 Well said, I couldn't wipe the grin off my face last night.
    As much as McNulty might try to preserve Liverpool's title credentials, I think they have messed it up by getting 2 defeats so early: Surely there's no way Liverpool would match last season's form, they've already blown it with the defeats (surely they will lose again, it's inevitable) and there's no way they'll do the double over United and Chelsea this season. Liverpool have had their best shot in 20 years, and they could only muster 2nd. It's back to the fight for 4th now.

    Aquilani might just be stepping into an already defeated team by the time he gets fit. Then he still has to adapt.

    All is right with the world again. :)

  • Comment number 14.

    As an Arsenal fan, I must admit after being written off for a top 4 finish, Liverpool's position is a bit amusing.

    Many Arsenal fans thought that a very tough season for our young players would force them to improve quickly and they have, they went on a long unbeaten run but lost two big matches. Most Gunners also knew if Kolo was replaced we could be even stronger, Ade was a loss in terms of goals but not performances. I personally thought we had a stronger squad than Liverpool as now their midfield was considerbably weaker.

    In 07/08 Hleb and Flamini left destroying what was an incredibly strong midfield and the next season we had was a disaster. Liverpool last season probably had the 2nd most effective midfield after Chelsea, losing Alonso is aloss but Rafa did replace him unlike Wenger, unforunately the replacement won't be comining for maybe a month now and would need to make a fast transition.

    I feel sorry for Lucas, it is not an easy enviroment to come into, when you're under pressure and the fans are on your back. If he is mentally strong he won't let that get the better of him, especially considering the likes of Gerrard were poor also.

    What I see with Liverpool is a team under huge pressure to win the PL thats what I saw with Gerrard yesterday. Torres needs the burden on himself reduced also, he cannot focus on the game when he is arguing with defenders, he also looks physically drained compared to his 1st season.

    Villa defended extremelly well, they fowards were lacking confidence, and didn't really attack with conviction when they had the ball, but it started to creep back as the match wore on. Vilans i'm sure know they need players, guess you just give O'neil the benefit of the doubt until 21st August.

  • Comment number 15.

    There needs to be a reality check here for the managers, clubs & pundits (usually ex footballers). The average price of a season ticket this year is up by over 7% - twice the rate of inflation. For a mid-priced ticket it is now nearly £600 per year.
    Although the players & managers seem immune to the recession - we the fans are not. Therefore, it is not unreasonable for us to demand excellence every week for our money. Whether it is the first game of the season or the last, everyday on the pitch should be the players "best day" without exception. When we see underperformance we will exercise our right to tell these Prima Donnas exactly what we think. Without fans at the game on the day the quality of the TV coverage will be diminished sadly it seems it is only the TV money any of them are concerned about.

  • Comment number 16.

    its the begining of the season, no one can write anyone off!! especially as the season has started well for some teams an not for others....but will all change....it always does, Man City were top at one point last season, how long that last?? exackley.

  • Comment number 17.

    I clearly never said that on behalf of every Utd supporter. You might not love Liverpool losing as much as I do. No need to be pssd mate.

  • Comment number 18.

    I still as a Liverpool fan am not too worried. Sure it wasn't a good performance, not on par with what you expect. But I firmly believe that the score line flattered Villa to an extent. They deserved to win, no question, but the commentators on 5live were saying at the beginning how attacking Liverpool were being, and people forget that had it not been for missed chances the game would possibly have been entirely different. I don't think it was that bad a performance, it went awry and we paid for it. I'd be very cautious at writing any team off a this point of the season, MU stutter at the start of every season yet the confidence people have in them is unwavering. I get that's been earned but nobody can foresee what the season will become and frankly the results so far this year haven't been what people expected anyway.

  • Comment number 19.

    I was alway under the impression that if you sold a key player, there would be a better one to replace them?

    It seems that by selling the creator of everything we did well in the past, Benitez is either mad, or is trying to show up the lack of transfer opportunities available to him.

    He may try to argue that Xabi was unsettled at Anfield, but by offering him out to any bidder in the fruitless (and pointless) pursuit of Barry, surely Benitez himself was the cause of that unsettlement? It is also bemusing(and probably amusing to our rivals) to see that Benitez thinks Lucas can fill the hole left by Alonso when it is clear that he is not up to playing in the Premier League...

    It all boils down to money. If the owners are unsure of Benitez as a manager they should either give him enough transfer funds with which to seal his own fate (not that he hasn't had enough of that already!!!), or replace him and fund the new manager. If they (Hicks and Gillet) can't do either, then they should sell the club to someone who can.

    There are fundamentel problems at Liverpool Football Club and much that it hurts to say it, I see it as impossible for them to win anything this season until the back-room power games are sorted out.

  • Comment number 20.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 21.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 22.

    early days yet to predict title contenders, but 1 thing seems to be uppermost in the media and the fan's opinions, and that is the absence of Alonso.
    If we look at the effect of this we must consider if Benitez, a cautious (to say the least) man changed his tactics / system to try and cope with changed personnel but also to provide a more defensive option, and as his tactical nous is suspect it all went horribly wrong. Couple this with his stubborn reliance on zonal marking and there is a disaster waiting to happen.
    Add to this the void left in Everton's defence due to the defection of Lescott and the last minute restructuring of the Blue's defence then the gloom over Merseyside may stay for a while yet.

  • Comment number 23.

    One thing that really annoys me is when referees play more stoppage time than they have decided to add on, because one team in on the attack. One added minute at the end of the first half yet Villa were allowed to take a corner in the 47th minute (and this led to their second goal).

    It's completely unfair. And before people criticize this post, I'm not just whining on because it happened against my team. It's a feature of incompetent Martin Atkinson's game. I remember last season Everton Vs Villa, Everton fought back courageously to grab a late equaliser in injury time and Atkinson played a couple of extra minutes (way more than he should have done) which allowed Villa to score a third goal and win 3-2.

  • Comment number 24.

    Two of the most over hyped managers around. Benitez whines about everything, notably wanting more money, but fails to look at himself. O'Neill as some sort of God is a myth. He can't handle and won't sign super star players, his tactics are kick and rush, and he manipulates the media who think all this Irish blarney and whimsy is great. As we can see here he doesn't like the slightest bit of justified criticsm. He's spent £100m in three years and Villa are average

  • Comment number 25.

    18. At 09:51am on 25 Aug 2009, tash2689 wrote:
    I still as a Liverpool fan am not too worried. Sure it wasn't a good performance, not on par with what you expect. But I firmly believe that the score line flattered Villa to an extent. They deserved to win, no question, but the commentators on 5live were saying at the beginning how attacking Liverpool were being, and people forget that had it not been for missed chances the game would possibly have been entirely different. I don't think it was that bad a performance, it went awry and we paid for it. I'd be very cautious at writing any team off a this point of the season, MU stutter at the start of every season yet the confidence people have in them is unwavering. I get that's been earned but nobody can foresee what the season will become and frankly the results so far this year haven't been what people expected anyway.

    -------------------------------
    wow a liverpool fan who talks sence.....you cant be from liverpool surely not :)

  • Comment number 26.

    How can anyone state that simply because ticket prices are up we have the right to demand excellence every week. Simply put footballers are human an whether we like it or not they can not perform to the best of their abilities in every game. Anyone who has ever played football at any level knows how hard it is to play at the top of your game every match. I wonder do the people with these views perform as well in their own jobs on a daily basis, sure we dont earn the same money as footballers but a jobs a job an i for one am commenting on a blog when i should be working!! Oops.

