The Premier League may never witness another upset-filled week like GW4 of the 2020-21 season in a very long while. Liverpool's trip to Aston Villa topped the lot.
The day started with West Ham United routing league leaders and free-scorers Leicester City 3-0. Later in the day, Manchester United were also on the receiving end of a hammering from Tottenham Hotspur.
The Red Devils were completely torn apart at Old Trafford, with Jose Mourinho’s dominant side walking away with an emphatic 6-1 win.
As if that was not enough drama, Liverpool ended the day as the biggest talking point after also contriving to lose 7-2 away at Aston Villa.
Jurgen Klopp’s men are known to be the ones to always rout their opponents, however, on this occasion, the hunter became the hunted.
A first-half hat-trick from Ollie Watkins and another from John McGinn ensured Villa went into the break with a healthy 4-1 lead.
They returned to finish the business in the second half, with Ross Barkley and Jack Grealish, at the double, completing the romp.
Klopp stood on the touchline taking in the humiliation at Villa Park, occasionally letting out a wry smile as his team kept leaking in the goals.
But the German may have known what exactly was wrong with his team. He was missing two of his most trusted soldiers on the pitch and the consequence was telling.
Liverpool are missing their two best players
Sadio Mane, who has been Liverpool’s best player this season, couldn’t play the game after testing positive for COVID-19, while Alisson Becker was also ruled out due to an injury.
In their places were Adrian and new signing Diogo Jota. Their replacements may have looked like-for-like, but the quality that Mane and Alisson exude is unmatched and they cannot be easily replaced.
The aforementioned duo are Liverpool’s best players, not Mohamed Salah or Virgil van Dijk. Those who have followed the Reds closely will realise that their attacks begin with Alisson, who has an amazing passing ability.
The Brazilian goalkeeper is not just good with his gloves, but also knows how to find his teammates and to help them play from the back and initiate attacks.
These are things Adrian struggles to do because he doesn’t have such abilities in his locker. Watkins’ opening goal, therefore, came as a result of a misplaced pass from Adrian.
Just like Alisson, Mane is also very key to Liverpool’s pressing. He does not only score important goals, he also starts the team’s pressing which enables them to play a high line.
With Mane missing, Roberto Firmino, Salah and Jota simply couldn’t press as high up the pitch to put pressure on Aston Villa’s defence.
To this end, the Villa defenders had time and space to pick long passes to their attackers to wreak havoc at the other end.
The 7-2 loss is no coincidence. Liverpool were clearly missing the two players most influential to their style of play. It’s just like a machine with two pivots; take out the pivots and it can no longer function as efficiently as it used to.Published 05 Oct 2020, 23:47 IST