Sorry for the lack of updates. Still getting used to the fact that we play every 3-4 days which is drowning me in thoughts and things to say. I’ll be trying something a bit different this week to cope with it.
What a week. What a freaking week. Six on the trot, joint top of the league with Chelsea and top of the group in Europe. Sturridge put in as complete of a game we’ve seen from him in ages and Bobby scoring with only one eye. What a week.
The weekend started with a 2-1 win against Spurs. In truth, the scoreline flattered Spurs who, on another night, could have easily conceded another 2 goals. In a similar way, the 3-2 win against Paris St. Germain was also flattering for the Reds’ opponents who might have conceded another 1 or 2 goals had it not been for Sturridge missing a gilt-edged chance on one occasion and booting the nether regions of Alphonse Areola in the other. I started the week with a match preview saying that the Spurs match was going to be a statement to the league, if not a statement to Spurs themselves as a reminder of to sit down and watch us do our thing. The result against PSG, and the manner in which we got it, served as a reminder to the rest of Europe that Anfield is still a boiling hot cauldron (just ask Tuchel) and that this young Liverpool team is not at all fazed by the disappointment last May. So bring on Europe’s elite – Jurgen Klopp’s Reds will be ready.
Here are ten things I noticed from the two matches over the past week in no particular order:
1. The midfield was dominant in both matches. Common denominators being James Milner and Gini Wijnaldum with Jordan Henderson and Naby Keita making solid starts as well. Against Spurs, shutting down the deeply positioned Eriksen stopped Spurs from carrying the ball upfield with numbers. Instead, they often had to play the early ball into Kane or Lucas Moura who were unable to beat the Liverpool defence in any of their 1v1 situations with the exception of one occasion which resulted in Lucas pulling the ball wide and off the post.
2. Alisson keeps making the simple saves – which is vitally important for him so he can build his confidence and comfort with the league. He’s had to make some tough saves too, but with our reinvigorated defending, it’s possible he goes long spells without seeing the ball which could spell for mistakes on routine saves. None of that though so all is well with our new Brazilian.
3. Another not-so-tactical point is that I love how the Reds defenders and midfield shut down Lucas Moura who was on fire and in the form of his premier league life coming into the match. He barely got a sniff in all game only chasing down balls into the corner of the pitch waiting for his team to trot up from their own half to support him.
4. Moving on to the PSG match, how great was it to see James Milner give Neymar a crunching tackle early in the match? How’s about that to get the Anfield atmosphere going. If there’s one thing Neymar learned, it’s to keep your mouth shut ahead of a European tie at Anfield and he only need ask his manager.
5. On Milner, Jurgen Klopp must have found the fountain of youth in the backyard of his Brendan Rodgers owned rental and slipped it into Milner’s daily Ribena. How he’s turned back the clock for Milner and not only that, but actually improve him is a testament to the manager and player. Easily a shout for MOTM in both fixtures, Milner is quickly becoming the Gary Mac of this new generation and probably one of the best free transfers Liverpool have done in the modern era.
6. Speaking of revivals, Sturridge certainly repaid the faith that Klopp had in him with a very mature performance capped off with a goal. Unlike his previous self, trying to break and play off the last defender, Sturridge is now a calming presence – dropping deep to pick up the ball and using his trickery to win free kicks or lull the opposition into breaking their shape. That little ball Sturridge played to Gini on the 63’ oozed class and was a great representation of his night on a whole. Let’s hope this signals the revival of Daniel Sturridge at Liverpool.
7. Liverpool’s young fullbacks in TAA and Andy Robertson have gotten even better this season. The sequence for the opening goal of the night against PSG displayed both fullbacks’ ability to whip in a cross and how important they are to the Liverpool attack. On the other end, both youngsters were solid in defense again, especially considering who they were up against. You may be hard pressed to find a better fullback duo – one that left Neymar and Mbappe to pick the lint out of their footballer-sized pockets all night.
8. Salah looked absolutely knackered for the last few minutes before his substitution. Easy to say considering his sloppy pass gave up the equalizing goal at the time, but, one does wonder at what point, and to what extent, Klopp will change his forward line. It might even entail a formation change to accommodate another midfielder in lieu of a forward (a diamond perhaps). Given the run of fixtures, it would be a pretty safe bet that should Klopp make changes outside the midfield, it will likely come sooner rather than later.
9. On Salah, there’s talk of his dip in form going around the twitterverse and quite frankly it was always going to be near-impossible for him to keep that form up into the new season. Keep in mind the shoulder injury and also the fact that he is now a man with a mark on his back, the situation around him has changed and he’ll need time to adapt. That said, such is Salah’s talent and attention draw that even when out of form, he is still making contributions to the team. His presence on the pitch alone is enough to cause hesitation in defenders who are transitioning into defense leading to larger windows for decisive passes or shots to happen. Even for this slightly intangible reason, Salah’s place in the squad is cemented and we all know Klopp will always back his players.
10. Admit it. You and I have both celebrated a 90’ winner in a Champions League group stage against the Pot 1 team by throwing a water bottle to the ground while on camera.