  • Comment number 27.

    "As with Manchester United in the post-Cristiano Ronaldo days, every Liverpool performance has a tendency to be examined in the context of Alonso's absence."

    Liverpool DID lose with Alonso, just like United lost matches with Ronaldo!

    "And for all the complaints about Villa's corner in added on time in the first half, the poor marking that allowed Curtis Davies to glance in a vital second goal has been witnessed before."

    Benitez's reaction was petulant and all-too-familiar, pointing the finger of blame at everyone other than himself. Only (a minimum of) one minute was signaled but the extra forty seconds can be attributed to Reina belting the ball to the halfway line, angry at the award of the corner (correct decision) and then the referee having to book him.

  • Comment number 28.

    Great win for Villa last night - really pleased MON had the courage to change the 4-4-2 system that has not been working well for a while.

    Villa fans have too short a memory - relegation fodder a couple of years ago, now we have the potential to challenge the top four with one of the best managers in the country.

    Message to Villa followers: now's the time to show MON we back him. If we don't, he'll leave. Then which direction will the club go?

  • Comment number 29.

    I stand by what I said in earlier blogs, Liverpool will not win the league, keep Gerrard or Torres quiet and they are average looking, you cant say the same about many other teams. I still fancy Man City to break the top four this season, Arsenal are looking really good and I think they will finish ahead of Man Utd and Chelsea.

    Arsenal
    Man City
    Chelsea
    Man Utd
    Tottenham
    Liverpool

  • Comment number 30.

    Having tipped Liverpool for the title, I see no reason to alter that even after two defeats in three games, but there is no escaping it has been a poor start for Rafael Benitez's team.

    They miss Xabi Alonso, and the problem is exacerbated by the fact that his replacement is sidelined by injury and an unknown quantity to the Premier League. A more definitive judgement can be made when Alberto Aquilani is fit - and I agree with Martin O'Neill's assertion that you cannot write teams off after one or two games.

    One poster has suggested Benitez should give youth its chance in the absence of more money to spend in the transfer market. Can Liverpool fans tell me who this youth is? Who are the youngsters at Anfield who might be able to make the transition now?

    As for Villa fans, O'Neill certainly had a point to make about the booing against Wigan. It seems there is frustration among supporters about a perceived lack of activity in the transfer market - but he told us last night that he hopes to address that in the next week.

  • Comment number 31.

    I agree with MON that booing at half time was unacceptable and i am fed up with some of the idiots that attend Villa park these days. On the other hand MON needs to realise that the negative reception at Wigan was also a more general 'we could see this defeat coming' long term malaise. MON had failed to buy centre halfs which had been so badly needed since the loss of Laursen.

  • Comment number 32.

    Three games in and we've already lost as many matches as we did the whole of last season. Having taken a giant leap forward last season, we're not taking an even bigger leap backwards. It just shows how important Alonso and the stability at the back was last season. We are a shambles at the moment. With Arsenal clearly improving, Spurs looking good, and obviously Man City in the mix, it could well be a fight for an Europa League place next season unless something changes.

    If we don't push for the title, it could well be Rafa's last season at the club.

    It's all early days yet so we'll see what Rafa does. He's done well in his time at the club, but we needs season's like last season every season.

    The one thing I am grieved about is that surely he knew Alonso was going to leave, yet he let him go without a fit and healthy replacement. Aquilani has never played Premiership football, so will take time to settle in anyway. Instead we're having to rely on that waste of space Lucas.

  • Comment number 33.

    The performance yesterday showed how a large number of football "experts" (yourself included) became so blindly obsessed with the loss of Ronaldo for United that they failed to recognise that if anything Alonso was more important for Liverpool.

    That may sound odd, Ronaldo is certainly one of the two best players in the world and will be missed at United. Nevertheless last season United scraped alot of results and never really got a run of performances going, in the end they owed their title to squad depth and the performances of Vidic. Already this season despite the defeat at Burnley many of the forward players have looked far improved particularly Berbatov. Given that United's strikers were underachieving last season and that Ronaldo provided only a handful of assists it is possible that his individual genius can be replaced with a more conventional, balanced side.

    In fairness to you, you did question the decision to sell Alonso. However you then went on to make the same error that many have, focusing almost exclusively on Gerrard and Torres as the key for Liverpool. Last season Liverpool fans were always keen to point out that they had achieved their position despite the fact that Gerrard and Torres had played only a few matches together due to how their injuries had dovetailed. Many used that to suggest an injury free Liverpool would have avoided the number of draws they suffered, while that may have been true the actual stats showed little difference in the results regardless of whether Gerrard and Torres were in the side.

    The real problem for Liverpool is it doesn't matter how good your front two are if you have no creativity in midfield. Mascherano is an excellent defence midfield player however no one would expect him to cover Alonso's role and aside from him the only real cover Liverpool have is Lucas, the reaction of any Liverpool fan to that name should tell you all you need to know about him.

    Bentiez therefore is taking a huge gamble on Aqualani and with every point dropped the pressure will increase on him to solve Liverpool's lack of creativity. That is the exact opposite of what you want as a manager bringing in a young player from another league, of course some (like Torres) can deliver, however many take time to settle and given that even experienced premier league players take a while to get going after missing the pre-season it's hard to see him making an impact until mid-september at the earliest.

    All of this does really beg the question why were Liverpool, a team short on cash and thin in squad depth favoured in the title race over a Chelsea side unweaked by the summer spending. The two early scrapped results show they still have the spirit and their is no question they posses the class to win the league, from the minute Alonso signed on the dotted line for Madrid they became the clear favourites for the title.

  • Comment number 34.

    Benitez described Lucas as the outstanding player of Liverpool's pre-season. God only knows how badly the rest of the side must have played then...

    The problem is that Benitez doesn't seem to ever accept that he makes mistakes. He bleats about not having the money to compete with United or Chelsea yet pays an overpriced £20m for Keane, only to dump him a few months later, never really explaining to the fans what that was about. He pays £17m for Johnson, a good player, but one who was available much cheaper not so long ago, and Liverpool have long needed a progressive right-back, £20m for Aquilani who will make Darren Anderton look like Vinnie Jones, £10m on Babel who half of Holland knew had a massive attitude problem etc... (not even worth mentioning signings like Lucas, Ngog, El Zhar, who will come and go and not be lamented, like Pellegrino, Morientes, Barragan, Josemi and so many, many more).

    Does he ever do any proper research?

  • Comment number 35.

    Phil, in response to your question about Liverpool's youth players:

    Jay Spearing (in my opinion) is ready to supersede Lucas already.

    Daniel Pacheco should be ahead of Voronin in the pecking order.

  • Comment number 36.

    only three games into this season and surprise surprise,there is already the calls for benitez' and the owners head.

    Benitez is arrogant and clueless, proved by the Keane and Alonso fiasco.
    Petulence and diving...no not Ronaldo but senor Torres, like Benitez their spanish temprement, machoism and bullheadedness will be their downfall.

    As I commented in the blog after United lost to Burnley to the gloating scousers, you are deluded if you think L'pool can win this season, you will scrap for a bottom end top 4 place at best and are likely to be trophyless yet again.


  • Comment number 37.

