Jurgen Klopp could only laugh at Liverpool’s seven-goal humiliation against Aston Villa… now he must work out if the champions’ collapse was a freak occurrence or exposed serious flaws
- Liverpool were humiliated 7-2 by Aston Villa on Sunday night in Premier League
- The Reds won their first three games but buckled to relegation candidates
- Jurgen Klopp was laughing in disbelief but he has some serious thinking to do
Who will stop them? In the hours after Arsenal had been skewered early last week, the question was already being asked about Liverpool.
Such was the imperious way they had swatted Mikel Arteta’s team aside, hot on the wheels of a clinical dismissal of Chelsea, many believed Jurgen Klopp’s side were ready to run away with the title, perhaps in even more emphatic fashion than they did last season.
Klopp is attempting to do something that only two Liverpool managers have done in the club’s 128-year history and win back-to-back title; Bob Paisley managed that feat twice, while David Ashworth, in the early 1920 was the other.
Jurgen Klopp was in disbelief at Liverpool’s collapse at Aston Villa on Sunday evening
The champions were mauled by the side who only escaped relegation by a point last season
The Anfield side were tipped to run away with the league again this year but that talk will stop
He might still do it. The idea of Liverpool winning the title by record margins – or even retaining it – however, is absurd after a calamity in the West Midlands.
So bad were the champions, Klopp could only laugh in bemusement and disbelief at some of the things he witnessed.
It feels wrong to concentrate solely on Liverpool’s failings after a magical performance from Aston Villa, for whom Ollie Watkins, Ross Barkley and Jack Grealish shone like beacons. Dean Smith’s side had done their homework, executed their tactics to perfection and could have scored double figures.
Liverpool, however, were so inexplicably bad that their performance demanded intense scrutiny. From the moment Adrian, the number two goalkeeper, provided the assist for Villa’s opening goal, the tone was set for what was, without doubt, the worst night of Klopp’s reign.
Klopp will need to figure out if Jack Grealish and Villa’s domination was a freak or a warning
Maybe it had something to do with the date. On October 4, 2015, Klopp’s path began to wind towards Merseyside. Brendan Rodgers was sacked that day, following a 1-1 draw with Everton; the German would be appointed five days later.
Well, this was a performance that was in keeping with a bygone age. They couldn’t defend, they had no midfield and the attack was horribly isolated. Some players went missing, others were simply not good enough.
If this was the first time you had watched football and someone told you the team in black were champions, you would have laughed them out of town. Liverpool, somehow, conceded seven in a game for the first time since 1963 and they cannot have one single-word of complaint.
The thing that will pray on Klopp’s mind now is whether this is a freak occurrence or a sign that there are serious issues underlying. Liverpool face their buoyant neighbours Everton immediately after the international break and he needs to find solutions.
Klopp and his players could barely believe what they were experiencing at Villa Park
Take Adrian. Klopp is sketchy on the details of Alisson Becker’s injury but the indications are that the Brazilian will be out for at least four weeks – some have even suggested it could be six – following a training ground collision on Saturday.
When Alisson got injured in the opening match of last season, he missed eight weeks but Liverpool managed to weather that storm. The defence threw a ring around Adrian that was so tight that ended up scooting clear over the horizon.
History will not repeat itself. The more Adrian has played, the more vulnerable Liverpool have looked. His errors are racking up and being punished. It would be risible, though, to blame just the goalkeeper for this as several others were wretched.
Liverpoo must now regather for a clash with their rivals and league leaders Everton
Naby Keita does not impose himself on games, Roberto Firmino’s form has been scratchy; Joe Gomez’s substitution was made to protect him from more torment. How Liverpool missed Jordan Henderson, Sadio Mane and Thiago Alcantara.
Those last three named should be fit to play at Goodison on October 17 but, in this most volatile season, nothing can be taken for granted. Villa Park was a turning point for Liverpool last season when they went on to become champions, when they scored two late goals to win the game.
Sometimes heavy defeats can be just as significant as last-gasp wins. Klopp must hope Villa Park will be a turning point for his team again.
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