Records Fall as Liverpool Rise
Liverpool’s current tally of 33 points is their highest ever total at this stage of a Premier League season, and likewise, only five goals conceded is the Reds’ best defensive record in the EPL. However, Watford didn’t make life easy on the day, particularly in the first half.
Gerard Deulofeu had a goal ruled out for offside after only a few minutes. Troy Deeney set up the chance with a wonderful flick-on, but aside from that, the first 30 minutes or so were rather dull. The game suddenly came to life though when Firmino had a shot saved before Watford went the length of the pitch and almost scored themselves.
Salah broke the deadlock with a deflected shot from an excellent team move after an anxious 67-minute wait. Alexander-Arnold then sealed the win with a beautiful free-kick that left Ben Foster in the dust, and Firmino’s headed goal just further emphasised what was already a decided result. Henderson was rightly sent off with a second yellow card, providing the only tangible negative from the game.Embed from Getty Images
Alisson – 6
Watford only had one shot on target, and in fairness, Alisson produced a stunning save to deny them of that big chance, but for the rest of the match, our ‘keeper made things harder than they needed to be.
He played a couple of dangerous passes, and one to Firmino almost led to an embarrassing goal. Ultimately, nothing came from these mad moments, and no one wants to see the Brazilian make too many changes to his game, but surely he has to start being a little more composed in these situations if he wants to continue playing out from the back so frequently. His accuracy with long balls is superb, and we have the pace to chase balls down, so why not utilise them more?
Trent Alexander-Arnold – 7
Trent scored his first goal for England during the break and then doubled up with a curling free-kick to secure an important result for his club.
TAA was guilty of being a bit too casual in the first half, as some of his touches and passes were wasteful at times when the team needed him to be precise. However, he improved as the game went on and assisted the defence in obtaining another clean sheet.
Dejan Lovren – 8
Lovren came in for Gomez as the latter suffered a minor knock in training. Lovren didn’t look out of place though, and in fact, excelled in the game, particularly after the first twenty minutes or so.
The Croatian snuffed out Deulofeu after the Watford flyer had shown signs that he was ready for a big game. Overall, he defended extremely well throughout, including numerous important headers and interceptions when the Hornets began to threaten. Lovren’s an easy, and sometimes warranted, target for criticism, but it’s important to give credit when it’s due.
Virgil van Dijk – (Man of the Match) 8.5
VVD was incredible again. He just slightly edged ahead of his centre-back partner in terms of involvement, and his organisation was also of a typically high standard throughout.
Lovren handled Deulofeu, and Virgil took control of the Deeney situation after the awkward striker threatened to snatch a result with some impressive touches and passes.
Andy Robertson – 7
Robbo wasn’t at his best, particularly with the ball, but he never looked troubled defensively apart from an incident with Will Hughes that initially looked like a certain penalty, but replays showed that the Scot intelligently pulled out of the tackle in time.
Like most of the team, Robbo improved in the second half, and once the first goal went in, he was able to find a lot more space to run into and his pinpoint cross led to the third goal after Mane saw his initial shot saved.Embed from Getty Images
Jordan Henderson – 5
I’ll give my thoughts on Hendo getting sent off in the ‘Talking Points’ section, but for now, I’ll only be reviewing his performance for the 82 minutes he was on the pitch.
Until he got sent off, he had a strong game, and if he kept his cool, he might’ve gotten a 7. In the first half, he was guilty of not being as proactive with the ball as he could’ve been, but he played a big role in Liverpool gaining a foothold in the game and securing enough possession so that chances could begin to come in droves.
Gini Wijnaldum – 6.5
Gini faced the same problems as Hendo in the first half and couldn’t impose himself on the game, however, it should be noted that Watford’s midfielders desperately outnumbered the midfield duo.
Unlike Hendo though, Gini didn’t bounce back as definitively and only started to become more adventurous once the result was already secured. Having said that, he didn’t put a foot wrong all game and one perfectly weighted pass to Robbo sparked the third goal; we just needed to see more of that assertiveness.
Bobby Firmino – 7
Bobby was virtually absent before the break, in part due to the fact that he’s clearly still adjusting to his new role in the system, as his starting position is much further from goal.
He picked it up in the second half though, and his passing was on point including one sublime ball to Mane that took three players out before Salah’s opener. His late goal wasn’t quite as pretty to look at, but it’ll still do his confidence a world of good after going quite some time without scoring.Embed from Getty Images
Xherdan Shaqiri – 7
Shaq had a strange game in the sense that he was the only Liverpool player who looked fired up and creative in the first half, but unlike everybody else, he declined in the second half.
Klopp was right to replace him as he looked to secure the result, but while he was on, he created a few chances including one for Mane that could’ve made the game far easier.