    "Lucas - an unfortunate soul whose own goal that gave Villa the lead only adds to the suspicion that he is accident-prone -"

    Unfortunate only in the sense that in spite of clearly not being up to PL standard Benitez keeps on picking him. After all he could hardly be blamed for his bad performances when it's clear to everyone except the stubborn manager that he's just not good enough for the league. You do have to wonder how many chances he's going to give the kid. It reflects poorly on the manager who seems unable to accept that his choice of players (tactics) isn't working out.

  • Comment number 38.

    I hate to repeat what the broken records on here keep saying but Liverpool are too reliant on Gerrard and Torres, when they don't perform Liverpool are very average.

    Apart from Gerrard and Torres, what Liverpool players would get into Chelsea or Man Utd's squad?

  • Comment number 39.

    I still think the Villa fans who booed at half-time are in the minority but those are the kind of people who seem to be at almost every top club seemingly just waiting for the club and manager to fail so they can pounce (saw it at Arsenal last season). It's probably the realistic majority which is not doing enough to stifle them.

  • Comment number 40.

    Liverpool have the players to win the league if United or Chelsea have a below par season.

    They still don't have the right manager though.

    As long as Rafa is there, the league will be going elsewhere each season.

  • Comment number 41.

    I'm not a Liverpool fan but I don't see how people can write a team off after 3 matches. Arsenal went an entire season unbeaten (as a Spurs fan that season hurt!) so what's to stop Liverpool going the rest of this year unbeaten and winning the league? Personally I hope they don't and I don't believe they actually will but that's not to say it can't happen. They haven't suddenly become a bad team overnight, they're simply adjusting to losing a key player but that adjustment will come soon and they'll be winning games again.

    People say they've lost the same number of games this season as they did last season and they couldn't win the title then. But they could end up winning a lot more matches than they drew last year and still win it. They showed last season they can do well against the other top clubs, now if Benitez can actually find his best 11 AND stick with it in the league then they could mount a serious challenge still. Win their next 5 games and they'll be back near the top. As I said personally I'm not a fan of Liverpool and I hope they don't but that's not to say they can't.

    As for the Villa fans booing, personally if you pay your money to watch you can do that if you want that's up to you. But don't think that a week later all will be forgiven by the manager and the players. Quite right O'Neill spoke out about it and didn't wave (who knows if he heard them or not). Fair enough its frustrating seeing your team losing 2-0 at half-time at home but how is booing them off going to help the situation? Its hardly going to make the players want to come back out and impress you and get back into it. If we were halfway through the season and you were in the bottom half of the table after losing 4 home games in a row then fair enough but 45 minutes into the season? Come on give them a chance.

    Its time fans realised that managers are paid the money they are because despite what you or I think they understand the game and have been there before. Maybe its time we trusted their judgements and decisions a bit more instead of sitting there banging on about how much better we could do. There's a reason none of us are out there doing that job better, because we really couldn't! Just because we watch football a lot doesn't mean we could be a fantastic manager.

  • Comment number 42.

    I'm sure that Liverpool will improve, the problem is by the time they do Chelsea will be gone. Maybe Man Utd could catch them but Liverpool will be too far behind and Arsenal are nowhere near good enough.

    This season you've got Manchester City as well as a rejuvenated Spurs so it is not impossible to see a change in the top four this season. Of course it's early days but Liverpool don't only look like they are short of confidence, they also look short of class.

  • Comment number 43.

    I think saying there is 'no reason' not to think Liverpool can still win the title is totally wrong, especially when you and others then lay out the reasons pretty well afterwards.

    There is definitely SOME reason to think Liverpool won't do it this year. Not huge reason perhaps, maybe not even in the majority, yet, but definitely some reason to think they'll fail.

  • Comment number 44.

    I really think Aston Villa fans should get behind Martin O'neill or not bother going to the home games.

    I am a Leicester fan and would love to see Martin O'neill as Manager again one day as he was the best thing to happen to the club for a very long time. I have never seen Aston Villa in such good shape.

    I just think all you boo boys should just Grow up and support your Manager. Managers like him don't come around to often.

  • Comment number 45.

    "Having tipped Liverpool for the title, I see no reason to alter that even after two defeats in three games, but there is no escaping it has been a poor start for Rafael Benitez's team."

    Phil, I understand that like any supporter of football you have your favourites, but I agree with the Gooner up top. If this had been Arsenal, they would have been in 'crisis' by now and people would not think them capable of staying in the top four. They would also then be compared to Manchester City.

    Well, here's the situation. Arsenal are scoring goals for fun. United lost a freak game to Burnley and then put five past Wigan in 30 minutes, despite apparently lacking their prolific goal scorer. Chelsea are just trundling forward steamrolling everything in their path.

    You're right not to write a season off based on three games. That's a ludicrous suggestion, but bear in mind that Villa ended last season disaterously, started this season as they meant to go on and they lost their player talisman to City's chequebook. On paper this should have been an easy win.

    Liverpool are running on empty at the moment. Without Alonso's creativity which marked a rise in their win rate amounting to 20%, they are short on ideas. As good as Gerrard is, he can't carry a team.

  • Comment number 46.

    When I went to bed last night I was hoping I would wake up on Saturday just before the Bolton game and not have to contemplate what happened last night..

    Sadly I woke up this morning..

    After the defeat to Spurs I thought fine.. Liverpool lost this last season.. Beating Stoke was good because of the draw last year..

    Losing to Villa though was a kick in the teeth.. They are not particularly stronger than they were last year.. Liverpool gave the ball away.. lacked creativity.. Shot straight at the keeper (when on target)..!!

    Liverpool need to work on the set-pieces and corners (Both in attack and defense )and when the pundits showed the gaps at half-time it was like a horror show..!!

    *Reina: Good game though he should have done better with the 2nd goal.. got needlessly booked for kicking the ball away though I thought he was cheekily trying to take a quick goal kick.. I thought he was better with penalties.. Didnt have much else to do..

    *Johnson: Good game.. Gave the ball away on occasion and once in his own half trying to juggle the ball.. Created an excellent chance for Gerrard in the second half with his one and only run into the Villa area.. His crossing was poor..

    *Carragher: Good game.. good passing.. Must do better with organizing the defense at set-pieces..

    *Skrtel: Good interceptions here and there..

    *Insua: Did well with the assist but I'm not very impressed with him.. Often caught out and gave the ball away too often..

    *Kuyt: I applaud his running around and chasing the ball all over the pitch but he is really predictable.. and more often than not has a bad first touch.. Plus always seems to shoot straight at the keeper.. Unlucky to hit the post in the 2nd half..

    *Gerrard: Poor.. Against Spurs he scored a penalty and v Stoke he had two assists but they weren't Steven Gerrard performances.. Last night it wasn't a Steven Gerrard performance and he didn't score or create.. And then there was the penalty.. Awful stupid challenge.. Gave the ball away alot and when Benitez moved him back all his passes went sideways..

    *Lucas: Unfortunate with the OG.. Poor sod.. otherwise it was an OK display.. he has a couple of tricks up his sleeve..

    *Mascherano: Good solid performance again.. took a couple of speculative shots from distance that were straight at the keeper..

    *Benayoun: Was going deep to get the ball from Insua and Skrtel.. gave the ball away at times and got tired and was replaced.. Should have scored in the first minute with the header.. would have been a great goal..

