Liverpool 5 – 1 Arsenal: Player Ratings and Talking Points

Reds Sign off the Year in Style

What a year 2018 has been! This side have started building something special, and a 5-1 victory over Arsenal at Anfield was the perfect way to bring the curtain down on a spectacular calendar year.

The dream day got off to a nightmare start when Ainsley Maitland-Niles tucked home a Liverpool-like goal that came against the run of play, but these Reds are different to the teams of the past, these lads relish clearing hurdles. Within minutes, we were not only back in the game but practically had it all wrapped up.

Firmino was gifted an equaliser before he scored a cracking goal by sitting down Arsenal’s defence and embarrassing the goalkeeper. Mane finished off a brilliant team move for the third and Salah smashed a penalty home before halftime to put the game to bed. Liverpool then went into cruise control before we were given another, albeit soft, penalty, and Bobby slotted it home for a hattrick in front of the Kop.

Liverpool FC v Arsenal FC - Premier League : News Photo

Player Ratings

Alisson – 8.5

After the first goal went in, which he couldn’t have done anything about, Alisson had very little to do with his gloves. His only notable save was a brilliant one to deny Shkodran Mustafi, even though it ended up being called back for offside anyway.

The Brazilian took it upon himself to get involved though, even if Arsenal weren’t going to do it. He set up the fourth goal by releasing the ball quickly and precisely to Bobby out wide on the halfway line. Bobby then played Salah through who was fouled twice for the penalty.

Trent Alexander-Arnold – 7

Trent probably struggled more than any Liverpool player on the pitch at times, although even he wasn’t exactly poor, he just didn’t cope as well as he usually does with being targeted.

It has to be said that Alex Iwobi had a good game and was causing TAA some serious problems. A better winger with a bit of end product could’ve taken advantage of the situation. Perhaps Trent’s still shaking off some rust after his injury.

Dejan Lovren – 8

Lovren’s never going to win some people over, is he? Granted, he made a mistake by giving the ball away cheaply for Arsenal’s goal, but his teammates hardly covered themselves in glory while trying to snuff out that gifted chance, and moreover, from that moment onwards, Lovren was excellent.

I can’t explain what other people saw, but Aubameyang couldn’t get a sniff, Aaron Ramsay wasn’t allowed space in and around the box, and Alexandre Lacazette had nothing to feed off of once he came on. Lovren played a significant role in that, not to mention he won the second penalty, even though it was exceedingly soft.

Virgil van Dijk – 8.5

It’s hard to rate VVD sometimes because often his best performances come when he has very little to do. He makes those around him better, his organisational skills are impeccable, and instead of flying in with last-ditch tackles to deny a goal, he coolly shepherds the striker away before a chance has been created.

He was also the first man to turn to his players after the opening goal, and instead of scolding them, he appeared to encourage and urge them to focus. The team’s reaction was telling. What a leader.

Andy Robertson – 8

Some have attributed a portion of the blame for Arsenal’s goal to Robbo because he was out of position. He was only out of position because the ball was given away, had the ball been retained then he was in acres of space to launch an attack. Although to be fair, like TAA with Iwobi, Robbo was beaten a couple of times by Maitland-Niles.

Other than that though, Robbo was great and the highlight of his night was a sumptuous diagonal ball to Salah who then knocked it across the goal to Mane at the back post. Special mention has to go to Robbo for keeping his head screwed on after being booked very early into the match.


Fabinho – 7

After a run of good form, Fabinho struggled at times against Arsenal and gave the ball away extremely carelessly a couple of times. If that were Manchester City, he would’ve been punished and could’ve cost the team the game.

In fairness to the lad, he slowly recovered from these mistakes and his passing greatly improved. He also did a great job of driving the team forward from midfield. Hopefully he can develop his mental toughness further over the next few weeks and months so that when he inevitably makes a mistake, he can bounce back from it sooner.

Gini Wijnaldum – 9.5

What a game from Gini, he’s such a classy player. If Bobby hadn’t of gotten a hattrick, then Gini surely would’ve scooped the award. In any case, the Dutchman was brilliant again in the double pivot role alongside Fabinho.

He never put a foot wrong with or without the ball. He tackled and intercepted well, controlled the middle of the park, pinged passes around, and as ever, was virtually impossible to tackle. The fact that Klopp pulled him off early shows that the manager wants him to put in a similar performance against City next week.

Bobby Firmino – 10 (Man of the Match)

He’s back! Finally! Bobby’s first goal came from nowhere, but he scored it with another no-look finish. He can take full credit for his second though as he broke a few ankles with his twists, turns, and fake shots. Some have pointed out that Arsenal’s defence isn’t brilliant, but to do what Bobby did to any Premier League player, regardless of form, is truly special.

Let’s not forget his pass that put Salah through for the penalty just before halftime either. He later took his own penalty well for a deserved and overdue hattrick, we just have to hope now that this is a weight off of his shoulders and that he’ll be able to use this confidence to really kick on for the second half of the season.

Liverpool FC v Arsenal FC - Premier League : News Photo

Sadio Mane – 8.5

Like Bobby, Mane bounced back from some up and down form with an outstanding performance. Firmino has him to thank for winning the ball off of Lucas Torriera before his second. Mane’s efforts were rewarded in turn by Salah who gifted the winger only his second goal in the last 11 matches.

He looked really disappointed to be hooked off by Klopp so soon, but he’ll understand the importance of staying fresh and carrying the form of this game into the next against City.

Xherdan Shaqiri – 8

Shaq was bright all game and can consider himself unlucky after not registering an assist or two despite playing his teammates in with a few inch-perfect passes.

He wasn’t as involved in the attack as some of his other colleagues, but this can be partially attributed to him taking on more responsibilities in defence, and when he was involved, you certainly noticed his contributions.

Mo Salah – 9

One aspect of Salah’s game that’s flown under the radar is how much his pressing has improved this season. He was utterly relentless, particularly during the first half, and his pressure absolutely factored into the comedy of errors that led to our first goal.

His assist for Mane was unbelievable, what a touch! If KDB or Messi had done that then you’d never see or hear the end of it, to give the ball so cleanly and accurately to Mane off the volley is phenomenal, make no mistake about it.



Jordan Henderson – (on for Mane – 62′) 7.5

Hendo came on to help control the game as Arsenal were threatening to show a bit of fight, and he did just that. I’d be surprised if Klopp doesn’t start him against City as Hendo, Gini, and Milner appear to be his most trusted midfielders, hence why they started against Napoli.

Adam Lallana – (on for Wijnaldum – 77′) – N/A

Lallana technically had enough time to make an impact, but Liverpool had dropped back to first gear ages before he came on, so aside from the odd counter-attack, it was virtually a 13 minute light training session for him.

Nathaniel Clyne – (on for Robertson – 83′) N/A

Not enough time to make an impact, however, Clyne did nearly give a penalty away. He didn’t do terribly in his short spell, but he’s clearly not comfortable on the left with or without the ball, and understandably so.

Unused Subs

Simon Mignolet, Naby Keita, Divock Origi, and Daniel Sturridge.


Jurgen Klopp – 10

I have to give Klopp a perfect score for this game as he got every decision right, was spot on with his substitutions, and more importantly, he appears to have not only instilled a winning mentality into the side, but also a certain sense of calmness.

I was surprised to see Robbo last as long as he did given that he was sitting on a yellow for quite some time and losing him to suspension against City would’ve been a disaster. However, Klopp showed trust in his player to do his job carefully, and the Scotsman justified that.

Much was made of Unai Emery supposedly ‘outsmarting’ Klopp after the final against Sevilla and the game at the Emirates this season, so the German will probably be pleased to have shut that conversation right up. It’s been talked about to death, but Klopp appears to have found the perfect balance between attack and defence with this Liverpool side, yet many of the players are still not at their absolute best.

