It must have been tricky for Jürgen Klopp to decide what to do about this EFL Cup match. The manager had seen Philippe Coutinho get stretchered off at Anfield at the weekend, just a day after Daniel Sturridge had been ruled out with a minor injury. Roberto Firmino then limped off towards the end and joined Adam Lallana in the injury room, with Danny Ings already out for the long-term.
Interesting to see both Can & Gini starting. Leeds are no mugs so being too under-strength could’ve been an error. Hope Woodburn features.
— Henry Jackson (@HenryJackson87) November 29, 2016
On the one hand he must have had a look at his injury list and realised that any further losses could be catastrophic to our season at such a crucial time. On the other hand a place in the semi-finals beckoned if we could get past lower league opposition. So what did he decide to do? And how did it pan out for him? I’ve had a look back at the key moments from yesterday’s game.
A Mixed Side Struggled
I was impressed by Leeds last night. Garry Monk chose to put out a young side and asked them to be brave and they responded well. They disrupted Liverpool’s rhythm and looked dangerous on the counter-attack, perhaps giving future sides that will come to Anfield a blueprint for how to cause us trouble. Though they sat deep and ‘parked the bus’ at times, their pace in attack nearly caught us out on more than one occasion.
Having said that, I thought Liverpool gave a display that faithfully reflected the team that the manager sent onto the pitch; which is to say it looked like a group of lads who don’t play together very often. I was surprised to see both Gini Wijnaldum and Emre Can starting the game, though I can understand Klopp’s desire to add a bit more experience to the middle of the park against a talented Leeds team. Yet it was the more experience players rather than the youngsters who under-performed.
Thought Leeds came an had a go as well to be fair. Big physical team, they’ll be there or there abouts in the champ end of the season.
— Stephen Evans (@StephenEvans75) November 29, 2016
In the game against Burnley – the only match we’ve lost so far this season I might add – there was a distinct lack of patience from the Liverpool side. Coutinho in particular was guilty of taking potshots from distance and what has been impressive about us since then is the first team’s willingness and desire to wait for opportunities to present themselves rather than trying to force the issue.
It’s clear from last night’s display that the likes of Alberto Moreno and Ragnar Klavan haven’t read that memo. Both of the defenders decided to have shots from distance, with the centre-back’s effort getting closer to the corner flag than the goal. It was embarrassing and frustrating to watch, especially as players with less experience such as Ovie Ejaria and Trent Alexander Arnold were doing their best to look like genuine first XI prospects.
This is a tough watch. Main concern is extra time and injuries. Reds working good positions but not shooting, then taking daft potshots
— Paul Tomkins (@paul_tomkins) November 29, 2016
I was really impressed with Ejaria, particularly in the first-half. He ran out of steam as the match went on but that’s to be expected from a young lad. In the opening period he showed some lovely movement, some excellent touches and great vision. There was one moment in particular when he let the ball run across his body and took a touch that took him past two players and opened the pitch up in front of him. He’s got a long way to go before he’s likely to be considered first-team material on a regular basis, but I thought his performance deserved a mention on a night when other youngsters stole the headlines.
Stepping Up In Coutinho’s Absence
The news that Coutinho will be out until the new year meant that this match was an opportunity for someone to step up and make themselves known to the manager. I thought it was very interesting that Gini Wijnaldum appeared to be playing on the lefthand side of the front three, the Coutinho-role if you like. I’m not sure he did enough for me in that position to play there in the future, but it might take him a couple of games to get used to what’s expected of him. Klopp may feel he can get him to adapt to the role just as Jordan Henderson and Adam Lallana have learnt new tricks this season.
I know he won the penalty against Sunderland but Mane hasn’t looked at the races since the international break.
— Sam McGuire (@SamMcGuire90) November 29, 2016
The main problem that the manager’s got is that the players that excelled last night either aren’t ready to step up to the first-team on a regular basis or else don’t play in a position that will help out in Coutinho’s absence. Ejaria was very good but I wouldn’t fancy asking him to play 90 minutes against Everton, for example. Equally Kevin Stewart only really made one mistake in the game and played some lovely passes, but you’re hardly going to put him in in place of Jordan Henderson who has been excellent so far this campaign.
