Chelsea 1 – 1 Liverpool

Super Studge Rescues a Point

Before the game, I wanted nothing less than three points and for to continue our perfect start to the season. By the 88th minute though, I would’ve bitten your hand off for a draw.

Liverpool had the majority of chances throughout the game, but Eden Hazard only needed one to cooly put the hosts in front.

Daniel Sturridge’s outrageous strike from distance in the 89th minute saved the Reds from their first defeat in the league. Thanks to him, we take on Manchester City next week only behind on goal difference.

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Player Ratings

Alisson – 9:

Some have argued that the Brazilian ‘keeper hadn’t been truly tested yet, despite the hype surrounding him. Those arguments no longer have a leg to stand on.

Alisson made many strong saves, catches, and clearances throughout the game, including two unbelievable efforts to deny Willian and Hazard when they were in the clear. He could do nothing to stop Chelsea’s goal as Hazard expertly buried it in the far corner.

Trent Alexander-Arnold – 5:

Trent’s main problem was that he kept getting caught out pushing too far up the pitch. Ordinarily, I’d praise the young lad for being so brave, but a more conservative approach was required on a day when he needed to shackle Hazard.

Unfortunately, he was mostly unimpressive when attacking as well. The majority of his crosses were utterly wayward and led to nothing.

Joe Gomez – 8.5:

Gomez had another cracking game where he looked completely unfazed by the quality of players running at him.

There were times when his teammates started to panic, but Joe consistently and calmly cleaned up at the back and got the ball moving again quickly.

Virgil van Dijk – 9:

VVD, like Gomez and Alisson, was responsible for denying Chelsea some excellent opportunities to seal all three points.

There had been rumblings that the big Dutchman hadn’t quite been at his dominant best this season and his recent rib injury further complicated matters. However, he more than silenced any remaining doubters with a vintage and commanding performance.

Andrew Robertson – 6:

Robbo had an increasingly rare, sub-par, performance in a Reds shirt in this game, and seemed flustered by the occasion and the pressure of having to come from behind.

Like Trent, he went AWOL at times and let Willian run free at Alisson. However, he could’ve been a hero if Xherdan Shaqiri converted from Robbo’s perfect low cross.

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Jordan Henderson – 4:

When he’s not playing at his best, Hendo can be an easy target for Reds fans. Many have questioned whether he should still be at the club, let alone be wearing the armband.

I believe these criticisms are too harsh. However, it’s undeniable that he had a poor game. His decisions were consistently baffling, giving away cheap passes to the opposition or passing backwards in the middle of a counter-attacking move.

Gini Wijnaldum – 5:

It’s strange that Gini played ahead of Hendo in this game, considering he’s been playing so well in the holding role.

Gini failed to influence the game in any meaningful way, and like Robbo, he looked nervous as the game went on.

James Milner – 7:

In the wake of the game, many have said that Milner was just as culpable of not influencing the game. I strongly disagree.

Granted, there were a couple of times where his final ball let him down, but he created chances for his teammates, including selflessly crossing to Bobby Firmino, only for the Brazilian to head into the path of David Luiz.

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Mo Salah – 6:

Same again for Salah. Excellent movement, brilliant chances, tame finishing. We all know he’s just one good game from being back to his confident best, but we needed that to happen in this game.

Salah had a host of chances to put Liverpool in front but simply could not do so, and apart from being denied by a covering Antonio Rudiger, he didn’t really come close.

Sadio Mane – 6:

Mane probably didn’t do enough to help his team win the game. The headlines will all be about Salah’s chances, but Mane isn’t in top form either at the moment.

Having said that, Mane bamboozled the Chelsea defence on one occasion and forced Kepa into a difficult low-save just before the hour mark.

Bobby Firmino – 6:

Bobby’s primary influence in the game was harassing Jorginho as he tried to pull strings from the deep.

Aside from that, he wasn’t at his creative best in attack, and missed a glorious chance to level the scores after Milner provided him with a beautiful cross. Bobby’s header didn’t have much wrong with it, Luiz just had the presence of mind to be in the perfect position to deny him.

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Subs

Xherdan Shaqiri – (on for Salah 66′) 7:

Missed a sitter to level the scores soon after coming on, but at least he caused issues for Chelsea.

Naby Keita – (on for Henderson 78′) 8:

Looked hungry to make a difference in his short time on the pitch. Many fans will be calling for him to start instead of Hendo for the City game.

Daniel Sturridge – (on for Milner 86′) (Man of the Match) 10:

What a strike. For the second time this season Sturridge scored with one of his first touches of the ball. He’s going to have a big say over Liverpool’s success this season.

Unused Subs

Simon Mignolet, Alberto Moreno, Joel Matip, and Fabinho.