Liverpool FC v Arsenal FC - Premier League : News Photo

Talking Points

Confident Kopites

When Arsenal went 1-0 up, of course I was feeling nervous, I always do. Although there was never a sense of ‘here we go again’ as in previous years, it was just that I thought we had a fight on our hands. We didn’t. 5 minutes later we were in the lead, and before the halftime whistle had even blown the game was over.

This is not just a side of flat track bullies who can only do it when it’s easy, this Liverpool team is strong in their ability, but more importantly, their mentality, and it’s that which will hopefully get us over the line by the end of the season.

Virgil van Dijk summed this up after the match when he said, “It was unlucky we conceded, but we reacted how we should have reacted, and deserved it today. We still need to improve a lot of things, but we’re very happy with the situation at the moment. We’re in a good way, we feel good, it’s tough these days but now it’s a great time to be a Liverpool player.”

Showdown at the Etihad

Our next match will be our greatest test so far. Manchester City away. If City win, then Liverpool’s lead will look a whole lot less impressive, but if the Reds can get a draw or a win though, then the belief will really start to take hold of the players and fans.

In that sense, there’s a lot of pressure on Liverpool going into the game despite having a healthy lead over the defending champions on the table. However, City themselves are now dealing with a different kind of pressure, a pressure they’ve never dealt with before. Last season they walked the League, and might’ve done the same in the Champions League if they didn’t run into Liverpool, but now, they’re up against it.

They’ve lost three of their last four, their stars are dealing with poor form and injury concerns, and most worryingly for them, they find themselves chasing the title instead of running away with it. It’s easy to always be the hammer, but sometimes you don’t know who a team truly are until they’ve been the nail. City’s response will be telling in terms of how the title race goes.

2018 Behind Us

How long’s it been since we fans can look back on a whole year of football and almost exclusively feel immense pride, satisfaction, and hope for our team?

The only real disappointment aside from the odd game towards the end of last season was the devastating loss in Kyiv. Most fans took great memories from that run though and the pain of losing was quickly replaced with pride in the lads and manager, as well as high hopes for the next season, and what a season it’s been so far!

Having said that, we can keep all of these moments as happy memories once the season’s done and finished the way we want it to. For now though, it’s time to let them go and focus on what happens between now and May. We’ve come a long way, but there’s still so far to go.

You’ll Never Walk Alone

Cieren O’Dea

Red Or Dead Liverpool FC Football Blog and Fields of Anfield Road – 30/12/2018

Liverpool vs Arsenal – Premier League Preview

Final Game of 2018

Liverpool take on Unai Emery’s Newcastle at Anfield in our final game of what’s been a wonderful 2018.

Ordinarily, Arsenal, even at Anfield, is far from a guaranteed result and the Gunners have always had the quality to hurt us. But in the context of how well our season’s going, then nothing other than a win in this match can be accepted.

Having said that, Liverpool still can’t afford to approach the game lightly, as Arsenal will feel like they could’ve won the first game earlier in the season and will be looking to rectify that.

Liverpool Predicted Lineup and Team News


Milner will be unavailable for Arsenal, as will the long-term injured players, though Alberto Moreno has trained pain-free and is back in contention.

Hendo and Gini could be joined by Fabinho in the central midfield three, though Keita and – perhaps less likely – Lallana are options in the engine room. Shaqiri would be unfortunate to miss out after his performance on Boxing Day but would seem the likely fall guy if Klopp ditches the 4-2-3-1.

Salah, Mane, and Firmino have started in all of the meetings against the “big six” sides this season. The back four are set to remain unchanged given the magnitude of the fixture, though Clyne and Moreno are fresh legs in the fullback positions if needed.

Arsenal Predicted Lineup and Team News

lineup (2).png

Emery reported on Thursday that Shkodran Mustafi  had trained alone with “good feeling” and was close to joining the rest of the squad ahead of the Liverpool match, though Laurent Koscielny is the latest injury doubt at centre-back after picking up a knock in the draw with Brighton.

No update was given on Nacho Monreal (muscle), who also remains a concern for the trip to Anfield. Emery may play all three of Granit Xhaka, Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi in central midfield to give his backline extra protection for this daunting fixture, while Mesut Ozil looks a strong bet to drop out of the starting XI after a limp showing at the Amex.

Alexandre Lacazette could again be paired alongside Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in attack, though his manager may instead decide to plump for Alex Iwobi or Aaron Ramsey in behind the Gabonese forward for this encounter. Ainsley Maitland-Niles could be used at right wing-back given the dearth of alternatives available, meanwhile.

Pre-Game Analysis

Klopp deployed a 4-2-3-1 in the win over Newcastle but highlighted the defensive problems that the system brings, so may switch back to a 4-3-3 for the visit of free-scoring Arsenal.

Emery will stick with his 4-2-3-1 meaning Lacazette will remain on the bench as he won’t want to risk going too top heavy against Liverpool’s superior midfield.

Arsenal will need to sit back, frustrate the Reds, and hope that their forwards are clinical enough to take what few chances will come their way and that their defenders are strong enough to hold on.


Both teams will come flying out of the gates as it’s a significant match in both sides’ season, Liverpool with the title, and Arsenal with the top four.

Liverpool have a significant advantage in the strength of our midfield, and being at home, this issue will be even further highlighted. This is where the game will ultimately be won and lost.

The Reds will go into 2019 on top of the table with a strong 3-1 victory.

You’ll Never Walk Alone

Cieren O’Dea

Red Or Dead Liverpool FC Football Blog – 29/12/2018


Liverpool 4 – 0 Newcastle: Player Ratings and Talking Points

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Liverpool fans are in a collective state of euphoria and disbelief right now. Not only are the Reds still unbeaten and playing excellent football, but Manchester City, our closest rivals, have lost 3 out of their last 4 League games meaning Liverpool are now 7 points clear of them.

While that’s great, it’s important to remain focused on ourselves. Klopp’s men certainly were against Newcastle and deservedly waltzed to victory with a 4-0 win at Anfield.

Lovren opened the scoring before Salah doubled the lead from the penalty spot. Shaqiri scored in front of the Kop to put the result to bed, but there was still time for Fabinho to get his first goal in red. It was an excellent day all round for the fans and players alike.

Liverpool FC v Newcastle United - Premier League : News Photo

Player Ratings

Alisson – 7.5

Harking back to the start of his Liverpool career, Alisson had practically nothing to do on a cold Boxing Day between the sticks aside from a few routine saves.

The Brazilian was finally called into action with ones of the last kicks of the game, but he did brilliantly well to keep yet another clean sheet to help Liverpool pull themselves level with City’s impressive goal difference.

Trent Alexander-Arnold – 8

It was great to see Trent back so soon after his injury a couple of weeks ago. I feared he’d be out for months at the time, but thankfully that wasn’t the case. Unfortunately, the relief of his return was dampened by the news that Milner had a hamstring problem.

Trent went mostly untested in defence despite Newcastle’s best efforts, but his contribution to the attack was excellent and he was rewarded with an assist for Shaqiri from a low ball into the box.

Dejan Lovren – 8.5 (Man of the Match)

What a strike! We’ll likely go a long time before we see a defender hit a ball as sweetly as Lovren did when he belted it into the top corner after a failed clearance.

Aside from his astonishing goal, Lovren bossed it in defence and never looked like making a mistake. He also gave Mane a glorious chance to score late into the match. Hopefully Lovren can keep this up until Gomez’s return and beyond.

Virgil van Dijk – 7.5

VVD had next to nothing to do all game. He won everything in the air, moved the ball around well, and almost scored on a number of occasions.