    *Torres: Got 12 types of crap kicked (and elbowed) out of him last night.. He did score but he seemed to slip and fall over everytime he got the ball.. rather than trying to trick 3 defenders he should pass and run into space..

    *Voronin: Meh..!!

    *Babel: Two pointless shots from distance.. sideways passing.. why wasnt Riera brought on instead??

    WELL DONE VILLA..!!

  • Comment number 47.

    @timwebber - The injury time announced is the "minimum amount" and is at the sole discretion of the referee.
    http://www.fifa.com/flash/lotg/football/en/Laws7_03.htm

  • Comment number 48.

    my own view of it,is that liverpool is tired and they need a new faces in the team.well,is too early to decide on who going to the league but i tick man united

  • Comment number 49.

    Re 23: Timwebber
    The stoppage time signalled is a MINIMUM amount of time that should be added on. And the referee is far better placed than the 4th in allocating stoppage time - Reina's yellow card for timewasting/dissent?! Holding up the minutes is the most pointless thing ever whn the ref should be tracing it anyway.

  • Comment number 50.

    Liverpool will not finish in top 4 this season. The biggest mistake that Pool's board made was to reward Rafa with a lengthy contract for failing to win a trophy in 3 years. He wont leave on his own accord he'll have to be dismissed and that will cost Pool money they cant afford.

    After 5 seasons and spending more money then Man Utd he hasn't won as many trophies as them, still doesn't have a squad (how much money wasted on flop signings) to compete on all fronts and the Kop still love him? Why? IS it something in the water up there? He's the sole reason why Steven Gerrard will never win the Premier League whilst he's in charge. In a few years time people will look back and say it was a disaster with him in charge and that they blew the best chance to win the league because he wanted to show his paymasters that he wants full control of everything at the club.

    I must say, I do enjoy watching Liverpool lose and last night was no exception.

  • Comment number 51.

    38. At 10:39am on 25 Aug 2009, PulpGrape wrote:
    I hate to repeat what the broken records on here keep saying but Liverpool are too reliant on Gerrard and Torres, when they don't perform Liverpool are very average.

    Apart from Gerrard and Torres, what Liverpool players would get into Chelsea or Man Utd's squad?

    -------------------------------------------------------
    i cant think of any to behonest......

  • Comment number 52.

    Personally, as a Liverpool Fan, i am not worried, in my opinion i thought the way we attack, with speed, penetration, and consistency was good, we created a whole host of opportunities, and if it wasnt for the outstanding Friedel in goal and some poor finishing, we could have won this, it was similar to when we drew 4-4 with Arsenal, we attacked and created lots but could not find the back of the net.

    simple as that

    it was a bad scoreline but not a bad performance, one own goal, one set peice and a penalty one of those games!

    We had 23 attempts on goal, Villa had 4, we had 60% possession Villa had 40 and we had 11 corners to there 3, if they were the stats and we won 4-3 everyone would be sayin we should have won by more, so i am not panicking.

    True it is a poor start on paper, but apart from the Spurs game i think we look sharp and more dynamic going forward. Kuyt, Benayoun, Torres and Gerrards movement at times was breathtakin, what you would see in ice hockey, and Glen Johnson and Insua were bombing forward, it was Insua who was in on goal to set up Torres. At times Carragher was right up there too, on another day we would of hit the net on many occasions.. id be more worried if we didnt create these chances or had that level of dominance in the game.

    I think this years title is open, United, Chelsea, Arsenal, City and Spurs will all drop points and undoubtedly lose 2-6 games each, we still have to play them and they still have to play each other.

    Give it time, early days yet, 105 points to play for, Aquillani, Agger, Aurelio and Riera to come back yet.. they wll alot of difference to the side.

    Come on Boys!

  • Comment number 53.

    I'm surprised neither Benayoun nor Riera have been given a shot to do the prompting from deep. Is that an attempt anyone else was expecting?

  • Comment number 54.

    David O'Leary once described Villa fans as fickle, which ultimately proved to be the nail in his coffin, but I really think Martin O'Neill has a point here.

    I have been to so many recent Villa home matches, where the fans are continuously on the players' backs (Agbonlahor lost his confidence at the end of last season for this reason).

    Our excellent away form last season (and possibly last night's result), whilst being put down to our counter attacking style of play is more an indication that the pressure on the players is lifted when we play away from Villa Park.

    Having followed Villa through the fairly barren Ellis years, I think with Randy Lerner's pragmatism and O'Neill's ability to nurture talent there is still so much to be optimistic about and the fans should acknowledge this by getting behind the team.

  • Comment number 55.

    Whilst it has undoubtedly been a poor start for Liverpool you simply can't write them off after 3 games. Yes, they have already lost as many games as last year and chances are they will lose more, but they drew a lot of games at home last year and if they turn the equivalent games into wins this year they will still be near the top.

  • Comment number 56.

    I think that there are several factors which are being over-looked by Phil McNulty and others.
    I predicted a problem occuring for Liverpool when they signed Johnson and I see nothing to change this view. So many people see him as a great attacking defender, tearing up the wing, creating chances and scoring the odd goal. But he also has to defend and unfortunately he CANNOT tackle and any team that plays a left winger will cause Liverpool trouble while Johnson is right back. Modric ran rings around him at Tottenham and Liverpool lost, and Young did the same last night. Against Holland a few weeks ago firstly Robben and then his own team-mate Babel (heaven forbid) made him look 3rd rate as they left him for dead time after time.
    Poor Stoke had no idea about anything and no left winger for sure. Why did Chelsea get rid of him? Only Benetiz would come in and waste 17 millions on a defender who cannot tackle.
    What is happening is that Carragher is having to come across and cover for the absent Johnson and this is making Carragher look bad and leaving a hole in the middle of the defence. Can I just ask Liverpool fans who may be ready to respond angrily to my comments, to watch carefully at the next game and see how many tackles Johnson makes and how often he is beaten by a smart winger and how many times he leaves the right defensive area wide-open.

  • Comment number 57.

    As a Liverpool fan, I was disappointed but then again it is still to early to write off our title chances. Admittedly though, we really do need to go on a long winning run. We have Bolton, Burnley, Hull and West Ham before we play Chelsea. If we are aiming to win the title, with all due respect, we have to be beating teams like this.

    I'm a bit worried about the frailness of our defence. Seems that they're being overly exposed most of the time. Our midfield seems to lack the pressing game we played with last season where we were harrying teams. IMO, we need Agger back quickly.



  • Comment number 58.

    Some great symmetrical stats from this game:

    Liverpool had exactly three times as many shots on target.
    Liverpool had exactly three times as many shots off target.
    Aston Villa scored exactly three times as many goals.

    That's football. If you aspire to the title, you just have to hope it doesn't happen to you - as indeed it did with most of Liverpool's draws and defeats last season.

    Quiz question: when was the last time a team outshot Liverpool by three to one? I could be wrong but I don't think they have been outplayed to that degree in my lifetime.

  • Comment number 59.

    NEWGOD666-
    "I really think Aston Villa fans should get behind Martin O'neill or not bother going to the home games."

    I dont want to turn this into a Leicester-Villa thing but I dont think you are in any position to lecture Villa fans given the abhorrent abuse Leicesters so called Loyal following gave MON in his early days at your club.

  • Comment number 60.

    am i getting confused here, but how can liverpools season last year be a success? 2nd in the league (only "highlight"), no cup finals and no silverware, explain how that can be a successful season?

