The visit of the league leaders offered Liverpool an opportunity to show what they are made of. The trip to The Etihad when Manchester City were league leaders saw Jurgen Klopp’s men run home 4-1 winners. Could a similar result be produced against Arsenal?
When the league computer ‘randomly’ threw up Liverpool going away to Stoke, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United, Everton, Spurs and Manchester City in their first seven away games there was a sense of foreboding around Anfield. When the Reds walked away with 12 points from 21 and only one loss, however, the mood brightened. Liverpool had already gone to all of the most difficult away grounds and now they all had to play us on our home turf.
The visit of Arsenal was a chance for the Red half of Merseyside to send a message out to all of those other teams: Come on over, you’re on a hiding to nothing. We’ll school you on how to play at home. With United coming hot on their heels on Sunday the Reds needed to make sure that message was loud and clear.
What we got was half a demonstration of the might we can show when we put our minds to it, half an example of the frailties we seem desperate to demonstrate time and time again. There was one very bad culprit at the back who might, *might* have been helped from a more settled defence, and there was also an unexpected hero up top. Three all was the final relieving, agonising scoreline. Here’s what I made of the game.
Fast Starts And Atmospheres
From his attempts to unite the players and the crowd after the West Brom match through to telling the press that he felt ‘lonely’ when he saw people leaving at the end of the Crystal Palace match, Jurgen Klopp has made no secret of his desire to see the return of Anfield’s famous atmosphere.
Tonight’s match will, one imagines, have taught him that the best way of guaranteeing a brilliant atmosphere at one of the most famous grounds in world football is to show the crowd a fast start filled with exciting, attacking football. No one will sit in silence if you’re showing them goals and attacks.
First time Liverpool have scored two goals in the first half at Anfield in the PL this season (and only third time in the PL in full games).
— Andrew Beasley (@BassTunedToRed) January 13, 2016
There are many things Liverpool have been doing this season, but showing the Kop fast, attacking starts isn’t one of them. Until and unless better players are brought in we’re not likely to see a repeat of the halcyon days of the 2013-2014 season, of course, but even so the fact that this Liverpool side had, before tonight, scored less goals than any other team in the club’s history at the same point in the season speaks volumes.
Klopp wants those fast starts, obviously. He’s completely aware of how much work he needs to do at Liverpool to get everyone pulling in the same direction. The frustration for him, one imagines, is not so much that Liverpool don’t know how to start quickly but that any attempts to do so are regularly and unfortunately sabotaged by the unit at the back, with one man in particular guilty far more often than he should be…
Contract Talks Leave An Open Goal
It feels like there’s not much left to be said about Simon Mignolet and the goalkeeper situation at Anfield. The recalling of Danny Ward from Aberdeen was a clear sign that Klopp hasn’t got a huge amount of faith in his number one options, with Adam Bogdan evidently being bombed out after his hideously poor performance against Exeter in the FA Cup last weekend.
But what of talk that Mignolet is going to be rewarded with a pay rise and a new five year contract? What does that say about Liverpool’s ambitions and the way in which they judge the goalkeeper’s position?
Should have thrown Mignolet’s new contract at him from a set piece – he’d never have gotten hold of it to sign #LFC
— Barry Spruce (@HytheBarry) January 13, 2016
Watching Simon Mignolet fail to save a daisy cutter shot at his near post was enough to make you roll your eyes and shake your head in disbelief. Watching a ball sail past him and into the net essentially direct from a corner – for Giroud’s touch made no real difference – was infuriating at best, hair-tearingly awful at worst.
For a team that doesn’t score many goals to have no real idea whether 1, 2 or 3 goals will be enough to win them the match must be upsetting and frustrating in equal measure. Of course he’ll say that the defence needs to give him more support, but there’s little they can do about a goalkeeper who seems to want to commit hari kari whenever he gets the chance to do so
When defending set pieces, Liverpool would be better off man marking Mignolet #LFC
— Stephen Martin (@StevePaulMartin) January 13, 2016
Mignolet’s greatest strength is apparently that he’s a good shot-stopper. That’s all well and good, but how does that help you out if the opposition know that all they need to do to get something out of the game is play it long and put a man on your ‘keeper? How often do the opposition actually seem to have a clear shot on his goal? Twice a match? Compare that to the number of free-kicks or corners we need to defend and you’ll understand why having a goalkeeper who’s worse with crosses than Dracula can be a bit of a problem.
The news reports suggested that the contract has been hashed out and it’s just ready for the Belgian’s goalkeeper. The idea of having to watch him in goal for Liverpool for another 5 years is enough to make me re-consider my allegiance. The only hope is that someone, somewhere, saw him against Arsenal and decided to put the contract straight into the shredder.
It’s completely understandable that people have asked questions about Roberto Firmino. One good performance against Manchester City was followed by a number of games in which he seemed like a passenger at best, a hindrance at worst.
And yet, and yet, and yet.
Unlike so many other players that have rocked up at Anfield and clearly been a waste of money, Firmino has demonstrated that he’s got a bit of class in him that will surely come through on a regular basis when he understands how the English game works.
Football fans might want imports to be able to settle immediately and be the player that they’ve shown themselves to be in whatever league they’ve been brought in from, but that rarely if ever happens. It takes time to adapt to your new surroundings, to understand how the league works, how the referees work, how your own teammates work for goodness sake.
Perhaps when a club pays a big fee for a player supporters expect him to be able to work miracles, but the ability to slip seamlessly into a team is a rare attribute that is almost never seen from players that have arrived from abroad.
Give imports time. Give imports time. Give imports time. Give imports time. Give imports time. Give imports time. Etc.
— Paul Tomkins (@paul_tomkins) January 13, 2016
Where Iago Aspas and Luis Alberto were clearly lightweight and never seemed as if they had what it would take to survive in the Premier League, Firmino has shown that he can produce some moments of sublime skill against some of the more difficult opponents he’s had to face.
Much as Mezut Ozil was invisible for the majority of his first season in the English top-flight before becoming the player of the season in this campaign, so it’s easy to imagine Roberto Firmino having much more of a regular influence over things when he’s been in the country for long enough to unpack his boxes.
It is almost certainly no surprise that his best performances have come against ball-playing teams who like to try and play football. Equally it is not a shock that he has been found wanting when the Reds have played teams that have no interest in playing a passing game and would sooner kick you rather than shake your hand.
A nice shot of Roberto Firmino’s opener #LFC pic.twitter.com/MokpV15FmL
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) January 13, 2016
There are never any guarantees in football and the blowing hot and cold player that we’ve seen in recent times might be the only player we ever see at Anfield. But it’s easy to imagine that the Brazilian will grow into life in England more and more as he adjusts to the style of play that is most prominent in this country.
The other thing that will aid the import is the fact that his manger will start to understand the game more and more too. As Jurgen Klopp’s understanding of the Premier League’s pitfalls and foibles grows so too will his ability to figure out how to get the best out of his players, including the lad who arrived from the Bundesliga a little before he did. If the two of them grow together then this Liverpool team could border on being unstoppable. As long as someone’s shredded that Mignolet contract…