Liverpool vs Aston Villa
After another week and another missed opportunity for Villa, their uphill struggle for survival continues against newly crowned champions Liverpool. With only six fixtures remaining, Villa need to start finding wins from somewhere.
Meanwhile, Liverpool’s season has been wrapped up with a neat bow. Their inevitable title win has been complete, and every game from now on is a mere formality.
Can Villa pull off an upset?
Liverpool – L W D W L
Aston Villa – L D L D L
Jürgen Klopp on preparing for Villa
“Bringing Jack Grealish in his best position, maybe, we have to prepare for different stuff. If some said rhythm is better than a break then City had the advantage but if it’s the other way round we have to show Villa that is not the case. They make the pitch big.
“Usually in games against the top six they don’t have much of the ball but it is about what they do with it. We need solutions for that and we have to find them again on Sunday.”
Dean Smith on Survival Chances
“You saw Brighton win in the last minute against Arsenal and West Ham win in the last minute against Chelsea.
“It didn’t escape me that West Ham’s stats were pretty similar to ours against Chelsea but they managed to stick the ball in the net a couple of times.
“We can take great heart from that, knowing you can go and beat these big teams.
“I think it’s a good time (to play Liverpool) when they’ve won the league, certainly. Probably having no fans in the stadium will help as well, I think people are starting to get used to that, but they’re an exceptional team.”
Liverpool have stuck mostly to a 4-3-3 formation with Roberto Firmino up front flanked by Sadio Mané and Mo Salah, Fabinho sitting behind them and a central defence of Joe Gomez and Virgil Van Dijk.
They aim to dominate their opponents, which is reflected in their average possession of 59.3% and passing success of 84.2%. They press high and relentlessly, constantly seeking to pile pressure on their opponents when off the ball and pass around them quickly when on it.
It goes without saying that this leads to a lot of goals – they have scored 70, from an xG of 66.00. Five of those goals were from penalties, which shows how their persistent playing style causes their opponents to panic and buckle. 44 (63%) of their goals came from inside the penalty box too, a result of their build-up play style.
They have conceded a league low of 25 goals from 33.23 xGA – their high press allows opponents to break every once in a while and get a shot in, but their defence is more than capable of handling it.
They encourage their full-backs to push high, particularly Trent Alexander-Arnold who is encouraged to cross into the box whenever the opportunity arises. The central defence sits high as well, pushing up against the halfway line to try and restrict the playing area as much as possible, suffocating the opposition and limiting their options. This is known as the “Gegenpress”, a tactic Klopp is renowned for.
They are relentless without being overly aggressive – 30 yellow cards and one red card across the season is the cleanest record in the league. They know they can trust their system and the players within it, so needless aggression simply is not worth it for them.
Liverpool are worthy champions, pure and simple.
Check out Episode 108 of the MOMS podcast for further insights
One to Watch
Trent Alexander-Arnold’s marauding along Liverpool’s right flank has resulted in him grabbing 12 assists from 2.5 key passes per game. He puts 2.3 crosses per game into the box with a respectable pass success rate of 76%. He is Liverpool’s provider extraordinaire.
He does not shirk his defensive duties either – 1.6 tackles, 1.3 interceptions and 1.9 clearances per game shows that he does his fair share when he needs to. Attacking Liverpool’s right side is a dangerous proposition with Alexander-Arnold around.
Surely he deserves a rest?
Liverpool 0-1 Aston Villa – 13-9-2014
Gabby Agbonlahor’s 9th minute goal was enough for Villa to leave Anfield with three points.
Aston Villa 1-2 Liverpool – 02-11-2019
A real heartbreaker. Trézéguet put Villa ahead in the 21st minute. They held out resolutely until the 87th minute, conceding two goals in quick succession. Villa were gaining a reputation as a team that couldn’t hold onto a result, a monkey they are yet to shake off their back.
How it could play out
The last time these two teams met, Villa won 5-0 – a fact provided entirely without context.
Here’s another fact: Liverpool lost their last game, against Man City, 4-0. They saw most of the ball (53%) and they had their fair share of chances (11 shots, 3 on target), but they only generated 0.82 xG and they did not push as high as they normally do.
They won the league comfortably and decisively, something you don’t do without considerable effort. The last time they met City, Liverpool won 3-1 at a relative canter. So what happened to them here?
It is pretty clear that having already clinched the title, they did not go into that game with the same mindset that they have all season. This could be due to a hangover from the party they must have had after being crowned champions; or, perhaps, they simply do not care anymore.
On their day, Liverpool have been the hardest team to play against all season. They showed great tenacity when needed, and great skill to get on top and keep themselves there. The Liverpool that will be waiting for Villa at Anfield, however, may not be the same as the ones who came to Villa Park.
Villa should not fall into the trap of assuming their opponents are already halfway to the proverbial beach, but they can be reasonably sure that they won’t be putting in 100% effort. After all, they didn’t against Man City, arguably their biggest rivals over the last few seasons. But then again, maybe they will want to avenge that 5-0 scoreline the last time they played each other.
One thing’s for sure – this one will be interesting.
Liverpool 0-1 Aston Villa
Villa will be hoping that the champagne is still swilling in the bellies of the Liverpool players. If you need another straw to clutch at, Villa’s recent record at Anfield is pretty darn good – two wins and two draws in the last five trips to Anfield. One thing we know is Villa needs three points from somewhere – why not against a team whose season is already over? A team we ran close in our last league meeting.