Manager

Jurgen Klopp – 7:

It’s difficult to give Klopp a rating for this game. His starting lineup wasn’t terrible; however, many would’ve liked to have seen Keita start over Hendo.

Regardless, the midfield failed to step up to the challenge, and both fullbacks were consistently caught out. Klopp adjusted these aspects though and ended up rescuing a result.

All three subs made a real difference and were brought in at a reasonably proactive time, but Keita and Sturridge might’ve been brought on sooner in hindsight.

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Talking Points

Subs Changed the Game

The latest trend that’s changing at Liverpool is the use of substitutions. Previously, even under Klopp, it’s been typical that the quality of the bench is shocking, and they’re never brought on with enough time to change the game.

In the last few games though, Klopp has started to buck this trend, and he did so to great effect in this game. Shaqiri, Keita, and of course Sturridge, all helped Liverpool assert their dominance and achieve a result that for large portions of the game seemed out of reach.

This could prove to be a crucial aspect in Liverpool’s title challenge as we can now change games that aren’t going the way we want them to.

Misfiring Salah

Salah is a magnificent player. That hasn’t changed. You can see it in his movements and his ability to create chances, but his finishing is badly letting him down.

That fact is affecting his confidence, which hurts his finishing further, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Whenever he’s through on goal, it’s not just that he keeps trying to cut back onto his stronger left foot, Salah’s taking a few touches too many because he doesn’t have the self-belief to bury it.

We can all see the problem, but what is the solution? We need him at his best, and dropping him wouldn’t exactly do his confidence much good. Let’s hope for a big performance next week.

A Good Point

Manchester City are now ahead of us on goal difference. It’s a shame, but in reality, it’s not a big deal right now.

City have had a much easier start to the season. Their biggest games so far have been: beating a poor Arsenal side who hadn’t adapted to Unai Emery’s style yet, drawing to Wolves, and being comfortably beaten by Lyon. That’s it.

Liverpool on the other hand have had good results from: Tottenham away, PSG at home, and now Chelsea away. Of course, this doesn’t mean next’s week game against City becomes any less important, but we as fans need to maintain some level of perspective during this time.

 

You’ll Never Walk Alone

 

Cieren O’Dea

 

Red Or Dead Liverpool FC Football Blog – on 30/09/2018

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Chelsea vs Liverpool – Preview

Rematch at Stamford Bridge

After the minor disappointment of going out of the Carabao Cup the Reds will be seeking revenge against Chelsea in the league.

Both teams will be fielding close to their strongest XI’s on the day, so there can be no excuses for failing to turn up.

This is Liverpool’s greatest test in the league so far, aside from the win away at Tottenham, as Chelsea are only two points behind us on the table, level with Manchester City.

Chelsea – Team News and Predicted Lineup

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Chelsea will welcome back a host of their key players as well as a couple of players returning from injury.

Antonio Rudiger and Pedro need to be assessed closer to kick-off before a decision is made over their fitness, but at this stage ti appears that Rudiger will play will Pedro might be restricted to a role from the bench.

The only other considerations are that Andreas Christensen will likely miss the game through illness, while either Olivier Giroud or Alvaro Morata could start the game up top.

Liverpool – Team News and Predicted Lineup

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Liverpool will field a vastly different starting lineup to the one that lost at home to the Blues in the cup.

It was revealed that Virgil van Dijk had missed training this week as he nurses bruised ribs, and Klopp confirmed he was a doubt. However, van Dijk posted a message on Instagram which suggested that he will be ready.

In the event that he isn’t, either Dejan Lovren, or more likely, Joel Matip will take his place. Klopp also has a decision to make over his midfield three as James Milner looks fatigued, while Jordan Henderson failed to impress midweek.

Pre-Game Analysis

The key aspect in this game will be how well Liverpool’s defence are able to deal with the dangerous Eden Hazard.

If the Belgian is allowed the freedom and space he was afforded after he came on in the cup game, then he has the quality to make us pay. However, if we can lock him down, cut off is supply, and force Cheslea to go down the opposite wing, then we should be able to score goals of our own and win.

Chelsea’s defence are no pushovers though, but with Jorginho shielding the defence it’s unlikely he will be able to give the centre-backs the protection they’ll require, so Liverpool could produce most of their chances through the middle.

Prediction

If Liverpool’s defence can perform to the levels which they have been is previous league games, then we should be able to contain Hazard most of the time.

Likewise, if the midfield reaches their previous heights, then Chelsea could easily become overrun, providing ample opportunities for our front men to score.

I think that it will be a tight and toughly contested game, but one that ends in a well-earned 2-1 victory for Liverpool.