There’s little else to talk about here in terms of analysis. He’ll be hoping every other game is as easy as this one, but like Alisson, he never appears to become complacent even late into games.

Andy Robertson – 7.5

Robbo had an incredibly similar game to TAA. Neither were forced to break a sweat in defence and both provided excellent width and attacking thrust.

While Robbo didn’t get a direct assist like Trent did, it was his cross to the back post that Newcastle failed to clear before the ball sailed towards Lovren.

2018 EPL Premier League Football Liverpool v Newcastle Utd Dec 26th : News Photo

Jordan Henderson – 7

Similar to his performance against Wolves, Hendo was far more aggressive with the ball than he has been at times earlier in the season and for the most part, it paid off, as he was directly involved in the build-up to the third goal.

My only criticism of him was that, again similar to the Wolves game, I just wanted to see more. He seems well suited to the role and system that he’s being used in at the moment, but perhaps he still needs a bit more confidence to really take games by the scruff of the neck.

Gini Wijnaldum – 6.5

Gini was probably the worst Red on the day, but even then, he wasn’t too bad. His industry was never in question, but his passing left a lot to be desired.

He gave the ball away far too many times against poor opposition and on another day, he could’ve been punished for it by better, more confident players.

Bobby Firmino – 6.5

Bobby’s current form resembles that of Salah’s a couple of months ago before he starting clicking into gear — a frustrating case of one step forward, two steps back. Aside from one good ball through to Mane, Firmino’s end product was mostly disappointing, although he was still confident enough to keep trying.

Hopefully he’ll do what Salah has done and made his good days far more regular. Many questioned whether Salah should be a striker after such a good season on the wing, but now look at him. The same result could come from questions over Firmino’s suitability as a 10.

Liverpool FC v Newcastle United - Premier League : News Photo

Sadio Mane – 7

Poor Mane. He did just about everything right except score. Every time he was put through or had the chance to set someone up, his touch was either inches off, or the ball was just slightly out of his reach.

His movement and involvement demonstrated that he’s desperately close to returning to Man of the Match performances, but he could use a goal or two to give him the confidence to do so (much like Firmino in that sense).

Xherdan Shaqiri – 7.5

Shaq had a similar night to Mane. He was up and down and regularly on the periphery of creating something special, although, he improved as the match went on.

He created quite a few chances and showed enough swagger to attempt a backheel flick-on, which didn’t work sadly, but you want your attacking players to have that level of confidence and freedom to express themselves. He scored the easiest goal of his career when he nipped into the back post and passed the ball into the back of the net.

Mo Salah – 8

We need to address the elephant in the room first. Salah went down very easily for the penalty, and if the situation were reversed, we’d all be incensed. Sure, there was contact, but the penalty was a weak one. Having said that, it had no bearing on the result whatsoever, so in the grand scheme of things, it’s fairly inconsequential.

Mo was relatively quiet at the start of the game, but it didn’t take long for him to start terrorising Newcastle’s defence. He won his penalty and then scored it with a precise shot into the bottom corner, and then he assisted the final goal with a great delivery from a corner.



Fabinho – (on for Wijnaldum – 62′) 8

It’s always great to see someone grab their first goal for the club and Fab certainly deserved one after his great run of games recently.

Daniel Sturridge – (on for Firmino – 69′) 6.5

Studge tried hard and linked up well with his teammates, but he couldn’t make a significant impact on the game.

Nathaniel Clyne – (on for Robertson – 82′) N/A

Clyne appears to have taken Moreno’s place on the bench, which is good because he’s more reliable in defence than the Spaniard.

Unused Subs

Simon Mignolet, Naby Keita, Adam Lallana, and Divock Origi.


Jurgen Klopp – 9

Many people would’ve been expecting Klopp to have fielded a far weaker, rotated side considering the upcoming game against Arsenal in a few days, and then City after that. However, imagine the fans’ reaction if Klopp fielded a second-string lineup against Newcastle and drew on a day when City lost to Leicester!

Moreover, given that the game was a doddle for the most part, it’s hard to imagine that many Reds would’ve left the pitch feeling exhausted after that one. It also gave a chance for players such as Trent to return from injury in an ideal setting, as well as give an opportunity for players like Mane and Firmino to rebuild a bit of confidence before Arsenal and City. Klopp gave them the chance to do so, but unfortunately, they didn’t really take it.

The only thing that displeased me was that Klopp didn’t afford Keita the same opportunity, not even from the bench. This seemed like the perfect time to get Keita out there, whether for the full 90 or just the final 30, and give him the freedom to do and go wherever he pleased to try and recapture his form from the first game of the season.

Liverpool FC v Newcastle United - Premier League : News Photo

Talking Points

Citizens Under Pressure

Most Liverpool fans are being realistic about the current situation and know there’s still a long way to go, but there are a few misguided optimists who seem to think the League is decided in December. It’s not, of course.

Think of it this way, who predicted City would lose 3 of their last 4 Premier League games? No one. That’s how quickly things can change in football. Although that run does show one other thing. It shows arguably City’s on weakness within their squad, yet I don’t see anyone drawing too much attention to it — the loss of Fernandinho.

It’s not just his absence that’s hurt them, but the fact that he’s the one player in the squad that they don’t have at least one, if not two or three, excellent replacements for. Pep will realise this and make it his highest priority in the Summer, if not in the January transfer window. Luckily for us though, it’s highly unlikely a deal could be done in time for our game against them.

Surprise Spurs

City’s slump has yielded the surprising result of Spurs coming out of nowhere to pop up in second place, six points behind the Reds. Due to this, many people are now suggesting that we’re now looking at a three horse race.

It’d be foolish to dismiss Spurs only halfway into the season, after all, they’re playing good football, but I personally still see City as by far our biggest competition. City speak for themselves, but the reasons that I’m not too concerned about Spurs are the situation with their stadium, and the fact that they have an extremely fragile squad.

When (or perhaps if they move this season), it’ll probably coincide with a downturn in form, as is historically typical for clubs who move grounds. Liverpool’s squad has faced and bested the test of injuries and suspensions and never took a backwards step, but the same can’t really be said of Spurs. What would happen if Kane missed a run of games? What will happen when Son goes off to play for South Korea?

Arsenal at Anfield

As I alluded to earlier though, we’re wasting our time by worrying and wondering about our rivals. Now that we have a lead, all that matters is what we do. We’ve bought ourselves some breathing space now, it’s time to take advantage of that fact.

Next up is our clash against Arsenal. The Gunners were excellent when we met them earlier in the season, but since then they’ve suffered a bad dip in form and, crucially, have had to endure a period where they have few fit defenders.

Arsenal’s misfortune has to be capitalised on, and it would be a real shame to give City and Spurs a lifeline in a game that, on paper, we really should be winning. If we can get three points at Anfield, then City will be under tremendous pressure to reduce the 7 point gap once we travel to the Etihad.

You’ll Never Walk Alone

Cieren O’Dea

Red Or Dead Liverpool FC Football Blog and Fields of Anfield Road – 27/12/2018

Liverpool vs Newcastle – Premier League Preview

Opportunity Awaits

Liverpool take on Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle at Anfield in a game that will surely be an unusual one for the ex Liverpool manager.

He’s obviously a professional and would never deliberately throw a game just to do Liverpool fans a favour, but part of him must be excited about how Liverpool are going this season, and therefore trying to bring it to a halt must feel bizarre.

Nevertheless, Newcastle are a strong side and will certainly be up for the match. The Reds will need to keep their heads down and get through another test.

Liverpool Predicted Lineup and Team News


TAA has returned to full training and could play against the Magpies. However, if Klopp is keen to keep him fresh for the big games against Arsenal and Manchester City, he could turn to one of either Clyne or Milner, although the latter reportedly has a tight hamstring.