  • Comment number 61.

    All the noise coming out of Anfield, and indeed from the BBC re: Liverpool, Hansen, Lawrenson and yourself included Phil, had Liverpool as Champions this season.

    I know it is only 3 games into the season.

    But this relied heavily on Liverpool performing as well as they did against their main challengers in the top 4, as they did last season, and them not dropping silly points to teams they should beat, i.e. the Stokes and Wigans of this world.

    We are yet to see how they match up against the rest of the top 4, but i'd be surprised to see them do as well as last season, these go either way and mostly come down to luck on the day, or key players missing or performing.

    Liverpool destroyed Stoke, however their are plenty of these types of games to come. So still a lot of question marks out their.

    However one thing nobody commented on, was how Liverpool would fair against that other band of teams, the protagonists for 4th place and the UEFA cup spots, never easy games but ones which Champions inevitably win.

    So far they have played two of them and lost two, it will be interesting when Man City come to town, the other team in this bracket is Everton, who have the added spice of it being a derby.

    This is where the league is won and lost. I agree thought that it is very early days.

  • Comment number 62.

    Funnily, that Alonso-shaped hole in the Liverpool midfield is also looking pretty Gareth Barry-shaped. Of course, Benitez could not have predicted that Real Madrid would swoop for his prize-midfielder. However, he should of been prepared to find his replacement as soon as their was speculation.

    You get the picture that should they have signed Barry at Villa's asking price then they would not have had the midfield issues they have now. Mascherano is a player I've never rated. He has no spatial awareness, does not have a "long passing" ability, and on the evidence I saw yesterday, he can't tackle for toffee. In fact, I ask any Liverpool to respond to my post and give any evidence that Mascherano shows any quality whatsoever.

    I hope for Liverpool, that their new Italian boy, Aquilani is of the quality that they seek so they can turn around their fortunes.

    If you can draw up a favourite from the last fortnight, I would say Chelsea have performed best. Watching both respective games against Fulham and Aston Villa, we can see that Liverpool is a world apart to the Blues and won't have a chance for the title.

  • Comment number 63.

    Gerrard could struggle to get back into the England squad.
    Having cried off from the Dutch game (only to play for his club four days later)he then puts in three mediocre performances.
    Barry, Carrick, Beckham, Wright-Phillips, Lampard, Young, Milner....

  • Comment number 64.

    the problem with liverpools start, and i will quickly admit this is all with the benefit of hindsight, is signing a player who was injured to replace alonso.

    Aquilani, may well end up being a good signing but the folly in rafa's solution to losing alonso was his belief that the squad was strong enough to survive the period that Aquilani was injured/adjusting to life in the premiership. Lucas has never been popular, and just doesn't seem as though he will ever deliver on his supposed potential. Now Aquilani is under even more pressure to be as good as promised when he returns.

    Really, the blame for what can't be described as anything other than an appalling start to the campaign has be blamed on rafa's misguided transfer policy, yet again. He should have made it his priority to sign a back up striker, a top class winger and central midfielder who could immediately replace alonso, instead he has signed johnson (who is a good signing, but not at the expense of the other players he needed) and an injured player who's signing has done nothing expect highlight the glaring hole in the first 11 following the loss of one its best players.



  • Comment number 65.

    While this defeat for Liverpool does not necessarily mean they are out of the title race, it should get Benitez thinking on re-enforcements in midfeild and a partner for Torres upfront.

  • Comment number 66.

    bye bye top 4...bye bye champions league...hello top 6.

  • Comment number 67.

    Writing any team off after three games is clearly ludicrous, and Liverpool can, obviously, turn things around, although the contrast with Man United perhaps highlights why they didnt win the league last year, and probably wont this.

    United are renound as 'slow starters' , but really that is just another way of saying the last few years they have had poor form in the opening few weeks.

    No one ever writes them off because of it, even opposing fans, its just what 'they do' .

    Even after last weeks defeat at Burnley, there wasnt anyone seriously thinking this meant they wouldnt be in contention come season end, and yet Benitez will, in his own words ' keep going '.

    They are defeated before they kick a ball , with leadership like that I'm afraid, and whilst Arsenal have made a magnificent start, I think the opposition falttered them somewhat in both games, the main worry is no goals from the strikers, better teams wont give the midfield so much time and space to cover up that shortcoming.

    Next Ppril, it will be Chelsea and Man United again, squad depth counts, they have it.
    I would say Chelsea will edge it, Uniteds strike force are still gelling, and I think it will cost them this year.

  • Comment number 68.

    #63 PragueImp

    Gerrard could struggle to get back into the England squad.
    Having cried off from the Dutch game (only to play for his club four days later)he then puts in three mediocre performances.
    Barry, Carrick, Beckham, Wright-Phillips, Lampard, Young, Milner....
    -------------------------------------------------------------
    Maybe he is playing with an injury....

    Anyway, a statistic I read a few days ago showed that the league champions only drop points in around a quarter of their games, i.e. 9.

    Liverpool have dropped points in 2 games so far.

    However, compare this to the draws they had last season and things aren't so bad so long as a couple of those are turned in to wins.

    Also, compare it to the actual fixtures last season (i.e. lost to Spurs, drew to Stoke and beat Villa) and things are still ok.

    Add to this the suspicion that with strong sides in Spurs and Man City that points may be shared out a bit more.

    Overall, Liverpool have made a poor start but things will only start to look a bit desperate if this start carries on for another, say, 5 games.

    (And all this coming from a Chelsea fan, and yes, I am enjoying Liverpool being under the cosh, BUT, let's add some reality to this. It ain't over yet!)

  • Comment number 69.

    Most people on here are on the right side of sanity, which is good to see. I too am not panicking, but as a Liverpool fan of 20 years standing, there are some worrying signs.

    The one thing that struck me last night & at Spurs was the lack of leadership when it wasn't going our way. Players arguing with refs, feeling sorry for themselves, not concentrating. How many times have you seen 2 Liverpool players going for the same ball?

    Rafa is right that it's down to our senior players to step up. Fair enough Carra was trying second half, but there was a real lack of orgainsation in midfield (wonder why?). I think we're better when Torres & Gerrard are not playing than when they're playing badly. Obviously them playing well is the best option, but the dissent definately started with them.

    Despite this, on chances created we still should've won easily. I had a bad feeling when those early chances didn't go in, and i feel the atmos of the crowd changed as the half went on, just as it did @ spurs. We have to show patience to the team, even if they aren't playing well. I wouldn't start with Lucas, but how is he ever gonna play well if we give him stick from the beginning. And what's happened with Riera? Hope the rumours of a rift with Rafa are untrue, as we need to pull together.

    I can understand the smugness of Arsenal fans (incidently i never wrote you off) but would warn them pride comes before a fall.

    By the way, has anyone else noticed this:
    2005 - Arsenal win FA Cup
    2006 - Liverpool win FA Cup
    2006 - Arsenal beaten in Champions league final
    2007 - Liverpool Beaten in Champions League final
    2007 - Arsenal tread water & finish 4th
    2008 - Liverpool tread water & finish 4th
    2008 - Arsenal blow lead & are Caught for the title
    2009 - Liverpool Blow lead & are caught for the title
    2009 - Arsenal sell key midfielders & struggle after a poor start
    2010 - ........?

