All of the talk lately has revolved around Jürgen Klopp’s rotation policy. The manager ‘got it wrong’ against Everton, according to his critics, with the ‘weaker’ squad he played there being more suited to the match against West Brom. Never mind that his so called strongest eleven failed to score past the Baggies in a manner the officials deemed to be legal, nor that we’d have beaten the Blues comfortably if not for Sadio Mané failing to pass or the referee missing Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s jump into Dejan Lovren for the penalty. According to those that dislike rotation as an idea, we’d have picked up six points from six if the German just did what they wanted him to. As far as I can make out, that involves playing the strongest side he can until their legs fall off, then bringing in players who have little match fitness and no rhythm to replace them.
Chance to get back into top 4 and bring a feel good factor around the club…but trust Klopp and his rotation to get us a draw v Bournemouth. #LFC
— BobTetteh (@BobTetteh) December 17, 2017
The problem those criticising Klopp have is that they’re looking too short term. The manager’s job is absolutely to win the games that are in front of him, but he also has to think about the season as a whole and look at how to keep his players fresh and firing for the duration of it. We are still in three competitions at the time of writing, with draws in both the FA Cup and the Champions League that could have been significantly less kind. Right now the manager’s decision to chop and change his team is leaving people feeling as though he’s making mistake after mistake, but the reality is we won’t know whether it’s a sensible set of decisions until the end of the season. If we perform strongly in the FA Cup and Champions League and finish in the top four,, with all of our players only picking up minor injuries, his policy would surely need to be called a success. The proof of the pudding, as they say, will be in the eating.
Klopp Picked The Right Team
The manager made another four changes ahead of our trip to Bournemouth, with only the absence of Emre Can being enforced. Sadio Mané dropped down to the bench and that decision was sensible considering his poor form in recent matches. Adam Lallana has been back in full training, but he hasn’t got the match fitness to start so it made sense to have him as a substitute. What I was most interested to see was how Jordan Henderson and Gini Wijnaldum would be deployed. The captain has come in for some frankly outrageous criticism of late and few of those attacking him seem to be willing to accept that Jürgen Klopp normally deploys him with little assistance in the middle. Other players, meanwhile, seem to be virtually holding hands in the middle of the park, helping each other out.
Team sheet from Bournemouth #LFC pic.twitter.com/quCLenP9sj
— James Pearce (@JamesPearceEcho) December 17, 2017
Would the manager ask Wijnaldum to help Henderson protect the defence a little bit? You’d have thought so, especially considering the collapse we endured at The Vitality Stadium last season. Certainly in the first-half Wijnaldum lived up to his often unfairly given nickname of ‘the invisible man’, missing a decent opportunity when set up on the edge of the Bournemouth box and failing to make any real meaningful contribution. Henderson, however, made fools out of his critics with some brilliant passes and a genuine desire to close down the opposition’s defence whenever possible. Mohamed Salah justified the manager’s decision to start him by consistently causing the Cherries nightmares. I won’t wax lyrical about him in this report, despite his obviously brilliance. Getting to twenty goals quicker than Daniel Sturridge is no mean feat and I hope we can keep hold of him for more than one season.
Coutinho Might Be Going, But He’s Still A Joy To Watch
Whether it’s in January or the summer, the likelihood is that Philippe Coutinho’s time as a Liverpool player is coming to a close. The Brazilian spent the summer pushing for the club to accept a move to Barcelona, even going so far as to put in a transfer request when it became clear that neither the manager nor the owners wanted to entertain the idea of his departure. He didn’t go quite as far as downing tools, as Luis Suarez did in the summer of 2013 when he wanted to go to Arsenal, but his ‘injuries’ were certainly at least a tad suspicious. I do think it would be madness to sell him in the Winter Window, considering we’re progressing in the Champions League and he wouldn’t be able to play for the Spanish giants in it anyway.