 

You’ll Never Walk Alone

Cieren O’Dea

 

Red Or Dead Liverpool FC Football Blog – 29/09/2018

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Liverpool 1 – 2 Chelsea

Reds Bow Out of Carabao Cup

This result brought out mixed emotions for Liverpool fans. Some are disappointed to lose to a rival and miss another chance for silverware, but many are viewing this as a blessing in disguise.

As predicted in the preview, Jurgen Klopp and Maurizio Sarri elected to rotate their squads. Both sides produced a few decent chances in the first half, but it wasn’t until the second that the game truly came to life.

Daniel Sturridge pounced on a rebound to score with an overhead kick, putting the hosts in front. But a sloppy set-piece goal from Emerson followed by an incredible goal by Eden Hazard sealed what was ultimately a fair result on the day.

Player Ratings

Simon Mignolet – 7:

Mignolet made a few strong saves throughout the game to keep his side in it, including one from point-blank range to deny Alvaro Morata in the first half.

He couldn’t do anything about Hazard’s powerful and precise finish, and did well to save the initial header which led to the equaliser.

Nathaniel Clyne – 6:

Clyne did relatively well on his first competitive start for what feels like an age considering he had to contend with Willian while maintaining his own duties as an attacking fullback.

A good ball over the top for Sturridge was the highlight of his day, but he clearly didn’t do enough to displace Trent Alexander-Arnold from the starting lineup.

Joel Matip – 6.5:

The big Cameroonian wasn’t quite as good this time out but he still put in a decent shift. Although, he could’ve been more authoritative for the set-piece goal.

Matip and Dejan Lovren probably shouldn’t play together as they need one of Joe Gomez or Virgil van Dijk beside them as a calming influence and to cover for their lack of pace.

Dejan Lovren – 5:

Lovren didn’t do himself any favours in trying to reestablish himself as a first-choice centre-back, although he will need time to shake off the rust.

Overall he had a poor game, allowing himself to be turned numerous times by a player struggling for confidence in Morata, and his positional sense was severely lacking throughout.

Alberto Moreno – 3:

Oh boy. Simply put, Andy Robertson is in no danger of losing his starting place. Moreno looked completely out of his depth against Victor Moses, whereas Robbo dealt with Kylian Mbappe with relative ease.

Left-back is possibly the only position where depth is still lacking. Moreno isn’t even good enough for our ‘B-Team’ anymore.

Fabinho – 6:

A six might even be a bit generous here. Fabinho was virtually absent for most of the half, but in fairness, he did gradually grow into the game.

Fans would be foolish to write him off already though as he will undoubtedly become a tremendous asset once he gets through this bedding-in process.

James Milner – 6.5:

Milner was visibly frustrated with his midfield partners at times, as he has become used to the fluidity of the first team and how most movements are second-nature.

Milly fatigued badly as the game went on. He’ll need to be rotated carefully in the coming busy period.

Naby Keita – 7:

Keita had a few sloppy moments throughout the game, but overall his influence was a positive one. His skills were on show, but like Fabinho, he needs more time to settle in.

He made space for himself in the midfield and tested his luck with a few shots on goal. Encouraging stuff from the new signing; you get the sense that a big performance and the confidence that comes with it will be the spark he needs to really get rolling.

Xherdan Shaqiri – (Man of the Match) 7.5:

Shaqiri was involved in almost every attacking play that Liverpool produced and should’ve had an assist after playing Sturridge through with a wonderful pass.

He had a few wild shots blaze high and wide, but that’s to be expected from a confident player who backs himself from distance when a passing option isn’t on.

Sadio Mane – 7:

Some might argue that Mane should’ve been rested, or at least substituted earlier. In any case, his movement was terrific as usual, and he did cause the Chelsea defence some real headaches on several occasions.

He probably should’ve scored when he headed a beautiful cross straight into the arms of Willy Caballero, but it wasn’t the easiest of chances.

Daniel Sturridge – 7:

What a strange day for Studge. First he missed a sitter, then he scored an overhead kick, and finally, he hit the crossbar.

On occasions, his touch was slightly off, but it was another solid game for him overall. He even showed some nous with his pressing in the second half.

Subs

Jordan Henderson – (on for Milner 58′) 5.5:

Hendo couldn’t influence the game as much as Milner had done previously. It’s questionable if this performance warrants a starting berth on the weekend.

Bobby Firmino – (on for Mane 71′) 6:

Bobby came on at the worst possible time as he tried in vain to battle against the turning tide.

Mo Salah – (on for Fabinho 89′) N/A:

Not enough time to make an impact.

Unused Subs

Kamil Grabara, Joe Gomez, Curtis Jones, and Dominic Solanke.