    Re: Young Players - Martin Kelly, Jay Spearing, Dani Pacheco & Kristian Nemeth should all get games in the carling Cup, and maybe Spearing in the league, although i'd play benayoun in the Lucas role.
    Re: our Players in other teams - Mascherano (Captain of Argentina), Reina (most clean sheets in prem 3 out of last 4 seasons) & Glen Johnson ( i believe Chelsea tried to sign him?)would all be in any other team.

    And finally, if i hear one more "fan" talk about how much they pay now to go to a game giving them the right to boo, i'll scream. I'm unemployed, and still struggle to go to as many games as i'd like, but unless you'd noticed, everything costs a lot! How would you like it if someone came and stood over you in the office, screaming obscenities whenever you made a mistake? Would it make you work better? No, i didn't think so.

    Overall not too worried, but as a Club - Board, Manager, Players & Fans - must do better.

  • Comment number 70.

    phil - who can make this transition from the youth team now?

    easy one that - jay spearing!
    last season in the 4-0 win over real madrid, despite being 3-0 up, for 30 minutes in the second half, madrid were running straight through the middle of us.
    jay spearing came on as a sub. not only does he run box to box, he closed down the midfield attacks, forcing madrid to play wide all the time, and had torres not been greedy, would have be in for an easy shot at goal from 10 yards.


    i dont buy the "liverpool miss alonso" rubbish. good passer of the ball he maybe, but he was slow and often late getting back to cover the back four, not a good tackler either, which is good for spanish football, but not in our league.
    his goal return was very poor for the amount of time and space he had coming from deep and the quality of players around him.
    dont forget, at the beginning of last season, he hardly got a game as we "hit the ground running" as benitez says, the current problems are down to an unorganised pre season, we should return to the days of playing pre season matches against norwegian clubs who have already started their season, play a similar style to premiership, and are all match fit.
    a 40 minute runaround in japan or somewhere like playing a practice game against some other soft european club who dont tackle, isnt going to get the players fighting and match fit.

    one question id like an answer to, why are the youth team players totally ignored for our first team and loaned out before being sold?
    should we not be doing what arsene wenger has done for many years, and paisley and shankly did in the past?
    teach them the liverpool way of playing then bring them on.

    throwing money out to get average players who may not fit the team set up, is not the answer. for these reasons, i dont want benitez to stay a moment longer.

  • Comment number 71.

    I said it towards the end of the season, and I've seen nothing to change my mind. Last season will be Liverpool's best until they get a new manager. He's good, but not good enough. I feel there's an excitement and expectation around the other top 3. Chelsea have a new manager, Man U could see Rooney emerge and inspire some of the talented youth Ferguson has at his disposal, and Arsenal are playing some pretty good stuff. Liverpool? Pah, if there's one top four team who's going to make way for Man City, it's going to be them. It wouldn't surprise me if Gerrard leaves for them next season!

  • Comment number 72.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 73.

    @jaykay_doha:

    Benitez did have his replacement for Alonso lined up- it was Aqulini. Of course he was injured but RB believes he has his man with regards to replacing Alonso.

  • Comment number 74.

    Why is Benitez moaning?

    Liverpool should be pleased to have 3 points

    Stoke are a jolly good team and Liverpool did very well indeed to beat them

    By the way...how is the stadium development coming along guys?

  • Comment number 75.

    Liverpool now need to go on a winning streak picking up all 3 points in the next 4 or 5 games if they are going to have any chance. They took a lot of points of the top 4 last season and i doubt that will be matched this season. United (my team) also need to carry on winning games with Chelsea and Arsenal looking strong.

    The money situation doesn't look good for the future but it certainly cant be blamed for Liverpools current squad, Rafa has had more than enough money over the last few years but has got one decent player in Torrez. Whilst everyone is moaning about other clubs spending 30million on players maybe Rafa should have been looking at quality instead of trying to turn average players in to quality. Its early days but Chelsea are 6 points clear of Liverpool already. Not looking good! I've always said Rafa will never win the league, i just hope he never leaves or gets sacked :-)

  • Comment number 76.

    I amazed, one poorly conceded free kick, one dumb penalty to give away and one piece of woeful defending. 80 minutes of superior possesion and pressure. People attributing the win to the likes of Young are being a bit short sighted, surely Friedel deserves the plaudits here (10 shots on targer!) as well as Cuellar, I don't know how many clearances he made.

    we (liv) played poorly, but its not over, Utd had 4 points at this time last year and were not playing well at all.

  • Comment number 77.

    Liverpool are 6 points behind the team at the top, just SIX points. Had they got 3 draws so far people would not be saying their challenge is over yet it would be the same points. If they were 6 points behind in February people would be saying there is still a good chance so why not in September?

    Liverpool do not look like champions to me simply because they lack flexability and options. Lucas is simply not good enough to play in England, he is not quick enough on the pitch or in his head, his passing is unspectacular, he gets caught in possession too often and is not particularly strong. Rafa should consign him to the bench, play Gerrard in the middle until Aquilani is fit and move Kuyt into the middle, he can then either move Benayoun to the right and bring in Babel on the left or push Johnson forward as he looks more likely to create somethign than anyone else thus far.

    Lucas, along with Voronin should be auctioned off ASAP and the money raised (probably £5-6m) used to bring in someone who can do the job of protecting the back four, this would rallow Rafa to play any three of the four midfielders in combination instead of relying on all three plus lucas. There are many players available who could do this job dotted around the lower half of the premiership and top of the championship.

  • Comment number 78.

    I said after the Spurs game and I will say it again - Liverpool will not win the league as their bench is not good enough. When things go well like aginst Stoke, its all good as the starting 11 (i.e. Torres, Gerrard etc) have delivered.

    However, if they struggle or if the team struggles and they go behind and need to change it up as they had to yesterday, then it does look bleak. Voronin coming of the bench doesnt fill me with any confidence as a game changer. Spurs have Crouch and Pavleyenchenko on the bench. Man Utd have Owen (which we could have had if Benitez wasnt so stubborn). Chelsea have Deco and others.

    We should have built on the squad for last season, not changed it up. i.e. kept Alonso and Alberlora AS WELL as buying new players - the squad hasnt improved. Thats what we needed

  • Comment number 79.

    In Rafa I trust, true it is as disapointing a start to the season as I would have imagined but one that did look like it was coming. Our pre-season form has been poor and I don't think enough of the first team were physically or mentally prepared for the start of the season.

    Our biggest problem from my point of view has been the fact that we did not need to play any Champions League qualifiers in the build up to this season thanks to finishing second last year. This is usually the time when Benitez starts to give our established players more match time, without that this season I think a lot of our key players are lacking in match practice. They look tired and a pre-season spent travelling the world (or in court) has certainly prevented us from starting the season at a high tempo.

    I am sure that we will improve though and the season has already shown that there are teams now such as Manchester City, Tottenham and possibly Aston Villa after last nights resolute performance who have genuine potential to break into the top four, so Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United (who already have) will drop points.

    It isn't the first time that Benitez's Liverpool has gone through a bad spell and he does have a way of bringing them through troubled times in better shape, only time will tell if that will be enough to mount a serious title challenge. I for one think that a long season has only just started (albeit badly) and there will be plenty of time to get things right before any trophies are awarded.

  • Comment number 80.

