Even the most ardent Liverpool supporter who thinks that every single player is the best in their position in the world must have taken a beat when they saw the team sheet last night. Obviously the usual muppets completely lost their head, but I certainly noticed some normally level-headed people raise an eyebrow at the fact that Jordan Henderson, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah were on the bench rather than in the starting line-up. It was perhaps even more shocking to see who did make the eleven, with Xherdan Shaqiri starting his first Premier League game since the end of January, Adam Lallana asked to knit together attack and defence and Divock Origi told to lead the line. Given the nature of the match it’s not a shock that people were shocked at the team Jürgen Klopp picked, but at some point we all need to start trusting both the manager and his squad, given how well they’ve performed when called upon.
Tonight was prima facie evidence that while most fans like the IDEA of rotation, very few are ready for the practical implementation.
— Dan Kennett (@DanKennett) December 4, 2019
The Merseyside derby will always be the one that Liverpool supporters want to win more than any other, but there was certainly an extra bit of spice to it this season. We needed to win to put ourselves back to being eight points clear of Leicester City and eleven away from Manchester City, but we also had the opportunity to add to Everton’s relegation woes. That’s probably why so many people felt the desire for Klopp to go as strong as possible, which also helps to explain the extreme overreaction from some quarters when the actual team news came out. It felt like a huge match so most supporters wanted the huge names to be a part of it, but when you actually sit back and think about it the rotation made perfect sense. For starters, the manager made similar such changes in the exact same game week last year against Burnley, plus neither Salah nor Firmino have been playing very well. The manager, as always, knows better than us.
I Was Impressed With Shaqiri
I’ve liked Xherdan Shaqiri from the moment that we signed him. It was a signing that went largely without fanfare but it made sense to me, not only because of the price tag but also because of his obvious ability. You don’t sign for Bayern Munich and Inter Milan and catch the eye of Michael Edwards and Jürgen Klopp by being rubbish at football. He was Stoke City’s best player by some distance and was always going to be a decent squad player. I’ve been surprised at how little the manager has used him and was shocked to learn the stat about him not having started a Premier League game since the start of January, but in other ways it makes sense. He’s a player that fits into a specific system and if you’re not using that system then he seems like a bit of a square peg in a round hole. We did use the system last night and he looked brilliant in it. When you consider that he’s been out for so long, that’s commendable.
Also good to note that Xherdan Shaqiri one of only three #LFC players to cover more than 10km on the night. Milner (obviously) top, and then Wijnaldum.
Speaks volumes for Shaqiri’s fitness, conditioning and mentality I’d say, after so long without a significant appearance.
— Neil Jones (@neiljonesgoal) December 5, 2019
The Swiss international was always going to find his game time limited, but many would have predicted that he’d be a bad influence on the dressing room as a result based on the rumours about his past behaviour. Instead he’s behaved in an exemplary manner and I was delighted that he performed so well last night. He wasn’t always in the game but when he was turned to he got us out of trouble and took the pressure off the defence with neat little tricks and flicks. His work rate was the most impressive thing, considering he had the reputation of being a luxury player before his arrival. It speak volumes not only for his character but also for the manager’s ability to keep players happy that he was willing to come into the team from the cold and put in such a shift. He, perhaps more than any other player, is a brilliant example of the squad that Klopp’s got at his disposal and it’s time that we all started appreciated that more.
What Can You Say About Divock Origi?
If you’d have asked me in the summer I’d have said that we should sell Divock Origi. It’s not because I don’t like him or desperately wanted him off the books, more that I just don’t think we play in a way that suits his style and thought that his stock was never going to be higher. If we wanted decent money for him then the summer was our chance to get it. Once again, the manager knows so much more than me. I do think we’re weaker when he plays as something of a Sadio Mané impressionist, but when we change the shape to play to his strengths you can see what he offers. He held the ball up brilliantly, ran the channels to cause Everton’s defenders trouble and made himself busy whenever possible. Oh, and he scored two worldies to boot.
Imagine going into a derby without the world’s best goalkeeper, one of the world’s top centre halves & one of the world’s best defensive midfielders, then choosing to rest your European Cup-lifting captain & two of the world’s best forwards, yet still winning 5-2. Makes you smile pic.twitter.com/A5JQnoM4e7
— Neil Docking (@NeilDocking) December 5, 2019
It goes without saying that the decision not to sell him was an inspired one. When everyone else was worried about the drop off from Mo Salah to him, the Belgian just calmly took the ball around Jordan Pickford and slid it into an empty net before picking a long-ball from Dejan Lovren out of the sky with consummate ease before smashing the ball past the Everton goalkeeper’s tiny outstretched arms. His finishing is brilliant and he seems to love a goal that will be remembered forever. Whether it be against Barcelona, in the final of the Champions League or in a Merseyside derby, if you’re not going to talk about it for ages then Divock Origi doesn’t want to know. He’s still got room to improve, which is probably the most impressive thing about him.
Once again, though, the manager has made fools of most of us. He picked the team that he knew could do the job against the Blues, putting the final nail in the coffin of Marco Silva’s Everton career. He knows that Sadio Mané is arguably the best player on the planet right now, so he asked him to lead the attack and he dovetailed beautifully with Origi, Shaqiri and the rest. It’s time for us all to trust the German and his team so much more than we do.