Meanwhile, Keita has also returned to training following the superficial abdominal injury he sustained against Wolves. Klopp, as usual, has plenty of options in central midfield, which is perhaps the hardest area of the team to predict against Newcastle. Hendo, Gini, Fab, Lallana, and possibly Milner are all options.

Salah seems undroppable at the moment as he continues to outshine his attacking colleagues. Either one or both of Firmino or Mane could get a rest though with Shaq, Studge, or Origi perhaps the most likely to come in.

Newcastle Predicted Lineup and Team News

lineup (1)

Ki Sung-Yueng has departed for the Asian Cup and Jonjo Shelvey is still a major doubt for the trip to Liverpool on Boxing Day, so Isaac Hayden may be handed a rare start in central midfield.

Along with Shelvey, Ciaran Clark, Karl Darlow, and Florian Lejeune are also in doubt. Kenedy could be handed a recall after being used only as a substitute against Fulham, while Ayoze Perez and Christian Atsu could potentially drop to the bench with a tactical alteration.

Jacob Murphy is another option out wide, while Joselu could be handed a run-out up front if the Newcastle manager wishes to preserve Salomon Rondon’s legs for more ‘winnable’ matches over the festive period.

Pre-Game Analysis

Benitez has used a 5-4-1 in matches against the ‘big six clubs’ this season, and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see him use this formation again, with Federico Fernandez perhaps returning to central defence and Paul Dummett moving over to left-back.

Liverpool will be taking the same approach into this game as they have with every other. They’ll be calm but decisive on the ball, as well as alert and disciplined without it.

Rafa’s boys will have their work cut out for them, but they do have the pace and power in key areas to trouble any team when everything clicks.


Newcastle will sit back as deep as they can without the ball and look to soak up as much pressure as possible before lumping the ball forward quickly in search of fouls and set-pieces.

Liverpool on the other hand will take their time looking for the key that will ultimately unlock the visitors’ defence.

Once the first goal goes in though, Liverpool will take full control and easily walk away as 3-0 winners.

You’ll Never Walk Alone

Cieren O’Dea

Red Or Dead Liverpool FC Football Blog – 26/12/2018


Wolves 0 – 2 Liverpool: Player Ratings and Talking Points

Reds Top at Xmas

Liverpool took their chance to seal the top spot on the Premier League table for Christmas after what was ultimately a professional, if at times difficult, night. Wolves are a good team and they deservedly find themselves just behind ‘the big six’ clubs in seventh place.

Despite the Reds’ excellent run of results and encouraging form, this game had ‘potential banana peel’ written all over it. This point is further emphasised by the fact that Wolves are so far the only other team in the League to take points off of Manchester City apart from Liverpool and Chelsea.

Nevertheless, Klopp’s men were able to get the job done relatively comfortably despite a couple of nervy moments in testing conditions. Goals for Salah and van Dijk were enough to see Liverpool through with a 2-0 victory.

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Liverpool FC - Premier League : News Photo

Player Ratings

Alisson – 7.5

Alisson bounced back from his high-profile, but ultimately meaningless, error against Manchester United to put in a solid performance in tricky conditions for a ‘keeper.

He didn’t have much to do with his hands though, and when he was called into action, it was to cover for a teammate who’d carelessly given possession away in our defensive third. His control with his feet was typically impressive, and in any case, he handled himself well despite the weather.

James Milner – 7.5

The respect and trust that the squad and management have for Milner was on show again as despite Clyne’s admirable performance last week, Klopp didn’t hesitate to put Milner in at right-back now that he’s recovered from a minor injury.

Despite taking a while to get into the game, Milner was able to justify the faith that the manager showed him. He used the ball effectively and coped with the defensive side of the game well after struggling early on with how frequently he was being targeted.

Dejan Lovren – 6.5

Lovren was one of the more guilty parties that required Alisson to rescue them with some simple, but crucial saves. To be fair though, he hardly put a foot wrong in the second half. It’s doubtful that Lovren with ever be able to entirely distance himself from the clumsy accident waiting to happen that many see him as. However, if he continues to minimise these mistakes and those around him are able to cover for him, then he’ll still be a serviceable and valuable member of the squad until the end of the season.

Virgil van Dijk – (Man of the Match) 9.5

It feels odd to consider where a player that’s been at the club for less than a year fits into the discussion of all-time greatest centre-backs that our club’s ever seen, but such has been the impact of VVD at Liverpool. He showed the perfect balance of strength, pace, and intelligence to deal with the dangerous duo of Adama Traore and Raul Jiminez.

He rounded out the result with a deserved and expertly-taken goal that you’d expect to see from a top striker, not a centre-back. That was also, surprisingly, his first in the League for the club, but clean sheets are far more important, and he’s delivered plenty of those.

Andy Robertson – 7

Robbo appeared to struggle to come to grips with the weather and to appropriately adjust his approach to suit it, which did strike me as odd considering he’s Scottish!

Like Lovren though, Robbo improved greatly in the second half. He ran as hard as ever and made a few important defensive contributions, but his passing was far below the standards that he’s set for himself in the last 12 months.

2018 EPL Premier League Football Wolverhampton Wanderers v Liverpool Dec 21st : News Photo

Fabinho – 7.5

Fresh off of a Man of the Match performance against Manchester United, Fabinho seemed determined to use that game as a springboard to really get his Liverpool career going. While he wasn’t quite as impactful against Wolves as he was against the Mancs, he still played a big part in the victory.

His only mistake, thankfully, led to nothing after he passed the ball straight to a Wolves attacker on the edge of the box. Aside from this moment of madness though, he broke up attacks well, played his way out of tricky situations, and bagged his second assist in two games, this time through a pinpoint cutback to Salah.

Jordan Henderson – 7.5

Hendo won’t get the same plaudits that Fabinho is rightfully earning, but the captain is steadily playing his way into Liverpool’s best XI with his recent performances that’ve been a monumental improvement over some dull displays earlier in the season.

He reacted to the conditions better than any player on the park and was regularly first to loose balls, quick to shut down attacking movements before they happened, and got the ball moving quickly. The next step is to make these performances much more regular.

Bobby Firmino – 7

Bobby appears to be edging closer and closer to his best. He was by no means bad in this game, but he’s still not quite back yet despite some encouraging signs.

He looked good early on and seemed more comfortable with picking up the ball from a far deeper position than he has in some other games, but he appeared to fatigue badly as the game wore on. Some of his touches were sublime though, and he almost recreated his stunning moment from the United game when he wriggled through a few Wolves defenders, but this time, his shot was blocked.

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Liverpool FC - Premier League : News Photo

Sadio Mane – 7

This is what a ‘bad night’ for Mane tends to look like. He almost never has a terrible game, but on night’s like the Wolves match he gets into wonderful positions and then either wastes them with a poor final ball or sabotages himself with a hideous first touch.

His decision making encouragingly improved as the game went on, and it’s comforting to know that Mane’s still a threat when he’s playing near his worst.

Naby Keita – 6

Keita started well, but utterly crumbled as the game went on and his unenviable tendency to turn the ball over far too easily in our own half gave Wolves far more chances than they should’ve had. He needs to start building on the flashes of talent that we’ve seen.

Worryingly, he was hauled off injured, but Klopp seemed certain that it was nothing too serious. Injuries and role changes have certainly played their part in his slow start and his tendency to go down easily in this match may have been a sign of his low confidence.

Mo Salah – 9

All Reds fans are ecstatic with the fact that Salah is back to his near-best given the important run of fixtures that we’re still in the middle of, and in the context of this season’s significance.

Salah scored again to take him back to the top of the Premier League goalscoring charts with a lovely flicked finish, and he might count himself unlucky not to have added to that total further. He also assisted VVD’s goal with a sumptuous cross that took out the entire defensive line.