#LFC Majestic goal from Philippe #Coutinho pic.twitter.com/FmWjTYVTCs
— Phil Coutinho (@LfcNo10) December 17, 2017
Regardless, his time at the club is limited so we should enjoy watching him whilst we can. He was poor in the middle of the week, of that there can be no question. Yet he continually manages to bounce back after poor performances; much like a personification of the club itself. The opening goal was a real futsal moment, dribbling through countless Bournemouth defenders before slotting in the bottom corner. The goalkeeper would probably have been expecting him to put it in the top corner, given how many times he’s done that recently, so instead the Little Magician simply slipped it into the bottom one instead. He was also unlucky with his free-kick, given that movement as little as a cm to the left would have resulted in a goal. No player is bigger than the club, though, so if it’s time for him to go then we should thank him for his work and move on as quickly as possible.
Write The Season Off At Your Peril
There’s a section of Liverpool supporters that seem desperate to declare the season over every time we get anything other than three points. Draws at home to Manchester United and Chelsea are greeted by some people deciding that we’re not even close to being as good as them and that we’ll be lucky to finish in the top four. As disappointing as the dropped points to Everton and West Brom were recently, you’d be mad to think that that means that we’ll be struggling to finish in the top four. Today showed that we’ve got a really good squad. Sadio Mané was allowed to remain on the bench and time was given to get both Lallana and Danny Ings back to match fitness instead. Sky Sports gave Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain the Man of the Match award. We’ve got strength in depth.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain unfortunate not to mark a very dynamic performance with a goal today. Made the most key passes (4) together with Phil Coutinho and was #LFC's top tackler (3).
Three interceptions, 11 possession gains too. pic.twitter.com/84hiNY5pTe
— Melissa Reddy (@MelissaReddy_) December 17, 2017
The Vitality Stadium isn’t an easy place to go, even if the Cherries are having a bit of a nightmare season. Chelsea were fortunate to emerge with a 1-0 win when they headed to the South-Coast, whilst Manchester City needed a Raheem Sterling goal in the 97th minute to take all three points away. Make no mistake, this was an impressive performance from the Reds and we fully deserved our win. It’s entirely fair to say that Bournemouth are the ideal opposition for us, willing to come and attack and leave gaps at the back for our more clinical players to exploit. Nevertheless, we left with no points whatsoever last season despite scoring four, so you can’t say that this isn’t an improvement. We’re still less than halfway through the season, so don’t be writing us off the next time we drop points.
The Usual Scapegoats Played Well
I’ve already mentioned Jordan Henderson playing well, so I won’t go on about that too much. Unquestionably, though, some ‘supporters’ will be disappointed to see that they can’t blame any of the poorer moments on the captain. As for Dejan Lovren, he played really well and deserves huge applause for the braveness shown in getting his goal when the defender was swinging a boot at his head. The Croatian gave away a free-kick in a dangerous position in the first-half, but even that was because the referee and his assistant simply made up a foul. He won the ball with a brilliant back-heel tackle and if the referee thinks that that’s a free-kick then they’ll be given away every week. For the first time in what feels like months, the officials didn’t have enough of an influence over our result for it to matter.
If you are one of those that is upset that Lovren scored and that Henderson is playing very well….give your heads a fucking wobble or better still, perhaps slap yourself into supporting another team!! 👍🔴 #LFC
— Anfield Talk (@Anfield_Talk) December 17, 2017
It is, by the way, perfectly acceptable to say that Liverpool haven’t had much luck with officials this season. It doesn’t mean that you think we haven’t played poorly, nor is it an ‘excuse’. It’s simply a fact, with Manchester United incredibly fortunate not to concede two penalties against West Brom for doing things that our defence has been punished for on a couple of occasions. Anyway, back to the topic at hand. Too many people in our support base want someone to blame when things don’t go perfectly, which is getting a little bit embarrassing to be honest. Some people have been tweeting out saying that the Reds only win big when Henderson doesn’t play. I’d love to think that today’s result will shut them up for a while but that would be giving them far too much credit. If you’re the sort of person that thinks the Liverpool captain or one of our central defenders is ‘one of the worst players ever’, watch this match and give that a re-think. It’s a genuinely terrible attitude.