Liverpool 3 – Huddersfield Town 0: Match Review & Analysis

I don’t think Liverpool played that badly against Tottenham Hotspur. I know that’s a bit of a mad shout considering that we lost 4-1 and I’m more than aware that some people will refer to me as an ‘apologist’, for some reason or another. Even so, I thought we played well but were let down by some genuinely dreadful defending and goalkeeping. You can have all the game plans you want, but if you gift a team four goals then there’s almost no difference said game plans will make. In spite of that, I wanted the manager to make sweeping changes ahead of kick-off, mainly because all of the mistakes we made were entirely predictable given the players that made them.

The simple truth is that we had reached the point ahead of kick-off when a win was vital. The manager decided to make tweaks rather than wholesale changes and, as a consequence, a loss would have seen him come under genuine pressure. The reverse of that, of course, is that the win might well mask some of the issues that we’ve got. Huddersfield Town didn’t have a shot on target, yet Simon Mignolet still contrived to look ludicrously dodgy. He was nearly caught in possession twice, something that Loris Karius’s critics said he should be bombed out for when he did it against Arsenal. So are Liverpool back to winning ways, or does the 3-0 scoreline flatter us a tad? It might be a bit of both…

A Game Of Two Halves

It’s a cliché, yes, but clichés exist because there’s a huge amount of truth in them. This was the archetypal game of two halves. For the first forty-five minutes, Liverpool were really poor. There were a number of reasons for that, not least of which was the disciplined performance from Huddersfield Town. The Terriers worked hard, shutting down Liverpool’s passing alleys and ensuring that we couldn’t put them under much pressure. They were aided and abetted by Kevin Friend, with the referee messing up the minute silence at the start of the match and never recovering, but Huddersfield worked hard in the first period of the match.

However hard the opposition worked, however, Liverpool didn’t make them work anywhere near hard enough in the first-half. Given that Jürgen Klopp has had a week on the training pitch with them and you would expect that the players would want to show more of a reaction after last week, yet there simply wasn’t one. Klopp’s side is at its best when it’s moving the ball quickly, so how on earth James Milner has managed to play in midfield for 90 minutes for two consecutive weeks is beyond me. He has absolutely no place in the centre of the park for Liverpool. He makes us look slow and ponderous and was genuinely woeful for the first-half. The only thing that stops me from saying he was terrible for the whole game was his corner for the goal.

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A three-nil win suggests that Liverpool were dominant, but in reality we didn’t really ask any questions of Huddersfield’s defence until the bizarrely awarded penalty towards the end of the first-half. With Milner on the pitch I think everyone was expecting him to take it, only for Mohammed Salah to step up. On the one hand that seems a bizarre decision, especially as our number eleven never looked confident. Yet on the other both Milner and Roberto Firmino have missed their last two penalties and Salah scored the biggest penalty in the history of Egyptian football in the last international break, so it’s not a decision that makes no sense whatsoever. Nevertheless we missed, leaving a team not exactly flooded with confidence having to find a way to bounce back.

Bounce back we did, but the question now is whether this result will help us turn a corner or merely plaster over some problems that are still very much in evidence. Despite starting really poorly, I though Ragnar Klavan had a good game in the end. His start can also be forgiven when you consider that he didn’t know he was going to be playing until five minutes before kick-off and he can’t be full of confidence after the manager chose to move three players around rather than play him against Spurs. Even with his recovery as the match wore on borne in mind, Liverpool’s defence looked far more dodgy than anyone should be happy with. In many ways, Klopp’s refusal to make changes combined with the really poor play prior to the goal actually means that this performance annoyed me more than the Spurs one did. Churlish after a win, perhaps, but there you.

