Huddersfield Town 0 – Liverpool 1: Match Review & Analysis

Is it just me, or did that international break feel interminable? I never like them, as I’ve made absolutely clear in the past, and I used the time to have a look at Liverpool’s goalkeepers and defence at the start of last week and then had a think about our midfielders and attackers in terms of the squad depth, so it wasn’t a complete waste of time as far as my personal productivity was concerned. Yet I also couldn’t wait for the real football to resume, caring less and less about England and international football in general with every passing year. This break therefore felt like a complete waste of everyone’s time. I am very much in agreement with Jürgen Klopp and his declaration that the Nations League is the most pointless competition ever, not least of all because nobody understands what the hell it’s all about. In a bid to stop players from having to play too many friendlies, it appears that UEFA have invented a tournament that requires international managers to take things more seriously even though it will have little effect on whether or not teams make it into the European Championship and World Cup.

I am a Liverpool supporter and it’s not hard to see why so many of us struggle to associate with the England team. You shouldn’t let the way a minority of fans behave reflect how you feel about the team itself, but from the stupid band that travels everywhere to watch them play despite seemingly knowing only one tune through to the morons that sing songs about the IRA and the Pope, I don’t like anything to do with the team that is supposed to represent the country I’m from. It’s also not helped by the fact that those close-minded, overtly racist supporters seemingly do represent the country, given the insular nature of recent political votes by the pubic. Anyway, I digress and I know not everyone will agree with my politics, so it’s an area I try to steer clear of. The point I’m trying to make is that I have zero interest in international football, lots of interest in my club side and I hate to wait too long to see them play football again. That we seemingly lost half of our squad to injury didn’t help much. Once the Premier League got back underway, then, how did the players respond?

It Was A Match That Encapsulated Our Season So Far

I’ve written in the past about the way that some people like to pretend that we constantly have to look on the positive side and that any mention of negative aspects of life for Liverpool makes you a bad supporter and how that is absolute nonsense, but it feels particularly apt at the moment. It is perfectly ok to be delighted that the Reds are joint-top and solid defensively whilst also acknowledging that we really haven’t been playing well all season. Saying as much doesn’t make you a negative nelly, nor does it mean that you think the manager should be sacked or the players taken out of the back of Melwood and shot. Instead it’s just an admittance of the reality of the campaign so far and a hope that things can improve sooner rather than later. I think that the game against Huddersfield was a mini-encapsulation of how things have been for us thus far, with three points being the most important thing but alongside a performance that was very much lacking in any kind of fluidity.

It’s important to point out, of course, that the manager made three changes that meant a lack in fluidity was always going to be pretty inevitable. Even so, it’s not like we’ve been playing amazingly in the final third up until now and it was a shock to see us so poor yesterday; we’ve been poor going forward in pretty much every game we’ve played so far. The reason that yesterday summed up our season up until now for me wasn’t just the lack of creativity in the final third but also the manner in which we flew by the seat of our pants at the back a couple of times. It’s made to me that this side has set a club record for the number of clean sheets at the start of a campaign, given how a better team than Huddersfield might have scored two or three yesterday. The moment that Virgil van Dijk completely misjudged his header, Dejan Lovren was out of position because of the deflection of the ball and just tried to get anything on it and then the Terriers’ striker blasted over the bar summed it up nicely. That said, I’m more than happy if we spend the rest of the season playing poorly but taking three points after three points.

Lallana Doesn’t Work In The Front Three

I like Adam Lallana. I’ve always been a fan of his creativity, ability to pick a pass and willingness to try things that other don’t. I think those that consistently criticise him for doing Cruyff turns are missing the point of the fact that him doing that helps him to keep hold of the ball, which gives other players a chance to get into a better position to receive a pass. I also have to add the caveat that he’s been out injured for a long time and therefore deserves a little bit more patience. Even so, I don’t think he works when playing in the final third and I’m of the opinion that he never has. When I saw the line-up I was delighted, thinking he’d be in midfield and Xherdan Shaqiri would be supporting Sturridge on the left. When the match got underway, therefore, and the Swiss international was sitting deeper whilst Klopp’s former neighbour was pushed up on the lefthand side I couldn’t quite understand what the manager was thinking. As the game progressed, I felt as though my dismay was entirely justified and it was only when Lallana went off injured and our summer signing from Stoke City went over to the left that I thought we looked more balanced.

It certainly says something that it was Shaqiri that found the pass to Salah for the goal when pushing further forward in order to give Joe Gomez options. Don’t get me wrong, I do still think that Lallana can be an option for us this season. I just don’t understand why Klopp would play him as part of the front three that proved so devastating during our last campaign thanks its pace when he definitely doesn’t have any. I have long been of the opinion that having a decent squad is great, but playing too many players from it at the same time isn’t helpful and I think we saw that play out last night. Sadio Mané’s injury forced the manager’s hand a little bit in terms of what he could do with his starting eleven and he perhaps felt that Roberto Firmino had exerted himself too much playing for Brazil, but I’m still not convinced that dropping the two of them and Gini Wijnaldum at the same time was the best idea. Time and again we saw Lallana running into the same space as Sturridge, not least of all when the striker might well have scored if the England midfielder hadn’t got his head onto it despite never having the angle to score. I hope Lallana can stay fit enough to play more often this season, but I just don’t want to see him in the front three.

Fabinho’s Cameo Was Encouraging

I completely and utterly agree with Jürgen Klopp’s decision not to rush Fabinho into his starting eleven. For starters, English football is much faster and more physical than he’ll be used to, so letting him get himself acclimatised to life in England. There’s also the fact that none of his midfielders had done anything wrong in the games so far, meaning there was no need to drop any of them in favour of the Brazilian. Klopp is often dismissed as a manager who is all about personality rather than tactics, but it’s clear that that’s a reductive and idiotic point of view. From the spaces that players need to occupy on the pitch through to learning the triggers for the press, it takes a lot to figure out the manager’s tactics and by being patient with Fabinho the German has given him time to learn all of that out of the spotlight. I think that that showed yesterday, with Fabinho looking really good when he came on midway through the second-half.

I would be surprised if the shape that we saw after he entered play wasn’t akin to the one that the manager wants to use more often than not moving forward. That he could sit deep in front of the defence allowed Gini to move further forward, which in turn gives defences something else to think about. Shaqiri could also push higher up on the left and Mo Salah will always occupy defenders because of his pace, intelligent movement and finishing. I was surprised to see Firmino replace Milner and I’m not sure the change worked, mainly because the Brazilian is bang out of form at the moment. Another incident that summed up how we’re playing came when he broke forward with the ball, Shaqiri and Salah pushed out wide to give him options and he found neither of them. I’ve said before that I think that fact that he’s out of form is what’s causing our attack so many problems at the moment and we watched that play out in real time. Even so, Fabinho did enough to get me excited about when the manager thinks he’s ready to play regularly more often.

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