Liverpool vs. Aston Villa: More home discomfort as Reds long for January

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Liverpool vs. Aston Villa: More home discomfort as Reds long for January
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Liverpool haven’t looked forward to a home league game for quite some time, but they can’t wait for next Saturday’s against Fulham.

Why? Because it will be the final Anfield Premier League match of 2012, a year in which the Reds have won just five of their 18 home league matches, a desperate return which reached its nadir as a young Aston Villa side gleefully swept to a 3-1 victory on Merseyside on Saturday.

There are two ways to look at the defeat.

The view that the majority will take is that the emphatic nature of the scoreline made this the most embarrassing afternoon so far in the Brendan Rodgers reign. There will be jokes and they will be merciless.

The other approach is to put this down to just another Anfield occasion when the Reds couldn’t take their chances.

They did indeed dominate possession for the vast majority of the contest, and never more so than in the half an hour or so which preceded Christian Benteke’s opening goal―which was not so much a bolt from the blue and more a bolt from the luminous given the bright colour of Villa’s kit.

But Liverpool’s failure to do anything productive with the ball once they got within the vicinity of Brad Guzan’s goal in the first half was always likely to punish them, as it has done time and time again in 2012.

The answer to the question of how to interpret the game probably lies somewhere in the middle of those possibilities.

Credit has to be given to Aston Villa, Paul Lambert and in particular his young defenders, but they didn’t do anything differently to the multitude of other teams who have left Anfield happy with their work in 2012, bar take their chances when they broke at pace, something that these current Liverpool players and indeed the ones who have worn the shirt for the past couple of years seem chronically incapable of doing on their home turf.

Being "unlucky" and pointing to potential penalty decisions not being given simply should not be tolerated by Rodgers and Liverpool after Anfield setbacks next year. The club have had far too many days like that to not have learned from them.

Just as the changing of the year often prompts people to change their ways—to stop smoking, to visit the gym more often, to get that new job you really want—so Liverpool must hope that 2013 sees them pick up more good habits and get rid of the bad ones.

It’s difficult to discuss without the feeling that you’re going over old ground again and again and again, but the Reds’ sheer inability to turn dominance into goals is the singular greatest threat to any sort of progress that Rodgers wants to make with his evolving team, although Liverpool’s poor defending on Saturday wasn’t far behind it.

Perhaps Rodgers and the Reds got too cocky following the heady heights of three wins in a row against Southampton, Udinese and West Ham, wins which created a needless top four buzz around the club and even saw the manager mention reaching the top two in dispatches. This was always going to be a long drawn out process, and Rodgers would do well to remember that. He was preaching it to all and sundry in the summer.

The ringing of Big Ben and the first strains of Auld Lang Syne should be welcomed by a manager who must know what he wants and what his team needs in the transfer window though; namely at least two attacking players who aren’t burdened with the Anfield stigma that many of the current ones seem to be. Players who can link with Luis Suarez and not just pass him the ball and hope for the best. Players who will allow the tiring Raheem Sterling to take a breather as he approaches a serious risk of burnout.

That much is obvious, just as what was going to happen once Benteke opened the scoring at the Kop end on Saturday was obvious too.

Liverpool have made the same mistakes over and over again in 2012 and they simply cannot repeat them in 2013.

The red carpet might be rolled out for Fulham next Saturday at this rate.

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