There is an extent to which yesterday’s match against Aston Villa left Liverpool with more questions than answers. After working with the squad in Dubai for an extended period of time, I thought that we might see a return to the defensive solidity that we’ve grown used to under Jürgen Klopp. Instead, the Villains were cutting through us at will at times, calling both last ditch tackles and Alisson Becker into action far more often than is ideal. The intensity was a little bit better than it has been, but then it seemed as though our legs had fallen off on the hour mark. What was the manager working on in the warm weather training camp? Does he feel as though he saw enough of it at Villa Park? Ultimately, that is a difficult place to go at the best of times and Unai Emery has his players well drilled, so we should be delighted to emerge with all three points. My concern is that we’ve beaten good teams already this season, only to be out fought by poorer ones.
Not entirely sure what to make of Liverpool today. On paper that’s a big win but if they continue to surrender control of games this side of the World Cup then they will lose as many as they win. Worrying that Nunez’s momentum appears to have been torpedoed by the break, too.
— David Lynch (@dmlynch) December 26, 2022
The proof of the pudding will be in the eating, of course, which is why our game against Leicester City on Friday will be so telling. Hopefully the manager now has enough time to work with Darwin Núñez on his finishing between now and then, given the extent to which the Uruguayan could have put us out of sight not only against Villa, but also against City in the League Cup. I am not at all worried about our agent of chaos, who has been involved in enough goals so far during his Liverpool career as to mean that he’s already proven his worth. That being said, we went out of the cup because of his profligacy in front of goal and could easily have allowed Villa back into the game given the number of chances that he missed. All told, I think he’s a brilliant player who is adding plenty to the side already, being damned because of comparisons to Erling Haaland. The title race is over for the Reds this season, but there’s still plenty to play for if he can start taking his chances.
Gakpo Will Offer An Alternative
At the start of the season, I, amongst many others, was worried that we had moved to adapt our style of play in order to accommodate Darwin Núñez. It appeared that we were playing in a more direct style, changing a tried and tested way of playing to make the most out of a strong, tall centre forward. It was never as dramatic as when we seemed to just lump it long in order to get Andy Carroll on the end of it, with Darwin being a much more talented player, but it concerned me for a number of reasons. Chief amongst these was the fact that we didn’t have anyone even remotely like him, so if he was injured or, as soon became the case, suspended, we’d have no one who could play the role that the team had adapted to accommodate. Step forward Cody Gakpo, who it appears the Reds are going to be bringing in from PSV Eindhoven for an initial fee of around £37 million. Standing at six foot four and lightning fast, he’s the perfect replacement for a missing Núñez.
Cody Gakpo’s creative numbers in the Eredivise this season.
– most assists in the league (12)
– most key passes (59)
– most assists per 90 (0.96)
– most shot creating actions per 90 (7.94)
– 2nd most crosses into the box (16)
— Bence Bocsák (@BenBocsak) December 27, 2022
I am quite sure that Jürgen Klopp will use him as more than just a replacement for the Uruguayan at times when he’s missing, but it certainly won’t harm what we’re trying to do to have another option that boasts similar qualities. Some have asked whether we really need another left sided attacker, given that Darwin, Diogo Jota and Luis Diaz all play there. In truth, I think Jota has been most impressive through the middle and we’ve seen enough of Diaz on the right to suggest that he might be used there to give Mo Salah a rest from time to time. Aside from anything else, they’re both out injured right now and we have no idea what state they’ll return to the team in. Having plenty of options in attack, which Gakpo provides, is exactly what the manager has always wanted. We also don’t know what Klopp will want to do with him; after all, we shouldn’t forget that Sadio Mané arrived at the club as a right winger and was converted to play on the left very successfully.
The Signing Could Become A Crucial Catalyst
Given the fact that we came within a whisker of a quadruple last season, we all seem to have forgotten that the club felt as though it was running on empty at around Christmas time. A 1 – 0 loss to Leicester City on the 28th of December was followed up by a 2 – 2 draw with Chelsea on the second of January, showing that the number of games we had to play was taking its toll. The signing of Luis Diaz not only provided us with an extra body, it was also a catalyst for improved performances across the board. In the wake of his arrival on the 30th of January, the Reds won every game they played, including success in the League Cup final. In fact, we only lost two matches for the rest of the season and one of those was the second leg of our Champions League game against Inter Milan, having won the first leg 2-0. It wasn’t just his skills that the Colombian provided, it was also the motivation that the rest of the team needed to take its performances up a level.
Gakpo-Nunez-Salah attacking trio is an enticing prospect for Jurgen Klopp, and just the statement he needs to make considering #LFC‘s desperate need for reinforcements. Gakpo addition could be the catalyst for a 2nd half push into top-four, or late surge into title picture…
— #AnthonyScouts🕵🏾♂️ (@antzhumbleent) December 26, 2022
Though we aren’t going to win the title this season and the League Cup is now no longer any of our business, if we were to make it past Real Madrid in the Champions League then you’d have to fancy us to make a real go of it. Should we defeat Wolverhampton Wanderers in the FA Cup then that will man that another Premier League team will be out, given that Man City and Chelsea as well as Brentford and West Ham play each other, in addition to Crystal Place versus Southampton and Manchester United and Everton going head to head. We also can’t be naive enough to think that a top four spot is a guarantee, given the fact that our form has been so inconsistent and we’re five points off the top four, albeit with a game in hand. United have two games in hand on Spurs, though, so we could be four points off it if we both win those matches. Gakpo might prove to be a brilliant signing in his own right, but more than anything else he could be a much needed boost at just the right time.