Manager

Jurgen Klopp – 7:

Klopp rotated well, and he knew that throwing the kids to the lions was not the way to go given the strength of Chelsea’s lineup.

He rallied the troops in the second half to a seemingly positive effect but could do little about the individual errors which ultimately cost his side the win.

He used his substitutions at appropriate times, although it’s arguable that Mane should’ve been brought off sooner for preservation, and Salah could’ve come on straight after Hazard put the visitors in front.

Talking Points

Tough Result – We Go Again

On the balance of play, Chelsea probably deserved the win. However, Liverpool had plenty of chances themselves, and on another day the result could’ve been quite different.

That’s what Reds fans will be hoping for on the weekend when we play them again at Stamford Bridge. Klopp himself acknowledged the importance of the league fixture and how his side will take lessons into it.

“We left too many spaces open and stuff like that, [where] they could play between the lines, [but] we already had bigger chances. They were not really a big threat, I would say. More and more we got used to it.”

Negatives of Bowing Out

Aside from the most obvious negative being us only winning the treble this season, the biggest problem is that certain fringe players miss another chance to rack up precious minutes.

The likes of Keita, Fabinho, Shaqiri, and Sturridge would’ve benefited greatly from these extra games to allow them to integrate more quickly.

Likewise, with a potentially easier draw in the next round, Curtis Jones, Dominic Solanke, Nat Phillips, and Rafa Camacho could’ve been given an opportunity to shine.

Benefits of Bowing Out

The Carabao Cup is securely the fourth most important piece of silverware that was up for grabs this season, so missing out doesn’t sting too badly.

It means fewer midweek games to plan around, and fewer minutes stacked up by tired legs. All of our rivals, aside from Manchester United (thanks to Harry Wilson), have to play at least one more game than us, but only one can win it.

In some ways, this is the best time to go out. We didn’t embarrass ourselves by losing to a championship side with an inexperienced manager. We went out to a good team at the earliest possible chance. This is nowhere near as bad as playing several more games and being knocked out in the semis.

 

You’ll Never Walk Alone

 

Cieren O’Dea

 

Red Or Dead Liverpool FC Football Blog and Fields of Anfield Road – on 27/09/2018

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Liverpool vs Chelsea – Carabao Cup Preview

REDS FACE TOUGH TEST IN THE THIRD ROUND

Although fans will have one eye on the Premier League fixture with Chelsea, Jurgen Klopp will undoubtedly see this as an opportunity to present his first piece of silverware to the Anfield faithful.

Last time out, Liverpool recorded an impressively casual victory over Southampton, while Chelsea laboured to a 0-0 draw with West Ham.

Both Klopp and Maurizio Sarri will be tempted to rotate their squad for the Carabao Cup due to the importance of the league fixture, but make no mistake, both sides will be well up for the battle at Anfield.

LIVERPOOL – TEAM NEWS AND PREDICTED LINEUP

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Virgil van Dijk is the only newly injured player, and will be sidelined due to some bruising on his ribs which Klopp confirmed this week as being “uncomfortable, but I don’t think it’s much more”. Klopp confirmed in the press conference that Simon Mignolet will start in goal and Dejan Lovren “looks ready” to play.

Klopp is not known for heavily rotating his squad all in one go, regardless of the prestige of the competition. Therefore, it’s unlikely we will see the likes of Nat Phillips, Rafa Camacho, and Curtis Jones given their debuts, even though they impressed the manager during preseason.

Instead, Klopp will probably look to bring in senior players who are on the periphery of the squad, such as giving Fabinho his long-awaited debut, while maintaining influence from some of his key men. Other ‘stars’ could come off the bench if things are going pear-shaped, and likewise the youth players may get a run out if the game is going exceptionally well.

CHELSEA – TEAM NEWS AND PREDICTED LINEUP

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The Blues on the other hand do have a couple of injury concerns to consider: Antonio Rudiger and Pedro will almost certainly miss the game through their respective shoulder injuries.

Sarri commented that Rudiger’s injury is “nothing serious”, and that he would only be out for “maybe three or four days, no more”, meaning he could return for the league fixture. Pedro however is unlikely to return in time for the weekend.

Sarri recently commented that the likes of Reuben Loftus-Cheek are “not ready” for first team football, meaning experience squad players such as Ross Barkley will get their chance to shine. Although, some considerable rotation will be required given that his side played their European and Premier League fixtures a day after Liverpool’s games, and even had their flight cancelled on the way back from Greece after defeating PAOK 1-0.

PRE-GAME ANALYSIS

Liverpool FC Training Camp In Evian

It’s difficult to analyse a game where it’s entirely unknown which players will feature from either side; but what is certain is the fact that the tactics will be largely the same regardless of the players expected to fill each role.