This Was The Performance We Needed

Having said all of that, I think that today’s result was exactly the performance that Liverpool needed. So far this season we’ve had no fortune when we’ve played poorly. Anything other than a 100%, all-guns blazing performance has seen us lose or draw. Whether you’re talking about the likes of our 1-1 draw away to Newcastle or the disappointing 2-2 against Seville in the Champions League, we’ve watched today’s game several times and not seen the same result. There’s an argument, therefore, that a relatively poor performance with a regulation 3-0 win attached to it is exactly what the doctor ordered. You could even say that the Kop having to wait until the second-half was also helpful, such is the level to which supporters have been impatient against the ‘poorer’ sides so far this year.

We didn’t play well. We didn’t cut them open with the sort of incisive, killer football that we saw from the Reds in the match against Maribor less than two weeks ago. Yet what we did was stay solid at the back, keep probing moving forward and take our chances when we were presented with them. Isn’t that exactly what we’ve all been crying out for every single week? Yes, it was ‘only Huddersfield’, but it was ‘only’ Burnley and ‘only’ Watford, yet we didn’t get six points from those two matches. It wasn’t the sort of performance that makes you raring to head back to Anfield. As I said a moment ago, it actually left me feeling more depressed than the Spurs match because Im concerned about what exactly the manager learnt from that humiliation considering he didn’t make any major changes, but it was what we needed to see and will need to see again in the future.

Sturridge Scored, But He’s Passed His Best

Sometimes the mood you watch a match in can affect how you view it, so perhaps I was just in a bad place ahead of kick-off. Having said it was a poor match despite winning 3-0 and now attacking the first goalscorer, it’s difficult to view things any other way. Still, our centre-forward had a poor game other than the goal. Like Milner, I think it’s got to the point that Daniel Sturridge’s body is just too slow to be a major part of this Liverpool team. His mind is still sharp and he can still produce moments of wonder – with the goal being an obvious example – but I’m just not happy when I see his name on the team sheet any more. I think the entire front four looks worse off when the England striker is in the team and that’s a real shame.

Roberto Firmino is at his best when he’s in the middle and a huge part of his game goes missing when he’s pushed out wide. His interchanging with Mo Salah has been really good so far this season, but when the Egyptian also gets pushed wide then we lose some of that. Sturridge doesn’t have the pace to get on the end of through balls and today he had a midfield behind him that was far too slow to be able to join him when he held the ball up. It used to be that the team would be set-up to get the best of Sturridge, now it seems as though it’s all about accommodating him. He scored today and I’m desperately hoping that, like with the team itself, it helps him turn the corner. Sadly, though, I’m just not sure that’s what’s going to happen.

The Out-Of-Towners v Locals Debate Is A Nonsense

It has long been the case that local supporters are quick to blame out-of-towners for any degree of poor atmosphere inside Anfield. Look at the replies to a tweet from Liverpool or one of their partners, like Thomas Cook, advertising packages for supporters to come to Merseyside for a game and you’ll see what I mean. I can see why some people complain about it, too. Next to me on the Kop today there were four Norwegian blokes who spent the majority of the second-half chatting to each other. From seventy minutes onwards they stood there in their half-and-half scarves, chatting away to each other about what they’re going to do tonight. Two of them weren’t even looking at the pitch. It was one of the most frustrating experiences I’ve had at the match, having to listen to their inane conversation. Predictably enough, they then left the ground when 85 minutes was on the clock.

Everything I’ve just said was true, except for the fact that it wasn’t out-of-towners with half-and-half scarves, it was born-and-bred Scousers of about fifty years of age. Meanwhile, the Norwegian couple who were sat next to me sang all the way through the match, cheered and stayed until the final whistle. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure that there are some folk that aren’t from Liverpool that don’t get involved in creating an atmosphere, opting to simply enjoy the experience instead of becoming part of it. It’s also obvious that loads and loads of native Scousers work hard every week to make as much noise as possible.

Even so, it’s time to kill the natives-versus-out-of-towners debate once and for all. Some people rock up to Anfield and demand to be entertained without offering the team any vocal support, whilst others will get behind the players no matter what. Where those people are from is immaterial to the argument, so stop pretending otherwise.

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