Sadio Mane – 7.5
Mane did everything but score, and a goal would’ve been fitting after he signed a new deal midweek. He hit an incredible, yet unorthodox, shot in the first half after a great ball by Shaq, but unfortunately, it went straight at Foster.
Mane was unlucky not to score a couple of other chances as well, hitting the post (albeit from an offside position), and seeing a scorching shot denied by Foster again until Firmino pounced on the rebound.
Mo Salah – 7.5
Watford were able to frustrate Salah in the first half as he found time and space very difficult to come by. His only chance came from a clever set-piece routine where Mo drifted from the edge of the box to the back post and would’ve scored were it not for another tremendous save by Foster.
His movement in the second half caused the Hornets more issues, and on another day he could’ve easily scored more than just the one that bundled home. It’s easy to forget that Salah’s scored nine goals already this season, which is still impressive especially considering his new role.Embed from Getty Images
James Milner – (on for Shaqiri 74′) 6
Didn’t have much to do when he came on, but he certainly helped steady the ship.
Fabinho – (on for Salah 86′) N/A
No time to make an impact.
Joel Matip – (on for Firmino 92′) N/A
No time to make an impact.
Simon Mignolet, Nathaniel Clyne, Naby Keita, and Daniel Sturridge.
Jurgen Klopp – 7.5
Klopp did the best he could in a situation that was far from ideal. He had very little time to prepare his team for a well-drilled, and well-rested, Watford side, and had the added hindrance of an expected, but thankfully minor, injury to Joe Gomez.
In my opinion, as much as I like the new 4-3-2-1 system, our old 4-3-3 might’ve worked better in this game as Watford tend to overload the middle of the park with strong, and tricky, midfield players. However, Klopp showed faith and patience in his players and tactics, and it clearly paid off in the end.
There have been times in the past where fans and pundits have grown frustrated with Klopp’s perceived unwillingness to change and learn from past mistakes, but it would appear that Klopp is making appropriate adjustments this season. It was another solid result, and the German has to take a high degree of credit for the record start to this campaign.Embed from Getty Images
Hendo Sees Red
Hendo’s taken a lot of criticism online after needlessly getting sent off at a time where in previous seasons, when we weren’t so solid at the back, it could’ve cost us points. The referee had already spoken to him and warned him that he needed to watch his step, and while the final tackle wasn’t that bad, it came after a string of fouls and Hendo had given the linesman a spray only seconds earlier, which drew the ref’s attention.
There’s no defending any professional, let alone the captain, behaving so naively and allowing their emotions to get the better of them, especially in a game where the win was more or less already sealed. However, some of the abuse that’s come his way is entirely over the top and uncalled for.
Hendo is a divisive figure, and there’s many who believe that he either doesn’t fit well with Klopp’s style, of simply isn’t good enough for Liverpool. Others defend him and acknowledge his importance to the team. Either way, you don’t have to like a player, but we all, as Liverpool fans, should treat our players with some respect. Fair criticism and personal abuse are two very different things, no one’s expected to praise Hendo if you think he’s played badly, but that doesn’t mean that hateful words are welcome.
A New Klopp
One interesting aspect to note about this season is the emergence of a new kind of Jurgen Klopp. Gone are the days of gung-ho attacking set-ups. Instead, this Klopp has moulded his team and shaped his system around the result, rather than simply goals and finesse. It’s substance over style, and hopefully it’ll give the team a greater chance of winning trophies in the long run.
Klopp himself noted this after the game when he said, “I know you always expect perfection, but we had exactly one session to prepare [for Watford]. We needed to focus on the specific quality of the opponent. We had to stay stubborn. It wasn’t a brilliant first half, but it was still good.”
“It was a really mature performance. I know a few people miss one or two situations from last season, but in similar games last season we were not that convincing – it wasn’t clear that we controlled the game.”
Another Tough Run Ahead
Our next league game comes against Everton in what will probably be the most competitive Merseyside Derby in some time, but for now, the focus shifts back to the Champions League and a crucial fixture away to PSG.
The Parisians are looking unstoppable in their own league right now, winning 14 from 14 games, but we all know that the UCL is a different kettle of fish to Ligue 1. PSG also face the prospect of taking on the only team to defeat them this season without Neymar or Kylian Mbappe, as both are in doubt with minor injuries.
After PSG and Everton, there’s little time to breath with away games against Burnley and Bournemouth, before two crunch ties between the Reds and Napoli in the UCL and Manchester United in the league. Games against Arsenal and Manchester City follow soon after that, so the Reds will need to keep up their form to stay in touch with City.
You’ll Never Walk Alone
Red Or Dead Liverpool FC Football Blog and Fields of Anfield Road – 25/11/2018