5 talking points from Liverpool 1-1 Aston Villa as Roberto Firmino says goodbye  | soccer4u
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5 talking points from Liverpool 1-1 Aston Villa as Roberto Firmino says goodbye 



5 talking points from Liverpool 1-1 Aston Villa as Roberto Firmino says goodbye

Liverpool’s final home game of the season was stressful and very, very long, but the winning run came to an end with a 1-1 draw to Villa.

Liverpool 1-1 Aston Villa

Premier League (37), Anfield
May 20, 2023

Goals: Firmino 90′; Ramsey 27′

The good, the bad and the tremendously ugly

It should have been a continuity of good form and a celebratory farewell, but this was a slog all game long without any positive ending.

Sadly, too many individuals were…well, individuals, not performing to the benefit of the team at all.

Luis Diaz decided he’d prefer not to pass the ball all game, Jordan Henderson was an abomination in possession and largely opted against doing anything out of it, Cody Gakpo couldn’t get much of a rhythm going even before he was kicked in the throat.

That’s three players who should be heavily involved in buildup play or creation, yet offering very little in each.

It took 50 minutes for us to get a shot on target – not a great one either – then the next one which ended in the net was ruled out for an offside that the ref had to check pitchside.

At the other end of the scale, at least Alisson had himself the customary excellent outing, a massive one-on-one save from Jacob Ramsey being the pick of the moments.

Ali being our ‘keeper, his performance didn’t lead to a whole lot of moments to score goals and win more points.

John Brooks joins the hotly contested battle

Worst official in the Premier League? It’s a vacant post to be decided, as all good awards are, at the end of the season.

Lee Mason was the undisputed heavyweight in that regard, but followed up his demotion from ref to full-time VAR by being sacked from even that role earlier this season – so now it’s anybody’s game.

Jurgen Klopp has already made it clear that Paul Tierney is very much in the running, while David Coote has long since set his own stall out.

But on Saturday, John Brooks put forward an equally strong case, not just getting 50-50s wrong but being utterly fooled by the most ridiculous of dives from the most minimal of touches.

The penalty call for Ollie Watkins was right – there’s his stopped clock moment – yet Brooks’, and his VAR’s, decision that being studded in the chest is only a yellow card was sensational.

Penalty on Henderson? Probably not, soft at least, but he also gave far worse outside of the box in a busy first half.

As for the disallowed Gakpo goal, the official explanation was that Brooks needed to check whether the defender’s flick to Virgil van Dijk from Diaz’s attempted pass counted as a deliberate action.

Which it was, clearly, so it should have been a goal if that’s the case – but yet another call went against the Reds.

About the only call you would suggest the ref didn’t wilt on was the added time: 10 minutes for all of Emi Martinez’s time-wasting and about 300 players going down injured was a glorious sight.

The Trent question for next season

Right, here’s a classic question presented which we have to solve across the next three months: how do you open up teams when your creative maestro is absent or ineffective?

Trent Alexander-Arnold was already important to Liverpool, but this new system is all about having him more central, more involved, more on the ball. And he wasn’t good.

Set-pieces were too close to the ‘keeper, deliveries from deep were overhit and in open play he overran the ball too often trying to do it all himself.

So where were the alternatives? Our wing play wasn’t great for most of the game, set-pieces weren’t a threat and the front three aren’t yet linking up with each other too regularly.

Creativity has many shapes and we’ve got to find an alternative outlet for next term, whether signings or patterns of play, for when Trent is marked out, injured or simply isn’t at his very best.

Firsts and lasts

The new kit got its first runout, the red number with thick white trim which will be on show at Anfield all of next season.

As usual, each fan can make their own minds up if it looks chic or cheap.

But along with that first, there were more lasts of note: the final Anfield occasions as Reds for James Milner and Roberto Firmino.

Both came on after 72 minutes, plenty of songs and cheers from the crowd for the No. 9, along with a host of homemade signs and the like.

Milner was typically understated – and effective – and he wouldn’t have asked for or expected any less. But Bobby, oh Bobby, he just had to have one more say in his Anfield career, didn’t he?

A great near-post run saw him finish a last-minute equaliser which would usually have been far more jubilantly celebrated had we not been desperate to get the game back underway and try to get another.

The final last we need to mention, such as it is, was our last day of reasonably hoping that a top-four finish could still be earned.

This draw leaves us three points off the top four with only one match left to play and there will almost certainly be no final-day drama to return to the Champions League.

Klopp’s responsibility and a final game to go

Not having Klopp on the touchline for the second time this season did seem to have an effect in the first half, with the Reds not really at the races other than the first and last five minutes of the half.

We didn’t manage a shot on target, we were second-best in midfield and the speed of play was ludicrously slow – then again, Klopp was on the touchline for all of December to March and we suffered through a lot of all that during that period, too.

So either way, the manager bears responsibility.

We’ve been on a great run in terms of results, but performances haven’t always been there even during that batch of wins – this result perhaps will reinforce the truth that there’s work to do both in terms of recruitment and improving the new tactical shape.

Still, there’s a game to go and now we just have to make sure fifth is at least the lowest we finish.