    People forget that the Man United side who won the Premier League and European Cup a couple of years ago began with their WORST EVER EPL start, and still came back to win the title comprehensively. Liverpool are certainly not out of it, but every loss they take now is one more draw they can't afford later. It's going to be a tough season, but I'm still not wholly convinced by the strength of Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal, City or Tottenham. I'm expecting that at least three of these will be in with a shout come the closing weeks of the season.

  • Comment number 81.

    23. At 10:11am on 25 Aug 2009, timwebber wrote:
    One thing that really annoys me is when referees play more stoppage time than they have decided to add on, because one team in on the attack. One added minute at the end of the first half yet Villa were allowed to take a corner in the 47th minute (and this led to their second goal).

    It's completely unfair. And before people criticize this post, I'm not just whining on because it happened against my team. It's a feature of incompetent Martin Atkinson's game. I remember last season Everton Vs Villa, Everton fought back courageously to grab a late equaliser in injury time and Atkinson played a couple of extra minutes (way more than he should have done) which allowed Villa to score a third goal and win 3-2.

    --------------------------------------

    I can assure you that Villa went str8 up the other end and scored the winner. Lescott was out of breathe as Ashley Young turned him inside out. Out of breathe cos he'd just finished celebrating 2-2. ho ho

  • Comment number 82.

    That's a big big blow for Liverpool. To lose two so early on - and to two teams trying to break into the top four, means they're already under pressure.

  • Comment number 83.

    I think liverpool have a few problems but better have them now than later in the season. They have to sort out the connection between their midfield and strikers as they are not linking well. There are more positives than negatives but they will still try for the title and no one should count them out.

  • Comment number 84.

    "Having tipped Liverpool for the title, I see no reason to alter that even after two defeats in three games"

    Well, three non-descript performances, no creativity and two losses should make you think twice. Obviously, its too early to write off Liverpool, but they've lost 6 points to Chelsea, who are the strongest side this year, and its not even that they've been unlucky.

    Add to that the performances and teams of City and Tottenham, as well as an invigorated Arsenal side no longer stifled by the attitude of Adebayor, Liverpool can expect to lose a few more yet.

    At least its true that they won't draw so many at home this year...

  • Comment number 85.

    A hugely disappointing result last night, and one for which the players, not the manager, should take the blame - the general slackness of the team in the first half was very troubling and, while they improved immensely in the second half, the wave of lethargy which was apparent in the first 45 minutes had already took its toll.

    I'm glad Rafa didn't shirk from laying down the law to his senior players as at least two of them were in the main responsible for this result - Torres' mouthing off at officials is beginning to get tiring and, as for Gerrard, well perhaps if he'd spent the close season in training with the rest of his team instead of a courtroom...

    But, Phil, you'll be heartened by seeing the plethora of Liverpool fans getting on the manager's back, with some of them ridiculously calling for his head, after three games. The title race hasn't even begun in earnest and the idiots are already raising their heads above the parapet.

    And it's all well and good bleating on about the loss of Alonso, but what would you do, Phil, if a player is determined to leave? Keep him? Like Moyes has tried at Everton?

  • Comment number 86.

    To the Man Utd fan above, concentrate on your own team if thats possible for you? Not sure everything is so rosy in Greater Manchester either.
    - daisydaisygive
    _____________________________________________________________________

    True. Signs are that both sides are struggling, to differing degrees, in the absence of important players so far this season (Ronaldo and Alonso).
    However, the tetchy, terse and quite frankly childish nature of your response gives an interesting insight into the uncertainty you as a Liverpool fan are currently feeling.

    Perhaps this uncertainty is heightened by the knowledge that your club's transfer budget for this year seems to be all gone, whilst the 'old enemy' still have a rather large cheque from Real Madrid to spend should they feel the need to do so.

    Perhaps this uncertainty comes from the ever increasing indications that Senor Benitez is an over-rated manager who's reputation at LFC is built on the fact that AC Milan went to sleep at half time in a match 4 years ago.

    Perhaps...

    But to criticise a fan from another club for daring to have an opinion on your beloved team is just silly. And it says more about YOUR state of mind than it does THEIRS.

  • Comment number 87.

    So, after 3 games for most teams ....

    Villa beat LFC, LFC beat Stoke
    Stoke beat Burnley, Burnley beat Man U
    Man U beat Wigan .... and Wigan beat Villa

    An interesting start but likely we'll end with the usual suspects in place by May

  • Comment number 88.

    JamesAutar wrote:
    I think that there are several factors which are being over-looked by Phil McNulty and others.
    I predicted a problem occuring for Liverpool when they signed Johnson and I see nothing to change this view. So many people see him as a great attacking defender, tearing up the wing, creating chances and scoring the odd goal. But he also has to defend and unfortunately he CANNOT tackle and any team that plays a left winger will cause Liverpool trouble while Johnson is right back. Modric ran rings around him at Tottenham and Liverpool lost, and Young did the same last night. Against Holland a few weeks ago firstly Robben and then his own team-mate Babel (heaven forbid) made him look 3rd rate as they left him for dead time after time.
    Poor Stoke had no idea about anything and no left winger for sure. Why did Chelsea get rid of him? Only Benetiz would come in and waste 17 millions on a defender who cannot tackle.
    What is happening is that Carragher is having to come across and cover for the absent Johnson and this is making Carragher look bad and leaving a hole in the middle of the defence. Can I just ask Liverpool fans who may be ready to respond angrily to my comments, to watch carefully at the next game and see how many tackles Johnson makes and how often he is beaten by a smart winger and how many times he leaves the right defensive area wide-open.

    -------------------------------------

    i was waiting for someone to blame johnson!
    you obviously are clueless,as every single goal liverpool has conceded this season have not been the fault of johnson!
    against spurs it was 2 freekicks that resulted in you losing,and johnson was responsible for none of those fouls leading to the freekicks!
    the first goal spurs scored was unstoppable,the second goal was down to carragher fouling defoe,which led to the freekick,and then bassong got in front of carragher to head the ball in,so how was johnson to blame for any of those goals?
    yesterday,johnson was always dangerous in attack,and again,he was not to blame for any of the goals,lucas was to blame for the first goal,carragher again was beaten to the ball by davies,and gerrard fouled reo coker in the box,so why you blaming johnson,i dont know!
    johnson made many tackles from what i saw lastnight!
    and was clapped everytime by the liverpool supporters.
    young was marking johnson,which stopped young from getting forward!
    all the other top teams have attacking wing backs!chelsea have cole and boswingwa,arsenal have clichy and sagna,and united have evra,and barcelona have theres too.

  • Comment number 89.

    I think even though there is only three games gone it will be too tough for Liverpool to win the title now as they would have to go through the remaining 35 games with possibly 1 maybe 2 more losses and I can see that happening in the 6 games they have to play against Arsenal, Man U and Chelsea.
    I personally think Chelsea will win the league this year as their strength in depth is better than any other teams.
    Being a Villa fan I was disappointed with the booing at half time last week against the team. Martin O'Neill has done a fantastic job, we are now exciting to watch which is reflected in the rising of our crowd attendance figures over the past couple of years. I can understand people being upset with the lack of signings coming in to strengthen or improve the squad but they do need to realise that signing a player is a lot harder than it looks. I will be suprised if we don't see two maybe three new signings by the end of the transfer window, I trust O'Neill to make the right signings to keep pushing us forward.

  • Comment number 90.