Sarri’s Chelsea is far more aggressive than his predecessors’ sides, and don’t conform to many of the stereotypes associated with Chelsea teams. This Chelsea like to play with a pressing and possession-based approach, but crucially, Sarri opts to utilise a very high defensive line. This is where Liverpool can really cause damage, as we did when Napoli’s high-line was torn to ribbons in pre-season.

Chelsea’s midfield, led by their maestro Jorginho, are able to ping accurate passes behind the opposition defence for their wide attackers and overlapping fullbacks to run on to, potentially subverting Liverpool’s pressing game. Their compact system could also stifle players such as Naby Keita, who thrive on having the freedom to move in the spaces between the midfield and defence.

PREDICTION

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Regardless of the players that Klopp puts out, Liverpool should have the tactical edge to advance to the next stage of the Carabao Cup, and give Chelsea some questions to answer before the weekend.

Sarri himself admitted that Liverpool are “a step forward” from Chelsea, and said “maybe in one year we will be at the same level”, further emphasising where the two clubs are currently positioned.

Therefore, I predict Liverpool will head into the weekend’s league fixture having won 3 – 1 in a highly entertaining cup match.

 

You’ll Never Walk Alone

Cieren O’Dea

 

Red Or Dead Liverpool FC Football Blog and Fields of Anfield Road – 25/09/2018

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Unstoppable – Looking Back at Liverpool’s Last Five Games

Klopp’s men have been on fire of late, showing some much needed grit and determination to go along with their speed and flair. Red or Dead will analyse each of Liverpool’s last five games.

Liverpool 4 – 1 Leicester

Standout Performances

Jordan Henderson – At last, Henderson was able to produce a captain’s performance and grew into his holding midfield role. Hendo was not only barking orders, but more importantly leading by example with some strong challenges and generally controlling the middle of the pitch. He was also heavily involved in the buildup to the second and fourth goals with some perfectly weighted passes. His only major error in the game was a badly missed opportunity in the centre of the box that should’ve seen the captain score his first goal of the season.

Sadio Mane – Another brilliant performance from the wide-man, showcasing his brilliant speed and drilling. He also demonstrated his ability to create space for his teammates, allowing them more time and freedom to attack in numbers. Mane grabbed a goal and an assist for his efforts, with the goal coming from a tap-in and the assist stemming from a good break and some cold-blooded decision making after rounding the ‘keeper. The Senegalese winger also turned in a good shift defensively, and is surely staking his claim as one of the best signings in recent years.

Roberto Firmino (Man of the Match) – When the Brazilian is on form, this is the type of display you expect to see. Lovely touches and movement from the first minute until the last; he regularly drew applause from the crowd and tormented the Leicester defence. He produced an excellent finish early on, masterfully taking the ball around the last defender and slotting the ball into the corner for the opening goal. He also rounded up the rout with a cool finish in the dying minutes; last season’s top goalscorer will look to build on this performance.

Talking Points

Attacking Players Showing Their Potency – Liverpool’s attacking players tore the Leicester midfield and defence to ribbons on multiple occasions throughout the match, and realistically could’ve scored a few more. Lallana, Firmino and Mane were all particularly impressive and their combined fluidity of movement and creative output was showcased perfectly at the New Anfield. An argument could certainly be made that Liverpool have one of the most dangerous attacking units in the league at the moment.

Defence Comes Under Pressure – After the game many fans and pundits were lamenting Liverpool’s supposed defensive frailties and lack of depth. However in my opinion, the Reds’ defenders put in a reasonably solid shift against the Foxes, barring one or two nervy moments. Lucas Leiva for example was chastised and supported in equal measures from different sections due to his horrendous error for Jamie Vardy’s goal. Some fans were suggesting that it was Mignolet’s fault for putting Lucas under pressure, whilst others were suggesting that this error means that Lucas cannot play as a defender. I disagree with both assessments and Lucas himself owned up to his error, but other than this mistake he hardly put a foot wrong all match in his first game of season.

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Lucas had at least three players he could pass it to and also could’ve cleared it upfield. He even had enough time and space to put it out for a throw in or corner if he felt he couldn’t find a Liverpool player.

Captain Hendo Steps Up – A lot of people, myself included, have criticised Henderson’s performance as a captain and holding midfielder this season. The game against Leicester was the first step towards proving the doubters wrong, and helping the fans get behind the captain again. It appears that he is now better able to deal with threats by recognising the danger early and taking up correct tactical positioning. His lack of confidence in these areas was effecting his game elsewhere as his passing had previously been uncharacteristically erratic until this game. These problems appear to be behind him now and many fans were looking forward to him leading by example again against Chelsea.