Away to relegated Southampton should be three points, but players should still be keen to not make any more slip-ups, and finish on a positive note.


Liverpool 1-1 Aston Villa: Liverpool player performance ratings

Liverpool’s top four prospects effectively ended in a 1-1 draw at home to Aston Villa on Saturday, despite late drama involving Roberto Firmino.

Liverpool 1-1 Aston Villa

Goals: Ramsey 27′; Firmin 90′

Alisson (out of 10) – 7th

Alisson was once again one of Liverpool’s strongest players at Anfield, although his mere presence arguably helped Ollie Watkins miss a penalty.

He repelled Douglas Luiz with a big save after the Reds took the lead and couldn’t stop Jacob Ramsey’s opener.

Trent Alexander Arnold – 5th

Alexander-Arnold has been in fine form lately and has excelled in a streamlined role, but overall he’s been less effective here.

He stopped at the back post and allowed Ramsey to score the opener – we’ve seen that too many times this season – and his passing radar wasn’t as perfect as usual. Booked after kicking the ball and looked extremely agitated.

Ibrahim Konaat – 6

Konate has been Liverpool’s best central defender this season, but this has not been one of his best performances of the season.

He awkwardly conceded the penalty Watkins missed and generally didn’t look as calm and commanding as he has lately.

Still a few good moments that held a break from the guests after the break.

Virgil van Dijk – 7 (Man of the match)

Van Dijk has been much better in recent weeks and this time he has been mostly good, doing his job effectively and unflappable. The Dutchman was good in the air, while also making a great interception a la Bobby Moore, and despite being behind it was hard to think of a bad moment.

Andy Robertson-4

Robertson really struggled to impress against a well-trained Villa side, often looking frantic and growing increasingly frustrated with some referees.

He was solid enough defensively, but he couldn’t go in attack and his relationship with Luis Diaz on the left wasn’t good.

Terrible crossing everywhere.

Fabio – 6

Fabinho was certainly a great presence on Saturday but he was a mix of good, bad and frustrating to watch. He made several early fouls that thwarted Liverpool’s pace – some of which were, in fairness, soft – but he also managed to time some tackles well.

Still not the player he was.

Jordan Henderson – 4

Henderson has failed far below the required standard too many times this season and was once again a bitter disappointment against Villa.

There was no creativity on the ball, too many aimless crosses were sent into the box without rhythm and he no longer has the legs to dominate midfield battles.

Liverpool can now do much better in this role as number 8 on the right flank. Curtis Jones-5

Jones has been great lately, with fine form and plenty of minutes, but he couldn’t have the same impact at Anfield.

The 22-year-old was clean and tidy, boosting his confidence with an early shot, but found himself sidelined too often.

Sometimes it would make sense to get rid of the ball faster.

Mohammad Salah – 5

Salah was also Liverpool’s most impressive attacking player in 2022/23, but Villa have done a great job against him for the most part.

He tried to get things done by twisting and turning in tight areas but too often that failed – despite Firmino’s equalizer assist. Some of his decisions and ball handling left a lot to be desired, especially for his world-class standards.

Luis Diaz – 5

It’s only natural that Diaz is looking for fitness and the pace of the game after such a long injury layoff and he’s struggled at Anfield.

His threat to score before the injury has eluded him, running through dead ends and losing the ball, although his general touch isn’t quite there yet.

Just giving him playing minutes this season feels like a bonus – next season is the time to assess him properly.

Cody Gakpo – 5

Gakpo is a handsome football player but sometimes you need a little more and this was one of those times. The 23-year-old defender failed to connect with those around him, engulfed by a well-organized Villa defence, and it was hard to find any meaningful attacking contribution aside from his disallowed goal.

Better days lie ahead for him.


Diogo Jota (on for Jones, 63′) – 5

He could not go on, like so many attackers. Messy on the ball.

James Milner (in place of Henderson, 72′) – 6

Not the farewell Milner had hoped for in what was a last uneventful performance at Anfield. Roberto Firmino (on for Diaz, 72′) – 7

Bobby was just supposed to score, right? Not a winner, but a nice way to please Anfield.

Kostas Tsimikas (in place of Robertson, 72′) – 5

Comparable to Robertson, in terms of wrong ball.

Harvey Elliott (on for Fabinho, 81′) – 6

I didn’t have time to make a good impression on the game.

Unused: Kelleher, Gomez, Matip, Carvalho

Jurgen Klopp – 6

Sitting in the stands while serving a touchline suspension, Klopp must have been so frustrated by what he saw. Not only were Liverpool flat, but John Brooks’ refereeing performance was appalling, with Tyrone Mings somehow avoiding a red card and Gakpo’s goal mysteriously being disallowed for offside.

Klopp failed to get a strong showing from his side as they finished their home campaign disappointingly, and the boss will just want the campaign to end now.

Player Rating Definitions: 10 = Flawless | 9 = Excellent | 8 = Very good | 7 = Good | 6 = Average | 5 = Below Par | 4 = Bad | 3 = Very bad | 2 Terrible | 1 = Absolutely not

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