Back to the match. Sherwood clearly set up to contain Liverpool by choosing to play the returning Idrissa Gueye alongside Ashley Westwood and Carlos Sanchez rather than in place of one of them in the centre of midfield. A reasonable strategy, until all three central midfielders and both centre backs went AWOL inside the first minute to allow Phillippe Coutinho to play in Milner, and then to give the former Villa man the time to turn and pick his spot.
With hindsight, Liverpool had won the game from the moment that went in – the tension amongst the home fans evaporated, and the hosts were allowed to play with the freedom of having a lead to hold on to against an inferior team in front of their own supporters, rather than the nerves and increasing frustration of having to search for a breakthrough.
Sherwood’s talk after the game was a carbon copy of his pledge at the end of last season – stick this relegation fight out, and things will be better next season.
Even so, I’m not sure there was really any need to hand them a third goal immediately after we had theoretically got ourselves back in the game at 2-1.
Conceding straight after you have scored is so careless that if your Sunday League team did it you would make them all do extra laps for a week. For a Premier League team, it’s nigh on unforgivable in my book. If I’m honest, the bare minimum that I expect from footballers paid tens of thousands of pounds every week is that they can concentrate.
On the topic of defending, Jores Okore’s return to fitness is a welcome one, as it is pretty clear that Joleon Lescott needs competition for his place. In fairness, so does Micah Richards, but as team captain it is unlikely that he would be dropped unless he got himself into Sherwood’s bad books off the field. Lescott looked solid in his first game, but he was a chief culprit of being horribly slow to react to the danger for Liverpool’s first, and it now looks as though Villa have got themselves another defender who will give fans a whole lot of buttock-clenching anxiety this season.
It’s a sad thing to admit, but all that Villa’s start to the season has made me wonder is whether now is too soon to start seriously worrying. If we fail to beat Stoke at home next weekend – we lost it 2-1 last season in Sherwood’s first game in charge thanks to doctor’s favourite Ron Vlaar and his 90th-minute implosion – then by the time we travel to Stamford Bridge in the following game it will have been 10 weeks since our only league win of the season, at newly-promoted Bournemouth on the opening day.
As worrying as the results and the manner in which Villa are failing to either see out good positions or get themselves back into games from a losing scoreline is Sherwood’s rhetoric.
When Tim arrived, it was refreshing to have a manager in the dugout who actually had a semblance of enthusiasm or likeability after three years of Paul Lambert. The vital double win over West Brom in March and the relative upturn in form which it sparked – including those two victories, Villa won seven of their next 11 games – added to the optimism, which was further fuelled by Sherwood’s own assertion that the club would not have to face another relegation battle this season.
Fast forward past the final three games of last campaign, which Villa lost 11-1 on aggregate, and past one win in our first seven league games this term, and we’re in the relegation zone at the end of September. Rather than giving something to the fans which suggests he has a plan for how to improve things, Sherwood’s talk after the game was a carbon copy of his pledge at the end of last season – stick this relegation fight out, and things will be better next season.
After promises of a new dawn, the last thing that fans want to hear two months into the season is that we may have to wait another 12 months to see any improvement. Yes he has brought in several players who are already showing promise, and we of course need to give them time to bed in and Sherwood time to find his best team, but anyone who says that the start to the season has not been a concern is a liar.
I like Sherwood, don’t misinterpret this. All I’m saying is that his rhetoric is becoming increasing Paul Lambertesque, probably because the results are too, and déjà vu can be a horrible feeling.
We need a win next Saturday, as much as we have ever needed a win in Tim’s seven months in charge. Now is the time to step up.
Follow Tom on Twitter – @tdnightingale
Follow MOMS on Twitter – @oldmansaid