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Liverpool FC - Premier League : News Photo


Adam Lallana – (on for Keita 58′) 7

Regardless of what you may think of him or his long-term future at the club, every player will need to play their part this season, and that includes Lallana. His energy and experience helped see the game out, and sometimes that’s all you really need from a substitute. In certain games, it’s invaluable.

Gini Wijnaldum – (on for Firmino 76′) 6

Gini helped sure up the midfield once he came on. An important, but thankless task.

Nathaniel Clyne – (on for Mane 87′) N/A

No time to make an impact.

Unused Subs

Simon Mignolet, Xherdan Shaqiri, Divock Origi, Daniel Sturridge.


Jurgen Klopp – 9

As has been the case for quite a while now, Klopp got his team selection spot on, and his decisions to play Milner at right-back, as well as a midfield duo of Hendo and Fabinho worked a treat.

Klopp also used his subs wisely by taking a player off early who was struggling and had picked up a knock in Keita, and then hooking Firmino off once he began to fatigue. Arguably the Mane substitution perhaps should’ve happened at this time as well to keep as many key players as fresh as possible, but that’d be a severe case of nitpicking.

One criticism I will standby however is Klopp’s continued erratic use of Keita. It’s not just that the Guinean hasn’t gotten the chance to play in a run of games yet, (although to be fair, that’s partially down to injury and to a lesser extent form), it’s that when he is played, it’s never in the same position or role that he took up on the previous occasion. It’s making a tough situation more difficult than it needs to be. I believe this is the key issue in his lackluster form and clear dip in confidence. I trust Klopp to get this right eventually, but I’d like it to happen ASAP. We need the Keita from the opening game back.

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Liverpool FC - Premier League : News Photo

Talking Points

Bigger Win Than Perceived

Given how far Liverpool have come in the last 12 months or so, you can forgive some fans and pundits for overlooking this win as expected and therefore more a case of 0 points dropped rather than 3 points gained.

However, Wolves are no slouches, as City and Chelsea found out, so going to the Molineux was never going to be an easy affair, but crucially, we did it on a night where the conditions made a difficult task truly taxing. Fans put up with the rain, snow, and freezing cold well enough, but its effect on an attacking team like Liverpool shouldn’t be underestimated.

It would’ve been so easy to get drawn into a scrappy match after a number of passes didn’t stick early on, and who knows if the result would’ve been the same if that happened. The Reds dug in though, and the fact that we played the game more or less on our own terms is extremely impressive under the circumstances.

Scoring and Smiling

One of the biggest positives from the game flew under the radar due to the nature of the win and its importance to the title race. However, it didn’t escape my attention that Salah was beaming both after his own goal and his assist for VVD’s.

I of course never expected the media to come out and admit that they were fanning the flames of an issue that likely never existed for weeks by promoting the idea that Salah was unhappy and therefore wasn’t celebrating his goals. However, they have at least dropped their agenda that Salah’s somehow having a terrible season.

All fans could see he wasn’t quite at his best before, but he was still getting in the right positions, still creating chances for himself and others, still causing defences major headaches, and most importantly, still scoring goals. He’s top of the charts in the League right now, and that’s not just thanks to a few good weeks, that’s down to a classy player who’s dangerous even when he’s not playing up to his own lofty standards.

Woah, We’re Halfway There

Or at least, very nearly halfway there. The point being that while it’s great that everyone around the club is buzzing and the fans and players are feeling confident, it’s important not to let our feet get too far off of the ground, there’s still a long hard road ahead.

A lot is made in the media of the statistical fact that usually the team on top at Christmas is the team that goes on to lift the Premier League trophy in May, but nothing is guaranteed, and certainly nothing is won in December.

Klopp and his men (apart from perhaps Lovren who’s predicted an unbeaten season) are adamant that they’re only taking things one game at a time. There’s no reason people can’t get excited or dream about what may come, but perhaps some of us fans would do well by taking the same approach. It’d certainly make each game less anxiety-inducing… Who am I kidding? Anxiety and Liverpool fans are inseparable forces!

As this is likely to be my last piece before Christmas, I’d just like to thank all the FOAR readers, and especially those of you who follow me on social media and engage in discussion down in the comment section. I always look forward to reading the comments from other fans’ for their takes on the game, players, manager, and club in general. Thank you for making me feel very welcome in my first season on FOAR.

Happy Holidays!

You’ll Never Walk Alone

Cieren O’Dea

Red Or Dead Liverpool FC Football Blog and Fields of Anfield Road – 23/12/2018

Wolves vs Liverpool – Premier League Preview

Top Spot up for Grabs

Liverpool take on Wolves in the last game of the season before Christmas, and a win would secure top spot by at least one point depending on the result at Manchester City.

The significance of that is generally the team who’s on top at Christmas goes on to lift the trophy in May, but Klopp’s men can’t afford to think any further ahead than one game at a time.

Wolves are a tough side, as both City and Chelsea found out earlier in the season. This will be a strong test of Liverpool’s focus and determination.

Wolves Predicted Lineup and Team News


It was well known that Bright Enobakhare and Danny Batth would miss the Liverpool game, but now Diogo Jota has also been ruled out.

This opens up an attacking slot for one of Ivan Cavaleiro, Helder Costa, or Adama Traore alongside Raul Jimenez.

Jonny made a surprise early return from a knee injury in the win over Bournemouth and looks set to continue at left wing-back, where Ruben Vinagre is another option. Leander Dendoncker also offers fresh legs in central defence or midfield.

Liverpool Predicted Lineup and Team News

lineup (1).png

Alexander-Arnold looks set to have some involvement over the Christmas period as his injury is not as bad as first feared, but Klopp admitted in his press conference on Tuesday that the Wolves game would probably come too soon for him.

Nathaniel Clyne’s performance against Manchester United will certainly put him in the frame to deputise once again, but James Milner is confident of recovering in time to be in contention for the trip to Molineux.

We are now entering into the period where rotation could see the likes of Alberto Moreno coming in for Andrew Robertson, although whether Klopp would deploy the Spaniard against an in-form Matt Doherty is another question.

Pre-Game Analysis

Wolves come into this game on the back of a three-game winning run so changes may be avoided, though Romain Saiss could be brought into central midfield if Nuno Espirito Santo wishes to add more steel to the centre of the park.

Central midfield is where the real wealth of options are for Klopp. Hendo could come back into the line-up there, as could Milner, with Wijnaldum, Keita and Fabinho.

Again, Klopp has the options to rest key players in attack but may prefer a stronger line-up away at Wolves than at home to Newcastle on Boxing Day. Shaqiri will be pushing for a start after his two deflected strikes sealed victory against Manchester United.


Wolves like to play fast, attacking football without sacrificing solidity in the midfield or security at the back. This is why they are a genuinely formidable side.

The conditions could be poor on the night, so Klopp’s men will need to remain disciplined and be close to their best to walk away with a victory.

The Reds have repeatedly show that they’re capable of doing so, therefore, I’m predicting a 1-0 win to take us into Christmas.

You’ll Never Walk Alone

Cieren O’Dea

Red Or Dead Liverpool FC Football Blog – 22/12/2018

Liverpool 3 – 1 Manchester United: Player Ratings and Talking Points

Merry Christmas Mourinho

A visit from Manchester United is always a nervy affair, especially considering it’s been quite a while since we’ve beaten them in the League. That stat would make some believe that United have been dominating us when in fact, it’s been quite the opposite. They’ve just been stubborn and lucky with their deep defending and counter-attacks.

The injuries we suffered before the game suggested that a similar result was on the cards, and after Alisson’s mistake, it felt like déjà vu. The Reds dug deep though and refused to allow Mourinho’s men to knick another undeserved result.

