Liverpool 1 – Brighton & Hove Albion 0: Match Review & Analysis

To some extent, it’s absolutely made that we’re think about the results of other teams after just three games of the season. Yet the reality is that Manchester City breaking the one hundred point mark last season means that any sign of weakness from Pep Guardiola’s side will be seized upon by the chasing pack. It wasn’t just the dropping of points by the Citizens that was interesting to see in the early kick-off, it was also the manner in which Wolverhampton Wanderers went about their business. Unlike so many other sides last season, the team that won the Championship with room to spare in the 2017-2018 campaign took the game to City at times, pressing them in midfield and having a clear game-plan to hit them on the counter as much as possible.

There was a huge slice of luck involved in the draw from Wolves’ point of view, of course. The goal was a handball and probably offside, plus both Sergio Agüero and Raheem Sterling rattled the goal-frame. Yet fortune is just as important as ability in football and they deserved to get a point for their bravery. It might still be incredibly early in the season, but the Reds went into this home match against Brighton knowing that the slip-up from City, in the middle of a run that everyone expected them to take 100% of the points from, meant that we could already get our noses in front of them. We put nine goals past Brighton across two games last term, including four in a mildly high pressure final match of the season. This was sure to be an interesting test, not only of the players but also the Anfield crowd. It felt like an important match because of the result from the Midlands, so how would everyone respond?

Teams Never Get A Minute Against Us

The opening goal was painted by the folks at BT Sport as a ‘mistake’ from Brighton, but I’m not sure that that gives our lads enough credit. James Milner, who I thought was otherwise quite poor with some of his tackling, jumped in to nick the ball off the defender and from that moment on it was all about Liverpool. The ball out to Mo Salah was inch perfect and he only needed to take a touch and then seemingly pass it into the back of the net. The point being, though, that Brighton thought they had a moment to themselves, a chance to pass it around at the back after getting a free-kick. They were obviously mistaken, with our number seven straight on to them and the rest is history.

It’s such a crucial part of how we play under Jürgen Klopp, never giving the opposition a second to relax into the game. The frustrating thing from Chris Hughton’s point of view is that it came at a moment when his side had quietened down the home crowd. The noise had abated and his team were handling our dominance easily enough. Then his defence decided to pass it around in a manner that played right into the hands of a team that prides itself on being able to harass the opposition at any given opportunity. It was a goal that Hughton’s opposition research team will likely be furious that they conceded, given that it was eminently predictable. The point from Liverpool’s point of view is that it demonstrated how ‘on it’ the team are at all minutes, constantly keeping an eye out for a moment of weakness they can exploit.

Teams Will Target Alisson

I love Alisson Becker. I’ll confess that in the summer, when we were linked with him for a then-world record fee, I wasn’t sure. I had only seen him in the World Cup and the Champions League and hadn’t seen him make a save of note during either of them, so I didn’t know enough about him to know whether he was worth that much money. Since he’s arrived, however, I’ve seen just how much of a calming influence he has over the defence, working with Virgil van Dijk to stop opposition attacks from being able to feel even remotely confident about getting on the scoresheet. His distribution is also fantastic, putting us on the front foot with some excellent passing. The only problem so far is that he’s been a little bit casual when in possession and he’s nearly been caught out a couple of times since his arrival.

He did it today, taking his time with the ball at a moment in the first-half and very nearly getting caught in the second. In the end he got a free-kick, but it will give opposition teams the encouragement to target him, especially if they’ve got fast lads playing in the final third. The question that Jürgen Klopp and his backroom staff will need to think about is whether you want to lose that calmness and passing ability in favour of not putting yourself under unnecessary pressure. He’s handled it perfectly well so far, but would you be wiling to bet that we last the entire season without getting caught out? It’s exactly the same thing that some supporters hounded Loris Karius for doing last season, with the German also nearly getting caught out on a number of occasions. If you want a ball-playing goalkeeper who is confident in possession then it’s the sort of thing that will happen from time-to-time. If he keeps keeping clean sheets then we’ll all adapt in time, I’m sure.

We’re Nine From Nine And Not At Our Best

Let’s be honest, we were quite poor today. There were a few nice moments and Brighton set up to frustrate us, but too many players simply weren’t at the races. On another day we come away with a draw and wouldn’t really have a lot to complain about. Yes, the referee helped the Seagulls out and my optimism from last week that I wouldn’t have to write about them much this season was short-lived, but even so we didn’t help ourselves. Too many players were sloppy in possession or lazy with their passes. Chris Hughton’s side allowed us to dominate but when they put us under pressure we didn’t look as comfortable as anyone would’ve liked. If you want to look at things from a negative viewpoint then you could say that we’ll drop points sooner rather than later, with today’s match likely to have given Claude Puel and his Leicester City team plenty of encouragement before we head there next week.

Being negative is eternally boring, however, so I’m not going to do that. I’m going to look at things from a positive point of view and say that if this were Manchester City, Manchester United or Chelsea then we’d all be saying that the signs were there for them to have a title-winning season. Taking all three points when you don’t play well is key to lifting silverware and it’s the sort of thing that United managed to an ever-increasingly frustrating level under Alex Ferguson. Grinding out results when you probably don’t deserve them is something that we’ve failed to do far too often over the years and is part of the reason that the Premier League title is yet to be added to our list of accolades. That’s why today’s result is one that I choose to feel positive rather than negative about. We weren’t at the races but we took the points. I also think other teams will be concerned about what will happen when our front three are all playing well at the same time.

The Front Three Will Cause Nightmares When They Click

Against West Ham United, Roberto Firmino looked like he was still hungover from the World Cup, appearing to my eyes to be a little bit leggy and like he’d done an extra training session that all of the other players on the morning of the match. Against Crystal Palace it was the turn of Mo Salah to be off-the-pace, with the ball bouncing off his shins and running away from him when this time last year he’d have gobbled up most of the chances he was presented with. This evening it was Sadio Mané who couldn’t get himself into the game, with his passing and his decision making being all over the show. At one point he literally booted the ball straight out of play despite being under no pressure at the time. I’m surprised that he lasted as long as he did, completely failing to be a cohesive part of the overall attacking unit.

Once again, though I’m choosing to be positive about it. I’m not concerned that they haven’t clicked yet because we’ve still been winning and we all know that they will do at some point. If I was an opposition defender right now I wouldn’t be happy about the fact that they haven’t been playing well but terrified about what will happen when they start doing. This is an attack that fired Liverpool to the Champions League final and fourth place in the league, so I’m not worried. It’s entirely understandable that opposition managers and defences are trying to figure out ways of stopping them from playing well. Plus, the reality is that only Firmino hasn’t got on the scoresheet yet this season, so even when they’re not firing completely they’re still finding the back of the net. Tonight’s match will hopefully be an anomaly rather than the norm. That should be exciting, not concerning.

More And More Teams Will Set Up Like Brighton

One quick shout out for the way that Brighton set up and took us on today. They were disciplined, organised and hard-working, giving other teams a blueprint for what to do when they come to Anfield. If they all work as hard as that then we might be in for more frustrating days, especially if referees continue to give them the leeway to handball at will and their goalkeepers to plough straight into our forwards without being punished for it.

Teams set up in a defensive manner against us last season, of course, but still got blown away. I’m not entirely convinced that they’ll all have the work rate that the Seagulls brought with them, meaning that we won’t have to be quite as concerned as we were today. That’s especially true if the front three click, as I’ve just mentioned. We’ve got ability in abundance and perhaps Jürgen Klopp made a mistake in sticking with the same team for this one. I hope to see the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri, Daniel Sturridge and Jordan Henderson get a start before too long.

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