Even if Roberto Firmino is fine and Adam Lallana returns to the starting line-up sooner rather than later, December is a very busy month and we’re still looking a bit light in the attacking midfield area. Divock Origi once again showed that he’s ready to do the business in the final third, so it may not be too much of a nightmare if Sturridge is slow to return from his muscle injury. Yet Klopp must be at least toying with the idea of dipping into the transfer market in January. That is especially the case with Mané starting to look a bit tired and about to head off to the African Cup of Nations.
Youth Talent On The Rise
It seems ridiculous now, but there were many questions raised over Jürgen Klopp’s transfer policy back in the summer. Why hadn’t he signed a left-back? Could we not have made more effort to sign Mario Götze? Was he really going to leave himself with no right-back cover?
Since then James Milner has gone on to be the best left-back in the country, Sadio Mané made a better first impression than Götze ever could and Nathaniel Clyne has looked to be almost indestructible. Even more importantly, though, Trent Alexander-Arnold has shown exactly why the manager decided to show faith in him rather than dip into his transfer kitty.
The last time Liverpool played Leeds back in 2009 , Alexander Arnold was a mascot for Liverpool , Now he’s in the starting XI pic.twitter.com/3APBh0fIsD
— LFC Hub (@Lfc_Hub) November 29, 2016
the youngster could have been sent off in the match against Spurs in the previous round, perhaps being given the benefit of the doubt by the match referee. He was otherwise quite impressive in that game and took it to the next level in the match against Leeds. He defended well, passed the ball intelligently and his cross for Divock Origi’s opening goal was excellent. If Clyne does get an injury in the coming weeks then I won’t be at all bothered to see TAA starting games and that’s the biggest compliment I can give him.
Woodburn Stole The Show
Of course no report from last night’s game would be complete without a mention of Ben Woodburn. The 17-year-old has been something of a closely guarded secret at Anfield, with his performances in some pre-season games catching the eye and getting tongues wagging. Jürgen Klopp’s an intelligent guy, though, so he immediately dropped him back down to the Under-23s to take him out of the spotlight and remove any pressure from his shoulders.
It’s safe to say that the spotlight is very much back on him now.
The striker’s 81st minute goal made him the youngest goalscorer in the club’s history, beating Michael Owen by 100 days. It was a really well taken goal, too; composing himself well before smashing the ball into the back of the net. In his post-match press conference the manager asked journalists not to hype him up too much and merely to write that he scored the goal, but that was never likely to work in this day and age.
A week after Steven Gerrard retires, a 17 year old boy who could really be something special, scores at Anfield. The wheel keeps turning.
— Simon Clancy (@SiClancy) November 29, 2016
When Steven Gerrard made his Anfield debut against Blackburn Rovers people were asking who he was as his name wasn’t on the back of the programme. The same was true of Woodburn last night, but plenty of people already knew about the prodigious talent we’ve got on our books. The youngster wasn’t even born the last time Everton won a game at Anfield, to say nothing of the last time they won a trophy, so it’s no surprise that his name is all over the internet this morning.
It’s appropriate that a player born at the end of the 1990s scored the final goal of a game in which Leeds fans seemed to determined to crack out a songbook from about 20 years ago. ‘Stand up if you hate Man U’, ‘You’re shit, ahhh’ to the goalkeeper and ‘Where’s your famous atmosphere’ were all sung with gusto by the travelling Whites. Thankfully the Kop were more interested in singing about Liverpool than slagging off our oldest rivals; something that Man United fans might want to think about the next time they play Bournemouth on a Sunday and sing about us.
Ben Woodburn makes history!
At 17 years & 45 days, he is Liverpool’s youngest ever goalscorer.
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) November 29, 2016
The match left a lot to be desired at numerous points and Liverpool’s German manager will hope that it’s just a slight dip in performance levels due to the many changes he made rather than the beginnings of a slump that could derail our season. Yet at a time when it’s so easy to be cynical about events on the football pitch a 17-year-old scored at the Kop end on his debut, living the dreams of so many Reds’ fans. What’s not to love about that?