Shaqiri was the hero in the end, scoring two goals to secure a 3-1 victory for the Reds. Mane gave the home side the lead after some wonderful link-up play before Super Shaq got on the right side of two deflections and sealed a deserved win.

Liverpool FC v Manchester United - Premier League : News Photo

Player Ratings

Alisson – 5.5

It’s just Liverpool’s luck that even when we finally land a top class ‘keeper, he still makes the odd howler. In fairness to Alisson, he was pretty unfortunate because although he slightly bobbled the catch, he would’ve secured it once he landed on the ground. In this instance though, his own knee knocked the ball loose and right into the path of Jesse Lingard.

Thankfully it didn’t matter in the end because his team bailed him out at the other end, which was a nice touch after Alisson bailed them out plenty of times, particularly against Napoli. He didn’t seem too phased by the mistake and finished the game well, especially with his quick and precise distribution.

Nathaniel Clyne – 8

Who can honestly say they weren’t even a little bit nervous to see Clyne’s name on the team sheet lining up against Marcus Rashford? Furthermore, who truly believed he’d have an outstanding game? I certainly didn’t, but I was extremely pleased to have been proven wrong.

He did fatigue badly as the game went on, but that’s to be expected from a player who’s played so little football in the last few years. He overlapped Mane well all game, even when his runs were ignored. He wasn’t able to do too much with the ball, but his defending was absolutely spot on.

Dejan Lovren – 7

Lovren was solid, no more, no less. Aside from a couple of moments, he rarely allowed his man to get the better of him, and he looked composed on the ball without being too potent.

He might’ve done better when he swung clumsily at a loose ball that could’ve put the score to 2-0, but it’s difficult to expect a centre-back to keep a cool head in the opposition’s box. Whatever your thoughts are on the player, we need badly need him until Gomez and Matip are back.

Virgil van Dijk – 9

VVD’s the best in the League, if not the world right now. It’s so refreshing to have a defender who combines composure and commanding leadership so seamlessly with pure talent and ability. There were so many times that he was under pressure at the back, but made a tricky turn and pass look easy.

Romelu Lukaku had fewer touches of the ball in 90 minutes than Shaqiri had in about 20, and that’s largely down to the fact that van Dijk didn’t let the Belgian out of his back pocket all night.

Andy Robertson – 8.5

Robbo was tireless again, but I have to lower his mark slightly due to the corner fiasco. He’s an inspirational lad and never shies away from a big game or a big performance. Aside from the corners, you know you’ve had a good game when misery guts Moaninho singles you out for praise.

The United manager said, “I am still tired just from looking at (Andy) Robertson! He makes 100-metre sprints every minute – absolutely incredible.” It sounds like Mourinho knows how big the gap between the two sides is.

2018 EPL Premier League Football Liverpool v Man Utd Dec 16th : News Photo

Fabinho – 9.5 (Man of the Match)

There were a few grumbles around the stadium during the first few minutes because Fab kept misplacing his passes. It seemed at first that the occasion was getting to him. How wrong we were! Fab was phenomenal for the rest of the game, winning tackles, creating chances, and threatening with long shots. It was a truly complete performance.

His pass over the top to Mane was inch-perfect. He lobbed it beyond the defence and dropped it right onto the chest of Mane. If Fab can build on these kinds of performances, he’ll become the best holding midfielder the club’s seen in the Premier League era.

Gini Wijnaldum – 7.5

Gini was very tidy against the Mancs, never gifting them any easy possession by giving the ball away. Even when it looked like he was running down a blind alley, he was still able to wriggle his way out.

He wasn’t exactly dominant, and he’ll have to face more resilient midfield units this season, but games like these are becoming the benchmark for Gini lately. His ‘worst day’ isn’t nearly as bad or frequent as it used to be.

Naby Keita – 6.5

It was a mixed bag for Keita on a night when he really could’ve taken the game by the scruff of the neck and exploited United’s weaker midfield and dicey defence.

He wasn’t bad. It’s just with his recent form and the fact that he was rested specifically for this game, you’d expect more. He was always nearly producing something, and a put in a good shift defensively, but ultimately, he wasn’t quite good enough. In fairness, he’s still not started many matches and has been forced to play a different role almost every single game.

Liverpool FC v Manchester United - Premier League : News Photo

Mo Salah – 7

This was Salah’s worst performance for a few weeks now after going on a run of goals and good performances. He didn’t let the team down by any means of course, he just wasn’t as influential as he could’ve been.

Even on an average night, he was able to cause panic in United’s defensive ranks, but his decision making in the box let him down far too often, and he even managed to leave the ball behind during one counter-attack.

Sadio Mane – 8.5

Some have argued that Mane didn’t have a great game against United, but even though he might’ve given the ball away a few too many times, he still scored a cracking goal from a perfect touch and finish, and then set-up the second with some sublime dribbling.

He looked knackered in the second half, which may explain why he so casually gave the ball away frequently as the game went on. Klopp probably should’ve subbed him far sooner than he did.

Bobby Firmino – 8.5

Bobby’s getting there. His class and creativity were on show against United, and although he didn’t get a goal or assist, he created plenty of half chances with his passing and shooting, particularly when he dribbled through three United defenders and got an outside of the boot shot away.

Maybe it was just me being paranoid, but I thought I saw him rubbing his eye a couple of times during the game. I hope that he’s not still suffering from that horrific eye poke he received weeks ago.

Liverpool FC v Manchester United - Premier League : News Photo


Xherdan Shaqiri – (on for Keita 70′) 10

Shaq was worth every penny. Of course both goals had more than a touch of luck about them, but you create your own good fortune when you get yourself as involved as Shaq did. What a confidence booster for himself and the rest of the team.

Jordan Henderson – (on for Mane 83′) N/A

Hendo’s only involvement was firing over on his weak foot after some good linkup play.

Unused Subs

Simon Mignolet, Alberto Moreno, Rafa Camacho, Adam Lallana, Daniel Sturridge.


Jurgen Klopp – 9

Klopp got his team selection spot on again. What a gamble it was to bring Clyne back into the starting lineup after so much time on the sidelines, particularly in such a big game. Once again though, his gamble paid off.

Klopp said, “Nathaniel Clyne, first [league] game of the season. Brilliant, [he] adapted to the style after being not involved. Outstanding. All the boys worked so hard after Tuesday’s game. Now we have to carry on.”

This fixture has been somewhat of a bogey for Klopp since he’s arrived, and more often than not, Mourinho’s gotten the better of him. Sometimes it’s been down to luck, but often the wily Portuguese manager as simply gotten the better of the German tactically, that wasn’t the case this time though. It was Mourinho who was forced to dictate his game around Klopp this time as the former had clearly set his team up to be more aggressive than usual, but Klopp’s tactics forced United to retreat back into their boring, defensive shells.

Liverpool FC v Manchester United - Premier League : News Photo

Talking Points

Mind the Gap

Liverpool are now a whopping 19 points clear of Manchester United, but points aren’t the only way to measure the immense gulf between the two sides. Liverpool haven’t won anything under Klopp, but the strides that the club have made in that short space of time are virtually unparalleled.

United have done the complete opposite. It’s rare that you see such a great team fall so far so quickly, but that’s what’s happened at Old Trafford. The style of football is the antithesis of what you’d expect from a United side, and some of the stats from the game were telling.

Liverpool had 36 shots and 65% possession to United’s 6 shots and 35% possession. Incredibly, every single one of Liverpool’s outfield players, including the subs, had at least one shot against United. These are the kinds of stats you’d expect from a relegation side, not Manchester United. Surely Mourinho’s got to go soon.

Corner Comedy

Aside from perhaps Keita and Salah not quite being at the races, the only negative to take out of the game was the absolute comedy of errors that was Liverpool’s corners. Just about everyone had a crack at some point or another, but not one of them could clear the man at the front post.