 

Chelsea 1 – 2 Liverpool

Standout Performances

Dejan Lovren – After missing the previous game against Leicester through an eye injury, Lovren’s return to the starting lineup was a comforting sight for Liverpool fans. The commanding Croat produced an incredible performance against some of the toughest and most dangerous attacking players in the league. Comfortable throughout, his partnership with Matip is truly beginning to blossom which bodes well for the Reds going forward. Lovren also managed to get a goal for his efforts with an elegant finish off the volley from a Coutinho cross that most strikers would’ve been proud of, let alone a centre-back.

Georginio Wijnaldum – Like Henderson the week before, this was Wijnaldum’s best game of the season, and arguably the kick-start of what will hopefully be a long career in Red. Whilst some of his teammates stole the headlines with goals and assists, Wijnaldum’s efforts and contribution did not go unnoticed. He was finally able to physically impose himself in the midfield, allowing his teammates more time and space on the ball. His tactical and positional awareness was on point, whilst his passing was far more adventurous than he had previously displayed for Liverpool. He can certainly play better, but this type of performance shows cause for great optimism in regards to Wijnaldum’s future.

Jordan Henderson (Man of the Match) – Another fantastic performance from the captain who is alleviating a lot of the pressure he’s been put under by the fans and media. He again controlled the game with his running and passing, demonstrating an excellent balance between industry and creativity. The away fans erupted when Henderson scored Liverpool’s second, an unbelievable curling strike that nestled in the top corner was enough to secure all three points. Henderson showed again that he is capable of leading by example and being a key player for the Reds.

Talking Points

Solid at the Back – In a game where some excellent goals and build up play were highlighted in regards to Liverpool’s attacking players, it’s easy to forget how well the defenders dealt with a plethora of dangerous Chelsea men. Many defenders dread the thought of having to deal with the likes of Costa, Willian, Hazard and Fabregas all at once, but the Red men rose to the occasion. Lovren and Matip in particular settled excellently into the game despite the pressure and the hostile crowd. The formidable pair managed a whopping 11 clearances between them in a performance which saw them tackle, intercept and generally out-play their attacking counterparts on their way to victory. A slight error in communication and decisiveness was the only blemish of the day which unfortunately lead to a rather lucky goal for Chelsea to deny the Reds their first clean sheet in the league for the season.

Chelsea Struggling Under Conte – After the shambles of last seasons campaign, Chelsea fans could be forgiven for approaching this season with a sense of cautious optimism, especially in regards to their defence. However, despite Conte being a manager who is internationally revered for bringing defensive excellence to whatever team he manages, his current team have been unable to consistently demonstrate this. Some of the chances Liverpool created were only partly due to technical ability, with the majority of blame coming from a lack of organisation from Chelsea’s back four. This was showcased on a number of occasions in this game, but particularly for Lovren’s goal. Other teams will surely take note and attempt to exploit their current fragility; the days of Chelsea being a nightmare fixture for any team seem to be a distant memory.

lovren-goal

Four Chelsea players are standing shoulder to shoulder in the box, not effectively marking a player or area. This allows Lovren to run at the back post and score.

Reds Rise Against Big Sides – Liverpool have often been guilty of being prone to ‘off-days’ against smaller sides, losing games they shouldn’t. However they also have a knack of winning games they arguably shouldn’t, seemingly saving their best performances for the big teams. This was again the case as Liverpool completely outclassed Chelsea in a manner that surpassed the close scoreline. With the league continuing to get stronger and stronger each year, this is a trait that will serve Liverpool well as each game grows in importance, however they will have to become more consistent against weaker sides if they wish to pull away from the pack at the top of the table.

 

Derby 0 – 3 Liverpool

Standout Performances

Loris Karius – Karius’ performed very well on debut despite a couple of heart in mouth moments. Playing as a sweeper-keeper he was extremely comfortable coming out of the box to clean up at the back and was equally comfortable under the high ball. This ability was integral in saving Henderson from embarrassment after an error, rushing out to deny Darren Bent. Mignolet has been in very good form this season, but more performances like this will make selecting a regular starting keeping a very difficult decision.

Roberto Firmino – This was a typical performance from Firmino, a rare player in that he revels in contributing to attacking and defensive plays equally, often creating chances for himself and others with his impressive pressing and tackling. His Brazilian flair also shone through with some incredible displays of skill, as well as an assist for Coutinho. Perhaps the only thing that was missing from this display was a goal, though he could hardly be blamed for that as he was denied by a good save by Jonathan Mitchell, and an error in judgement by Origi when the young striker could’ve squared the ball to Firmino.

