Villa 1-4 Liverpool | Mundane to magic | FA Cup 4th round here we come!

Coining a phrase which might catch on: this was a game of two halves. The first we were let's be honest, pretty useless and the second we were pretty good. Although we ought not to be too boastful considering most of the opposition had to be chaperoned to and from the game by their parents.

Mundane beginnings

Against opposition largely comprising of teenagers we started slowly and it's a concern that we seemed unable to take hold of the game and put it to bed. Salah, Mane, Minamino is an attack which should have scored freely and Jones, Henderson, Wijnaldum is a midfield which should have helped.

Klopp may well have learned what some of our posters have said for a while, this midfield is often uninspiring and bereft of creative ideas. Thankfully we now have other options like Thiago to include and it's clear they're needed.

In attack we're not blessed with many alternative options. Jota's injury means Minamino is pretty much it and he may have been the most disappointing player last night. Not because he was terrible but because he wasn't brilliant as we had hoped and kind of expected.

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We can cut him some slack because after hitting a purple patch Klopp promptly stopped playing him. It is a shame however that Minamino didn't do more to state his case for regular inclusion. Another mitigating factor was us focusing most of our attack down the right flank meaning Taki saw little of the ball. Nevertheless his performance wasn't stellar.

As I mention our right flank attacking attempts it brings me to two other players who disappointed in the first half. Salah and Neco Williams. Salah looked lively but lively doesn't win matches, scoring goals does and against such youthful opponents he should have had a hat full.

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Neco to my mind looked lacking in pace and although he got down the wing a fair bit he was soundly bested by Villa's left-back Calum Rowe who stopped most of Neco's crossing attempts.

Elsewhere in defence Rhys Williams wasn't impressive in the first forty five, being at fault for Villa's goal. The overall conclusion for me was that neither he or Neco are yet at the level we need for regular first team action. All in all a first half to forget but which left lingering worries.

Moving to magic

At the start of the second half Klopp subbed Thiago on and we were treated to a master class. Thiago really does look magic and if he stays fit he could make a huge difference to the rest of our season.

From this point onwards the match changed to the sort of game we'd anticipated from the start. One where Villa could hardly break out of their area and we scored a boat load of goals. Two for Mane, one for Gini and even Salah finally managed to find the back of the net.

The second most notable and encouraging performance was from Shaqiri. Joining the fray with half an hour to play, it was nice to see his positive forward play and technical skill. He has some real class about him and I hope we get to see it more.

I'm still unsure of his best position and role - playing him wide doesn't seem like it's extracting the maximum potential from his obvious talent. Talent which provided two assists last night and which has seen him make match winning contributions in the past.

Whether Shaqiri's genuinely injured all the time he's missing in action or if it's more a case of him going AWOL we may never know but in my view the time has come to either use him or sell him.

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Finishing my match assessment, we find Oxlade-Chamberlain. A disappointing cameo appearance and personally I've reached a point where I think should sell him. With respect for other's views, I feel the facts speak for themselves. The rareness of his availability has been criminal and the contributions he's able to make are largely a waste of time for all parties including him.

Nice guy, great player when fit. I only wish that was often enough for him to be a viable option.

Overall it was a nice result and it's nice to be through to the next round of the FA Cup. I agree with Sid and others that perhaps all teams could well have done without the domestic cups at all this season but as we're in it we may as well win it.

Final words to Jurgen but am keen to hear people's thoughts regards last night's game. What it showed in terms of our strengths and weaknesses. As well as any transfer needs.

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