At one point, Salah mercifully took over from Robbo who’d been copping it for hardly getting the ball off of the ground, but when the Egyptian stepped up, he did practically the same thing! In hindsight, it was quite funny, but only because we won in the end.

A team as good as ours shouldn’t be wasting any opportunities, certainly not from set-pieces considering we have a handful of players who are very good in the air. We’re doing ourselves a disservice every time the ball isn’t delivered into a dangerous area. Klopp needs the players to do more work on the training ground to get the corners right.

Back on Top

The win saw Liverpool return to the top of the table after Everton put in a fairly limp performance to gift Manchester City an easy win to put them two points clear.

Liverpool play first next week though, so a win against Wolves will see us, at least temporarily, four points ahead at the top of the table. Getting a win at the Molineux won’t be easy though, as this Wolves side are well up for it. Let’s not forget they managed to knick a draw off of City earlier in the season.

Thankfully Liverpool will have a full week to rest up and prepare for the game as opposed to City who take on Leicester in the Carabao Cup midweek before their game against Crystal Palace at the weekend.

You’ll Never Walk Alone

Cieren O’Dea

Red Or Dead Liverpool FC Football Blog and Fields of Anfield Road – 17/12/2018

Liverpool vs Manchester United – Premier League Preview

Liverpool take on the old enemy, Manchester United, at Anfield in a crunch game in the Premier League.

This is always one of the most important games of the season, but it takes on extra importance in the context of Liverpool’s hunt for the title, and Mourinho’s efforts to stay in a job.

United’s never an easy game though, and even more than usual, they will be looking to frustrate us.

Liverpool Predicted Lineup and Team News


Liverpool’s injury nightmare continues, at at the moment, it doesn’t feel like we can cope with too much more.

On top of Gomez’s leg break, now Matip is also out for around six weeks with a broken collarbone. I know from personal experience how painful that injury is, so kudos to Matip for playing through it. Trent Alexander-Arnold also has a foot injury, but it’s not thought to be too bad.

Milner has a slight muscle problem, but surely even a half-fit Milner has to play ahead of Clyne at right-back? The rest of the team more or less picks itself aside from the midfield which is always subject to rotation.

Manchester United Predicted Lineup and Team News

lineup (1)

Manchester United have many injury concerns of their own, but many of theirs are thought to be only knocks.

Diogo Dalot, Matteo Darmian, Luke Shaw, Marcos Rojo, Victor Lindelof, Chris Smalling, Scott McTominay, Anthony Martial, and Alexis Sanchez are all doubts, but I’d expect most of them to be fit and ready for the game.

Most of Mourinho’s decisions will come up top. He surely can’t persevere with Romelu Lukaku any longer as he’s becoming a hindrance. Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial have a far greater chance of troubling Liverpool.

Pre-Game Analysis

Game plans often go out the window in such emotionally charged games as this one, but there will be some telling indicators on how the game should pan out.

If Mourinho stubbornly leaves out Paul Pogba and Martial or doesn’t give Rashford the freedom to run down the left, then Liverpool will almost certainly win as there is very little that Lukaku can threaten us with that VVD can’t handle.

Liverpool have recently been getting better in attack as well, while United’s defence is uncharacteristically poor for a Mourinho side.


For these reasons, I’m far more confident than usual that Liverpool will win the game and go back to the top of the table.

United will try all of their usual tricks of slowing the game down and pumping it long, but this time, it won’t work. Liverpool have got more quality than ever, but crucially, we’re far more tough mentally than we’ve arguably been in decades.

The Reds will brush the Mancs aside with a 3-0 victory, a result that could see Mourinho lose his job.

You’ll Never Walk Alone

Cieren O’Dea

Red Or Dead Liverpool FC Football Blog – 16/12/2018


Liverpool 1 – 0 Napoli: Player Ratings and Talking Points

Reds Move on to the Knockout Rounds

On a night where a professional and clinical effort was needed, every member of the team stood up and was counted. Liverpool faced relegation to the Europa League if they failed, but the Reds never looked like doing so.

Mo Salah, the Egyptian King, continued his resurgence with the first and only goal in the 35th minute, ultimately sealing the Reds’ progression. It was a well-taken effort and one that the team deserved after the string of chances that preceded and followed the goal.

There were some nervy moments throughout, particularly towards the end, but part of that stems from us fans still coming to terms with the fact that our team is more than capable of defending a narrow lead now.

Liverpool v SSC Napoli - UEFA Champions League Group C : News Photo

Player Ratings

Alisson – (Man of the Match) 10

Normally when the ‘keeper receives the man of the match award it reflects poorly on the rest of the team as it suggests they didn’t do much with the ball and didn’t protect their own goal enough. That isn’t the case here though.

Alisson was a wall all night and his only mistake was one poor pass. He produced what has to go down as the moment of the season so far with his last-minute save to deny Arkadiusz Milik a goal that would’ve sent the Reds crashing out of the tournament. He had no right to block a shot from that distance, yet, this is the standard the Brazilian has set for himself since he’s arrived. Best ‘keeper in the world? Quite possibly.

Trent Alexander-Arnold – 7.5

Trent had a nightmare against Napoli last time, and the Italians hadn’t forgotten as they targeted his side all night, but unlike last time, the Scouser was up for the challenge, aside from a couple of moments where the opposition got the better of him.

Furthermore, he provided a few well-placed balls into the box which could’ve led to goals, including one that Milner probably scored from. Sadly, he was brought off through injury late into the game, but let’s hope it’s not serious enough to keep him out of the United game.

Joel Matip – 8

Matip had another excellent game, but like TAA, he too faces a nervous wait to see how serious his injury is. His side was favoured by the opposition again, but he was able to deal with everything Napoli threw at him.

He was equally as strong in the air as he was on the ground, and crucially, his passing was mostly impeccable. We haven’t seen the best of Matip’s passing as he’s still used to hoofing it under pressure because he couldn’t trust his ‘keeper enough to pass it back. Once he’s more comfortable with this new style though, he’ll get even better.

Virgil van Dijk – 9

There was concern from the fans when VVD picked an early, and harsh, yellow card, but the only person who didn’t seem phased by it was the man himself. Other centre-backs might’ve let the anxiety get to them, but the big Dutchman was as confident as ever.

He made countless interventions to stop Napoli’s attackers in their tracks, which forced them to begin shooting from distance. Unfortunately, the booking means he’ll miss the first leg of our round of 16 game next year. 

Andy Robertson – 8.5

He’s done it again. How much more of this will it take before neutral fans start recognising the fact that Robbo has well and truly developed into one of the world’s best after only 12 months or so as a regular in the team?

His defending was good, but it was his attacking runs that really caught the eye; he was relentless. He should’ve had an assist when Mane wasted a glorious chance, but Robbo’s tenacious running alone helped the team by pinning Napoli’s right flank back.

Liverpool v SSC Napoli - UEFA Champions League Group C : News Photo

Jordan Henderson – 8.5

A season-best performance couldn’t have come at a better time for our under-fire captain. Many, including myself, were simply baffled when Hendo was included ahead of Fabinho and Keita, but the Englishman calmed all fears with a true captain’s performance.

It wasn’t just that he was crunching into tackles and breaking up play, it was that he answered his critics with some driving runs and, most importantly, got the ball moving forward as quickly as possible. If he can keep that up, then a lot of the hate he gets online will simply vanish.

Gini Wijnaldum – 9

For the first time in what feels like months we got to see the real Gini Wijnaldum. Even at his worst, Gini’s able to retain possession under pressure incredibly well, so getting the ball off of him on a night like this was mission impossible.