Philippe Coutinho (Man of the Match) – Even though the Championship is a very competitive competition, and Derby County are one of the best teams in that league, it was clear that players like Coutinho are just on a different level. His technique was almost infallible, with a brilliant swinging corner to set up the first and then a dangerous free kick later in the half. He scored a goal after some with some nice interplay with Firmino in the second half before getting another assist for Origi’s goal and almost repayed the favour to Firmino.

Talking Points

Moreno Impresses on Return – After coming under immense criticism during the back-end of last season and the start of this one, Moreno’s performance was always going to be scrutinised. To his credit, the Spaniard was able to produce a much more balanced performance against Derby, effectively picking which times would be appropriate to bomb forward. It must be said that Derby’s attacks rarely troubled the Liverpool defence, even though manager Nigel Pearson admitted they had wanted to target the left hand side. Despite this though Moreno still deserves credit for an improved showing, it will however be a tough journey to displace Milner if he wants to get back into the starting XI on a regular basis.

Shrewd Squad Rotation – After seeing the team selection at Burton, many fans would’ve expected a similar lack of rotation at Derby. This was not the case however, as Klopp opted to rest many of his stars, and give valuable minutes to others. This proved to be highly beneficial for everyone effected and an excellent decision by the manager. Regular starters including Milner, Lallana, Wijnaldum, Mane and Sturridge were all given much needed rests after a tough patch of games in the league, all but guaranteeing their fitness for the match against Hull. Their replacements included, Klavan, Moreno, Lucas, Origi and Ings as well as Grujic and Ejaria for their respective debuts. This group of players would’ve taken a lot from the game in terms of fitness and confidence, ensuring Klopp has some decisions to make going forward in regards to team selection.

Where Does it Leave the Rest? – Despite a heavy emphasis on squad rotation, there were a number of players that were left out entirely, and it begs the question, if they can’t get a game against Derby, will they get any game time at all this season? Thankfully, Klopp thought ahead during the transfer window and sold or loaned out a lot of the squad’s fringe players meaning that almost all of the players that fall into this category are still young enough to make an impression in the u23’s. Aside from the 19 and 20 year olds including Randall, Brannagan and Chirivella, this situation becomes concerning for two players in particular, Illori and Sakho. Illori has been on the fringes of the squad ever since he arrived as a promising young centre-back in 2013 but has failed to make an impression on Merseyside or during any of his various disastrous loan spells. Sakho’s issues have been far more publicised, with the talented French international missing the back-end of last season due to doping allegations. This was followed in pre-season when he was barred from the first-team, being sent home on the second day of the tour of the USA due to attitude problems. This latest snubbing surely signals the end of both players Liverpool careers unless a major injury crisis occurs.

 

Liverpool 5 – 1 Hull

Standout Performances

Adam Lallana – The start to this season has almost certainly been Lallana’s best for Liverpool, combining his ever-present energy and workrate, with goals and assists. With Henderson growing in his ability to effectively act as a holding midfielder, Lallana has been able to venture forward more and combine with the likes of Firmino and Mane. This proved to be beneficial in attack and defence, with Lallana scoring the first of five goals, followed by assists for Coutinho and Mane.

Philippe Coutinho – Interestingly, this game saw Coutinho adopt a deeper midfield role than usual meaning that the it became Coutinho’s duty to start most of Liverpool attacks as a creative influence from the deep, whilst also being involved in more defensive work than usual. He was able to do this very effectively, controlling the tempo at a whim and setting up Lallan’s opener. His incredible goal from well outside the box to kill the game off completely was a fitting reward for a fine performance.

James Milner (Man of the Match) – If Moreno was able to make Klopp reconsider his position as back up in the game against Derby, then Milner completely cemented his place as starting left back with this performance. Completely faultless in attack and defence, he showed exactly the traits that Liverpool fans have been crying out for from their left-back for years. The experienced Enlgand international seemed to be involved in almost everything and his reward was two fine penalties put beyond the reach of Marshall. If he keeps this level of performance up then not only will Moreno be unlikely to get a chance in the league, but calls from some fans to buy a left-back in January will become entirely redundant.

Talking Points

Ruthless Reds – There was a lot of pressure on the Reds in the build up to the game to replicate their fantastic form of late and they duly delivered. From the very first minute Liverpool were full of aggression and intensity, pressing the Hull players deep into their own half and regularly forcing them to commit errors. After Hull were reduced to 10 men, this trend intensified to the point were Hull were barely able to get the ball over the halfway line due to the pressure they were put under by the likes of Firmino, Lallana, Mane and Coutinho. The hard work done in the first half allowed these players to take their foot off the gas in the second half and look ahead to the game against Swansea. It’s hard to envision how any team in the league could contain the Reds when they’re in that kind of mood.

