Agbonlahor, Bacuna poor in Aston Villa's bleak display
If there is just one wish to be had, it's that Aston Villa's 6-0 humiliation by Liverpool marks the absolute lowest point of the season. Please don't let it get any worse than this. The fact that Villa are bottom of the Premier League and virtual certainties for relegation has been difficult enough for supporters to live with. But a six-goal thrashing by a club that started the day outside the top half represents a new nadir.
There are many ways to describe Villa's performance: incompetent, embarrassing, disgraceful, inept, shocking, inexcusable. Any apply, and several more to boot. Fit half a dozen into the same sentence and that would be about right. Long before the final whistle -- in fact with around 20 minutes to go, perhaps more than that -- the home fans were streaming out of Villa Park. Few would blame them. It's a scandal to expect anyone to expend time and money on this team at this time.
On Sunday, after a reasonably promising 15 minutes -- plenty of possession, no cutting edge -- Villa collapsed from the moment Daniel Sturridge headed the visitors in front. Liverpool had the rare benefit of being able to field Sturridge, Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho together, but the star trio were helped enormously by the sloppiness of the hosts. Sturridge was left unmarked to nod in the opener, Villa's defenders and goalkeeper allowed James Milner's free kick to fly straight in shortly afterwards.
It continued in the second half as the game bordered on a farce. The ball was given away by Villa frequently, players went walkabout, missed tackles, were slow to react to danger, afforded the opposition time and space. There were four goals in 13 minutes.
Where manager Remi Garde and his team go from here, other than down, is unclear. The Villa manager is working with an increasingly thin squad. Gabby Agbonlahor limped off, so now presumably he joins Jordan Ayew, Rudy Gestede, Carlos Sanchez, Adama Traore, Jack Grealish, Libor Kozak and Jordan Amavi on the injured or unavailable list. There's only one silver lining -- Villa don't play again for two weeks.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK Mark Bunn, 6 -- After a handful of clean sheets, conceding six would have been a horrible experience. Badly mis-judged Milner's free kick for Liverpool's second. Made smart saves from Sturridge and Nathaniel Clyne, though the right-back then converted the rebound.
DF Micah Richards, 5 -- Pulled out of position for most of the afternoon and showed little defensive discipline. Substituted late on.
DF Jores Okore, 5 -- His worst performance of the season, partially redeemed only by a fine clearance from a dangerous Alberto Moreno cross late in the first half.
DF Joleon Lescott, 5 -- Completely lost Sturridge for the opening goal and clearly rattled from that point on. Composure and organisation of recent previous games were totally missing.
DF Aly Cissokho, 6 -- Probably the least culpable of Villa's awful back four. Managed the occasional advance forward in the first half.
MF Leandro Bacuna, 4 -- Found the target with a couple of shots but made repeated errors, including giving the ball away in the build-up to Liverpool's third goal. Booked for throwing an arm out at Coutinho and substituted on 66 minutes -- was fortunate to stay on that long.
MF Idrissa Gana, 6 -- Started well, winning several challenges and looked strong. One forceful run set up Bacuna for a strike at goal. Kept going but overwhelmed by Liverpool's midfield.
MF Ashley Westwood, 5 -- Took a couple of heavy tackles, produced a wild volley which flashed extremely wide of goal. Rightly booked for an ugly tackle on Divock Origi.
MF Carles Gil, 6 -- Plenty of neat touches but unable to hurt the opposition. Really needs to play centrally; wide on the right, his natural inclination is always to drift back inside. Gil lacks the pace to go past a full-back.
MF Jordan Veretout, 5 -- Didn't influence the game at all, seemed stranded on the left side of Villa's midfield.
FW Gabby Agbonlahor, 4 -- A struggle to recall him properly touching the ball. Taken off injured 10 minutes into the second half.
FW Scott Sinclair, 6 -- On for Agbonlahor in the 56th minute. Introduced with the game already out of reach, Sinclair took the centre-forward role and was unlucky when his right-footed curler hit the post.
MF Jordan Lyden, 6 -- On for Bacuna in the 66th minute. Lyden won't forget his Premier League debut, coming on with Villa 5-0 down. Tough circumstances but the 20-year-old put himself about.
DF Alan Hutton, NR --Replaced Richards in the 84th minute. Back after injury, the right-back would probably have preferred to sit this one out.
Kevin Hughes covered Premier League football at Match magazine and was later deputy editor of Sport. You can follow him on Twitter @KevHughesie.