Unlike in previous performances, he maintained a high standard until the final whistle and played a deciding role in limiting Napoli’s chances late on. He was certainly the catalyst for linking everything up on the night.

James Milner – 8.5

Not to be forgotten, Milner also had a tremendous game. The engine he possess is simply staggering, and he was an utter nightmare for Napoli’s midfielders all night.

The only criticism of his performance was that he could’ve gotten himself a couple of goals. His first chance came from an excellent cross from TAA and the next game just before he was subbed when he narrowly shot past the upright.

Liverpool v SSC Napoli - UEFA Champions League Group C : News Photo

Mo Salah – 9

He’s never gonna stop. Mo Salah is on fire right now! He did miss a big chance early on when his first touch let him down and had another couple of opportunities to score, but in the end, it was his goal that sent us through.

He got past Kalidou Koulibaly, which is no mean feat, and then put the ball into the back of the net with a lovely finish from a difficult angle, embarrassing a flailing David Ospina in the process.

Sadio Mane – 6.5

Given his effort over the 90 minutes, it feels harsh to give Mane such a low rating, but he did miss some glaring chances that could’ve made the night so much easier and less stressful.

Encouragingly, he kept getting into the right positions, but his finishing was very poor by his standards. Let’s hope he makes up for it with a goal or two against United!

Bobby Firmino – 7

It’s a shame that Bobby’s yet to go through the same resurgence that Mo is experiencing, but I’ve got no doubt that a return to his best form is just around the corner.

He’s already getting better though, and against Napoli, he showed glimpses of what he’s capable of. He set up a few chances and clearly looks more comfortable up top than in behind in a 4-2-3-1.


Liverpool v SSC Napoli - UEFA Champions League Group C : News Photo


Naby Keita – (on for Firmino 79′) 7

It was a surprise not to see Keita in the starting lineup, but that’s perhaps a sign he’ll start against United. He gave the team a lift when he came on, disrupting Napoli’s attempts to overrun us.

Fabinho – (on for Milner 85′) N/A

Fab didn’t have enough time on the pitch for a proper rating, but his aerial presence was invaluable late on.

Dejan Lovren – (on for Alexander-Arnold 89′) N/A

The Croat had one ‘classic Lovren’ moment, but luckily the failed clearance didn’t lead to anything.

Unused Subs

Simon Mignolet, Xherdan Shaqiri, Daniel Sturridge, Divock Origi


Jurgen Klopp – 9

Most fans, including myself, doubted Klopp’s midfield selection before the game, and some thought the decision was downright mad given Fabinho and Keita’s form and the importance of the match itself.

Once again though, Klopp proved everyone wrong and was rewarded for this faith in his more experienced midfield trio. This decision, or gamble in the eyes of some, was arguably the deciding factor in the game. People can point at the Salah goal or the Alisson save, but the fact is that the midfield won us that game.

His shrewd selections also mean that Shaq, Fab, and Keita are completely fresh and ready to hammer United when they come to Anfield on the weekend.

Liverpool v SSC Napoli - UEFA Champions League Group C : News Photo

Talking Points

Huge Result

It’s a strange time in modern football that many fans have admitted that they’d have rathered drop out of Europe entirely than have gone into the Europa League.

I’ll admit, I was one of those fans. Regardless of how other people may view it, I have little to no interest in Europe’s second division and view it mainly as an unnecessary distraction unless you reach the semis. It means so much extra travelling and far less time on the training pitch as a result, which is a luxury we can’t afford when we’re trying to hold off Manchester City.

Now that we’re in the Champions League knockouts though, I hope we go far. Yes, it also means travel and less preparation, but the UCL still holds value for fans and players alike. We can’t claim to be a big club while also hoping to go out in the next round so we can focus our efforts on the EPL, we should have enough to compete on two fronts.

Red Redemption

This games, along with the previous few, have seen multiple Reds redeem themselves in the eyes of the fans after a mediocre start to the season that’s been masked by terrific results.

Starting at the back, Matip’s been a revelation after we all lamented the temporary loss of Gomez. If he can keep this up, and stay fit of course, then he’ll have cemented his place in the squad for many seasons to come. Salah’s return has been talked about to death, but it can’t be overemphasised how important he is to the side.

The midfield deserves the most praise though in this regard. Not only did the starting trio play brilliantly, but it came after Fabinho and Keita had played their way back into the side. We now have 5 legitimate options in midfield at the most crucial point of our season so far. 

Bring on United

I’m always nervous about United games. They mean so much to me in that a win can make a poor season acceptable, and a good season a frustrating one if we lose or have a bad draw. This season’s clash will see the stakes raised even further in the context of our title chase and Jose Mourinho’s efforts to stay in a job.

Jose will likely try and do to us what he did last season and use Rashford, and possibly Martial’s, pace to hurt us on the counter after keeping almost everyone behind the ball and soaking up as much pressure as possible.

This is why Gomez is a big loss because his pace would’ve negated that plan. Matip can catch these players over a long distance too though, so his inclusion would be acceptable, particularly if TAA can’t play so Milner shifts back to right-back. Lovren would struggle with this and his inferior passing ability would trouble us given the fact that our backline will see a lot of possession throughout the game.

You’ll Never Walk Alone

Cieren O’Dea

Red Or Dead Liverpool FC Football Blog and Fields of Anfield Road – 12/12/2018

Liverpool vs Napoli – Champions League Preview

Liverpool take on Napoli at Anfield in the final game of the Champions League group stage.

The equation is simple. Liverpool must either win 1-0 or by two clear goals in order to progress to the knockout stages. Failure means almost certain relegation to the Europa League.

Napoli are a fierce opponent and already can boast one win over the Reds. If Klopp’s men aren’t careful, this could quickly turn into a nightmare. A balance of intense focus and ruthless aggression must be met if we are to win the game and progress to the knockouts.

Liverpool Predicted Lineup and Team News


Apart from the long-term injuries that are still hanging over us, Liverpool have no new injuries to report on.

The team should more or less pick itself aside from the midfield. There, Klopp has a pick of multiple options and formations. Keita and Fabinho’s form should see them retained in midfield, while Wijnaldum has been known to step up another gear in Champions League games.

Milner can’t be overlooked though as his experience and industry in the middle of the park could be invaluable. Klopp’s a big fan of Hendo as well, so it shouldn’t be too surprising if he is selected as well.

Napoli Predicted Lineup and Team News

lineup (1)

Carlo Ancellotti is blessed with a clean sheet in fitness terms, but that can sometimes be a curse in the sense of having too many options.

Piotr Zielinski was phenomenal in the first game and should therefore see his chances of starting rise. However, Masksimovic presents a far more defensively sound option at right-back, and in this game, there’s no reason for Napoli to take unnecessary risks.

The rest of the team more or less picks itself due to the quality of the starting players, but Milik could be included if Ancellotti decides to utilise a more direct approach in this game.

Pre-Game Analysis

This is an unusual game in the sense that it’s difficult to decide upon what approach each manager should take.

Should Klopp play safe and hope we pluck a goal? We’ve proven we’re capable of defending narrow leads now, but perhaps this is the game to go back to our old still of just attacking relentlessly and hope that we put enough goals past Napoli that it doesn’t matter if we concede.

Likewise, Ancellotti has to decide whether to go for the 0-0 draw and try to frustrate the home side, or push for a goal that would give them a lot of breathing space.


Napoli will try and push for that all important first goal, but that will play right into Liverpool’s hands.

Liverpool will snatch a goal on the counter and defend the lead from there. It feels strange to say that given our history, but this team is more than capable of doing the job tough now.

The Reds will progress to the next round after a nervy, but deserving, 1-0 victory. C’mon Liverpool!

You’ll Never Walk Alone

Cieren O’Dea

Red Or Dead Liverpool FC Football Blog – 11/11/2018