Leicester City 1 – Liverpool 2: Match Review & Analysis

Isn’t it great to be back amongst the big time? I completely understand why everyone was concerned about Liverpool’s Champions League draw, given that even Red Star Belgrade have something about them that could concern us, but when all is said and done getting a tough draw is nothing compared to not getting any draw at all. For too long in recent times the club hasn’t even been involved in the competition, so the idea of welcoming the likes of Paris St. Germain and Napoli to Anfield is a lot more thrilling then the days when Northampton Town were a ‘formidable’ opposition. For supporters to be able to spend Thursday afternoon watching the draw and then Friday day talking about it before concentrating on a Premier League game against Leicester City on the Saturday is so much better than simply twiddling our thumbs during the week and not having anything to get overly excited about on the weekend. That this match feels as though it had so much riding on it shows just how far we’ve come under Jürgen Klopp.

Liverpool had only won their first three games of the campaign three times prior to this season, going on to finish eighth in 1993-1994, fourth in 1994-1995 and second in 2013-2014. We had never won our first four games. It’s entirely fair to say, then, that there was quite a lot riding on this match in terms of our desire to win the Premier League for the first time since it was formed in 1992. Given that it was the final game before the international break, there was also a fair amount of hope invested in it that we wouldn’t have to stew for a couple of weeks on a loss, instead being desperate to watch the Reds play again as soon as possible. The King Power Stadium is never a fun place to go, of course, with the supporters able to make it an intimidating place if they’re in the mood for it. There’s no way that they’d have been able to win the title back in 2015-2016 if not. Having sold Riyad Mahrez and lost Jamie Vardy to suspension, however, the Foxes were a less threatening prospect this time around. Weren’t they?

It Was A Braindead Second-Half From Liverpool

It’s a funny thing to be critical of a team that sit top of the league with twelve points out of a possible twelve after winning their first four games of the season, but Jürgen Klopp needs to spend the international break wondering what is happening to his team during the second-half of matches. Against Brighton & Hove Albion we were really good in the first forty-five minutes and, despite the critical view of the match after the fact, deserved to be two or three goals up before the interval. After the break, however, you’d have thought that we had been lucky to stay in the game, such was the extent that we seemed to decide to just try to see the match out rather than continue taking the fight to the away side.

That was as nothing when compared to the second-half today, however. Defensively we coped quite well with everything that Leicester had to throw at us, with the Foxes failing to register a shot on target after the goal. Yet pretty much everywhere else on the pitch we were very, very poor. Too many players had sloppy games today, with those that are usually reliable like Virgil van Dijk and Roberto Firmino being amongst the worst culprits. The thing that frustrated me most wasn’t the poor play, which can happen sometimes, but the idiotic decision making that kept putting us under pressure. With just minutes left of the second-half, for example, we pushed the centre-backs up and then took a short corner, before throwing a long ball in once they’d left. Idiotic in the extreme.

Alisson Needs To Learn And Fast

In my review of the match against Brighton I wrote about how I was worried that Alisson’s show-boating would make him a target for teams moving forward. The goalkeeper’s flick over the onrushing player last week earned him a standing ovation and gave people a laugh, but I was concerned that it would make him over-confident and encourage opposition attacks to go for him more often. Obviously I didn’t expect to be proven correct on the matter quite so quickly, but I knew something like today would happen sooner rather than later. Let me be absolutely clear, as I wrote last week, it’s a necessary part of his game. His distribution and the fact that he’s good with his feet is why we signed him and taking that out of his game would remove a big part of what makes him such a good addition to the squad.

My problem, therefore, isn’t that he does that sort of thing, it’s when he does it. Today was the perfect example of what can happen when it goes wrong and it went very, very wrong. The initial ball from Jordan Henderson to van Dijk wasn’t great, whilst the ball from the Dutchman back to the goalkeeper was absolutely dreadful; especially when you consider that he had more than enough time to just get rid of it or even play it off to the left where Andy Robertson was in acres of space. Yet even after those mistakes, there really was no reason whatsoever for the Brazilian to mess around with it on his own goal line. He had plenty of time to just get rid of it or put it out for a throw-in, but instead he chose to mess around needlessly and got caught out. He needs to learn sooner rather than later that this league is an unforgiving one and there’s nothing wrong with people pointing out as much.

Three Points The Crucial Thing

Whilst the second-half wasn’t a fun thing for Liverpool fans to watch, the most important thing is that we emerged from the game with all three points. That is exactly the sort of thing that we watched Manchester United do time and again when they were at their most dominant during the nineties; play absolutely abysmally but walk away with a win. If we’re serious about challenging Manchester City for the Premier League title then we need to be able to scrap out it even when we’re not at our best. Being two points up on them might not seem like a lot right now, especially as it’s difficult to envisage them dropping points to Newcastle at home, but it could be absolutely crucial further down the line. Letting them catch up with us by dropping points today would have been a real blow.

I mentioned in my introduction that the King Power isn’t an easy place to go and you saw today what happens when the crowd gets their tail up and believes that there’s something for the team out of the match. We didn’t help ourselves, playing poorly and encouraging them at times with the idiotic decisions we made that I mentioned before, but in the end we ground out the result that keeps us on 100% four games into the season. It has felt as though Jürgen Klopp has treated these games a little bit like an extended pre-season and perhaps that’s why the players have looked a little bit leggy at times. They can now go away for a couple of weeks with their international teammates and know that they must do better when they return, but for now they’ve done exactly what needs to be done.

Firmino Doesn’t Look Right

I began my analysis of the game by saying that it didn’t feel right to be critical of a side that has won its first four games of the season, so it’s only right that I say a similar thing in my words about Roberto Firmino. I love the Brazilian. I think when people say that Liverpool need a ‘proper striker’ that they’re idiots and I don’t care if one of the people saying that is John Barnes. The amount he adds to this team cannot be understated, from holding the ball up to bring other players into the game to distracting defenders in order to give the likes of Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah space, he’s a wonderful player that I wouldn’t swap for any other striker in the league. Just like with Alisson, though, that doesn’t mean that he’s immune from criticism.

Today the Brazilian looked as though he had cement in his football boots, such was the poorness of his touch and the extent to which he looked like he was pulling a caravan behind him at times. Some will point to the goal that he scored and suggest that means that he’s essentially immune from criticism, but I don’t buy into that. His passing wasn’t good at all and too often we ended up on the back foot because he either made the wrong choice or else simply gave the ball away. There’s an extent to which it makes sense, of course, given that he hasn’t really had a pre-season to speak of. It’s logical that he will take longer to get back into the swing of things and he’s still such an asset to the club, as his ultimately winning goal proved. Even so, the sooner he gets back to his best the happier we’ll all be.

Photo-Works / Bigstock.com

He’s not the only one of the front players that hasn’t clicked so far this season, of course. Mohamed Salah definitely looks as though the business he’s currently experiencing with the Egyptian Football Association is playing on his mind. His miss in the first-half was an absolute howler, given that he had all of the net to aim for and would have scored an almost certain goal, that he dragged it wide would have been unforgivable against a different side or if the march had ended in a draw. That his own country’s FA appear to have threatened his mother shouldn’t be ignored, though, and nor should the fact that he missed a few sitters at the start of last season but still went on to win the Golden Boot. The good thing for the Reds this time around is that he might be rivalled for it by Sadio Mané.

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