Competition for Places – With such an impressive performance and dominant scoreline, it’s easy to forget that Liverpool had a number of top quality players on the bench or omitted entirely for this game. To score five goals without top strikers Sturridge and Origi is a feat in itself, let alone the likes of Henderson and Milner playing out of position at the expense of former first team regulars such as Can and Moreno. Mignolet was also left on the bench in favour of new singing Karius, and it has to be said that despite his well documented faults, most clubs in the world would salivate at the thought of having the Belgium international as their backup ‘keeper. Liverpool’s squad depth is better than it has been in years, the likes of Mignolet, Can and Grujic being far superior bench options to former players such as Brad Jones, Luis Alberto and Jose Enrique.

The Klopp Effect – Approximately one year on from Klopp’s arrival on Merseyside, it is clear the effect that he is having on the players and club as a whole. Players such as Lovren, Milner and Lallana have completely reinvented themselves under the guidance of the German, whilst other such as Coutinho, Firmino and Clyne have flourished. This doesn’t even take into consideration the success of new arrivals such as Mane, Matip and Wijnaldum, let alone the improvement in outcasts such as Moreno, Mignolet and Henderson. This monumental shift for the club in a relatively short period of time makes the fans wonder, where will the club be in another year, or two years or even five years time? This amount of optimism and hope surrounding Liverpool has been missing for too long now and is a welcome return.

 

Swansea 1 – 2 Liverpool

Standout Performances

Philippe Coutinho – Like most of his teammates, Coutinho was disappointing in the first half. Turning the ball over far too easily and generally failing to make a meaningful impact on the game. However, after the break a much more familiar Coutinho came out of the tunnel, he was able to use his trademark dribbling and passing to put Swansea on the back foot and give his teammates a chance to take the game by the scruff of the neck. This culminated in his perfectly weighted ball for Firmino’s goal, getting the Reds back into the game after being 1-0 down for so long.

Roberto Firmino – Once again Firmino played a major role in a Liverpool win, with his pressing being one of the most important aspects of the turnaround. Despite a poor first-half, he scored the important equaliser with a well placed header, and won the penalty that allowed Milner to win the game. The argument that he is one of, if not the most important player on the team continues to build in validity with match-winning performances such as the Swansea game.

Sadio Mane (Man of the Match) – Mane was perhaps the only Liverpool player on the day that played well in both halves, not just in the final 45 minutes. He consistently threatened the Swansea defence with his pace and movement that proved difficult to read and react to. Coupled with some tireless work ethic, it made for an excellent performance, even if he didn’t get the goal or assist that he perhaps deserved. It will be a great loss for Liverpool when Mane goes away with Senegal for the Africa Cup of Nations in January.

Talking Points

Winning Ugly – It is often said, but it doesn’t diminish the truth in the saying, the best teams find a way to win on their worst day, and that’s exactly what Liverpool were able to do against Swansea. Failing to register a single shot on target during the entire first half, it seemed as though Liverpool’s fantastic run of form was running out of steam. But, in the second half the Reds came out with more grit and found a way to force their way back into the match. This is an excellent sign going forward that Liverpool can keep calm under pressure and steal three points away from home under difficult circumstances.

Injury Concerns – Klopp, like most Liverpool fans would have been devastated to see Lallana come off early due to a groin strain considering his prolific run of form. Then after the game had finished news broke that Lovren had also suffered a groin strain, and Clyne was missing international duty due to an ongoing knee injury. Clyne and Lovren are supposedly going to be fit for the game against Manchester United after the international break, but Lallana’s situation is much more unknown. Of course of any of these three players are unavailable there are other solid options such as Moreno, Klavan and Sturridge to fill in, but it is still not an ideal situation given how well they’ve been playing. If Liverpool want to continue on this run of form, then the health and fitness of our best players will be paramount in order to keep continuity and successful combinations.

The Road Ahead – If it weren’t for the aforementioned injuries then it could be said that the international break couldn’t have come at a worse time. Six wins and a draw in the last seven games in all competitions shows how well Liverpool are gelling as a unit and how good their current form is. Having said that, it could also be argued that the Reds looked tired at Swansea and that a break will help some of the players refocus, refresh and continue the charge towards the top of the table. It’s just a shame that many of the club’s most important players can’t take this time off to rest and work together in training to prepare for the massive upcoming game against Manchester United. It is an incredibly important game in the context of both team’s seasons and title ambitions, not to mention the bitter rivalry and pride that is always on the line. If Liverpool can pick up a win in this game, it will put them in an excellent position going forward considering the relatively easier games that lie ahead in the league, with a cup clash against Tottenham being the toughest game until well into December.

 

YNWA

 

Cieren O’Dea for Red Or Dead – Liverpool FC Football Blog – on 8/10/2016.

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