    I like the way you think Hackerjack, may i suggest spending the 6m on Jermaine Beckford? A great goalscorer at a lower level, he's looked bored in league 1 for 2 years, has power & pace to burn. While many queston his attitude, playing at a big club like ours would curb the "I am" complex and hopefully rafa can turn him into a real diamond.

    Aside from the money, the problem is no "big" striker wants to come as they know we only play with one up front, and he is Torres. That's why we lost Crouch, That's why Owen wasn't interested (sob!). Promoting from the lower league represents less risk as they are already battle hardened.

    Also agree with Denzil about the link between our youth & first team needs to be stronger, but i wouldn't get rid of Rafa. Sure he frustrates the hell out of me sometimes, and isn't good at admitting when we were beaten by the better side like @ spurs, but he's spent the last 5 years moulding the team in his image - if we got rid we'd be back to square one, fighting for the Europa league quarter finals.

  • Comment number 91.

    Im a Liverpool fan and its there for the world to see that we are again short of the players to win the title. Losing Alonso was massive and rather than going out and buying a world class player who could hit the ground running to compensate this, Rafa buys a player who is injured for 2 months, has a long injury record and will the probably take time to acclimatise to the Premier league. For all the Lucas bashing I want to say he isnt as bad as people make out, however to expect him to go from bit part player to then be Xabi's replacement is impossible. I no I shouldnt be foolish after just 3 games to write our chances off, but with Chelsea, Arsenal having perfect starts and looking strong...plus the emergance of Man Citys money and Spurs flying and of course you cant forget Man Utd....I really think we will struggle to win the Premier League. I'd say to Gillet and Hicks that now is the time to gamble and break the bank for a couple of top players or you will lose more money in the long run with Liverpool out of the champions league which is more than realistic this season. YNWA!!

  • Comment number 92.

    "But he was visibly still irked by the Wigan experience and it was duly noted that he stood motionless in his technical area, a landmark moment in itself, when Villa's fans demanded a wave from their mercurial manager in the second half."

    What a load of rot. Every other game where we sing (sorry, "demand") 'give us a wave' it takes 2-3 efforts before he responds. Obviously this could be because he hates Villa fans and tars all of us with the brush used on the cretinous Holte End minority who appear to despise most of our players and spend every home game booing and moaning; or, it could be that there's a game going on and he's got other things on his mind

  • Comment number 93.

    I don't care what anybody says, this result proves that Liverpool will not win the Premier League, and i would go as far as saying any season under the Spaniard. The guy simply does not know how to build a squad After a promising season last year (when a couple of draws turned into wins should have seen title return to Anfield) the squad and first team is now weaker. Alonso's departure maybe could not have been helped but it certainly was hindered by Benitez's hawking of the player last summmer in order to raise Barry funds. Yes Aquillani has beeen brought in but the midfield needed a replacement for Xabi AND more quality on the wing and cover up front. Instead what does he do? spends a fortune on a good but vastly overpriced defender. Is there really £13m worth of difference between Arbeloa and Johnson? The defence was the rock that last seasons progress was buiilt on and with a moderate amount of strength in depth too. The list of players at Anfield that are not worthy of a place in the world class bracket is far too long, Lucas (i'm sorry but the guy tackles like Scholes and passes like Pennant) Voronin, Babel and Ngog are just a selection.
    Now i accept that they don't have a bottomless pit of money but we've had a strong spine that should have been slowly added to each season. The title will never return to Anfield with the Yanks and Benitez in charge. They either need an Arab investment or a MUCH bigger stadium. Until then the title will be passed around between Chelsea and United and likely even City. The sooner Liverpool supporters realise this the better.

  • Comment number 94.

    Well, well, well. Watching the match as a 'Pool fan was certainly not what you'd call happy viewing. We had a great chance in the opening 10 minutes but Villa seemed to gain confidence later on and fully deserved the win. Yes, we had a few more chances in the second half, stopped by the brick wall called Friedel, but we still looked slack more than a few times. And Lucas still isn't ready to take over the Alonso role (after 2 years >0), and yesterday's performance showed us why. Always diagonal; never a forward pass.
    But it's still early days, and I think we need someone who's more creative who can sit next to Mascherano- like Van der Vaart- which I've been saying for the last while now.
    I'm not going to write ourselves off though. It's only the start of the season, and we can recover.

  • Comment number 95.

    "Senor Benitez is an over-rated manager who's reputation at LFC is built on the fact that AC Milan went to sleep at half time in a match 4 years ago."

    And we'll pretend that those two La Liga championships didn't happen, shall we?

    Or will we be hearing "weak Barca/RM sides at the time" dross?

    Thought so...

    I know, let's just get rid of Benitez, that'll keep everyone happy.

  • Comment number 96.

    timwebber - the added on time at the end is a MINIMUM amount of time the referee will add on. If he/she chooses to play more they can.

  • Comment number 97.

    WEEP WEEP.

    Blame Johnson on the defeat and Rafa and Reina.

    Last season liverpool were winning games in the last minutes this season you will not.

    You will not take maximum points of Chelsea and Man United.

    You do miss Alonso (All the sending offs that gave you the extra points)

    As I said before all Rafa will do is concentrate on the Cups and Champs League.

    Liverpool will not better last years points as well.

    All in All. WEEP and WEEP more as here comes Kevin Davies on Saturday to get you and Rafa will start playing mind games that Bolton will be physical and so on.

    p.s. Its only been 3 games. 35 to go and more points to be won and lost.

  • Comment number 98.

    Good to see Villa going back to the model that worked last season with 1 up front. Agbonlahor and Heskey hasn't worked as a pairing and there's no sign that it ever will. If Villa are going to have a good season we need to get more from Gabby and of course Ashley Young is the best creative player at the club and has a bit more freedom in the system played last night.



    It's not been an easy summer for us Villa fans. We lost Laursen to injury and Barry left so were hoping for a couple of top class signings to fill those gaps and that's before even getting to improvement. MON has turned the club around but memories don't always go back as far as they should. We ended last season disappointed after a great season compared to years previous. Now we're impatient to see big improvements on that finish in a Premiership where Man City who were behind us have multi-millions to spend. The number of players in the squad has been static when all the fans know the squad was too small last year. I think there was a build up of frustration and fear of regression which led some to boo when we were behind against Wigan. The reality is it will take time for Villa to improve, if we finish this season in 6th with 1 decent cup run and having used a 20 man squad instead of 17 that will be progress. The only way to really push on without big bucks spending is to sign players who double or treble in value within a year or bring champions league quality players through the youth system.

  • Comment number 99.

    This game epitomizes why Gerrard is not in Lampards class. True, Gerrard has runs of good games, but he also has many runs like this. Poor going on awful. Lampard, on the other hand, is consistancy personified.

    I don't blame Liverpool fans for this delusion, it's only natural, but why the media always chose to overlook or forget Gerrards bad games and hype him up is beyond me, there is enough of the bad games after all!

    As to the title. Forget it. I said last season that Arsenal would have a poor one after overachieving the season before. Likewise, last season Liverpool overachieved in a major way, this season will be poor.

  • Comment number 100.

    I'm loving O'Neills response for his teams 'fans'. Martin gives us a wave, no thanks guys! The Premiership is so close this season, it's already evident with Livepool losing 2 in 3.......the amount they lost over the entire campaign last term!

    Villa be patient, O'Neill will get the results and bring glory to Villa Park.....don't boo him out!

    http://sportales.com/soccer/125-years-of-leicester-city-football-club/

 

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