Whichever way this game ended up going it was always going to be about Sunday. Win and the question will be ‘why didn’t you play like that in the Cup Final?’ Lose and it is inevitably because the lads are still recovering from the loss in the Cup Final.
Klopp on Capital One Cup Final defeat: “Falling down is okay in life; it is expected. But you have to get up and keep going forward.”
— paul joyce (@pjoyceexpress) March 2, 2016
Jurgen Klopp asked his players to show a response, to let people know that they’ve got enough about them to bounce back from a mistake and show the mental fortitude to not let losing out in the biggest game of their season so far to affect how they spend the rest of the campaign.
He got exactly the response he would have wanted.
Quick Out Of The Blocks
The best thing about Liverpool’s play yesterday was the speed with which they got into City’s face. They didn’t let the blue side of Manchester settle or get any rhythm going; a fact which was personified by Jon Flanagan’s crunching tackle on Raheem Sterling within the first minute or so.
Flanno’s main instruction is to go out and destroy Sterling at all costs. He’s probably heading the Terminator theme tune in his head.
— Dan .S. (@TheCarteI) March 2, 2016
If the whole episode was a little ‘after the Lord Mayor’s show’ for City then it was a chance to make amends for Liverpool. At Wembley the lads were perhaps guilty of showing Manuel Pellegrini’s side a little too much respect. Yes the Argentine got his tactics spot on by dropping his defensive line deep and asking the Reds to break them down, but even so we were too cautious, too slow.
At Anfield it was a different matter. It was a case of saying to City, ‘This is our yard and you’ll play by our rules’. It seemed obvious from early on that they weren’t up for the fight, that they felt their ability alone would be enough to see them through after a long week or so.
Real zip about Liverpool in that half. Hunting in packs, good movement and desire to regain possession. More of the same.
— AttackoftheKop (@AttackoftheKop) March 2, 2016
Instead Liverpool’s desire was what mattered the most. They had something to prove and they proved it. Whilst making the top four is still a pipe dream, the win means that we’re six points off City with eleven games still to play. If we’d lost we would have been twelve points adrift and the season would have come down to the Europa League, putting a huge amount of pressure on the game against the old enemy. We’ve avoided being put in that position by winning when it matters against the most expensively assembled squad in the history of football.
Scoring At The Right Time
If you’re the dominant team in a football match then there are two crucial times to score a goal. You need to do it either when you’re on top or when the opposition are starting to get a foothold in the game. Too often this season Liverpool have done neither.
For a while it felt as though ‘dominated the match but couldn’t score’ was a copy and paste review of virtually every match that the Reds were involved in. More often than not the same match would end in defeat for Liverpool, too.
Things could have gone wrong yesterday. Liverpool dominated once again for the majority of the first half, but they didn’t make their domination count and Manchester City began to get back into the game. They began to open us up at the back and had a couple of good chances. A team with a touch more mental fragility might have begun to feel the pressure and feel that, once again, it wasn’t their day.
Instead the Reds kept plugging away and asked questions of City whenever they got the chance. The goal came slightly against the run of play and completely out of nowhere. What it did do, though, was kill any thoughts the opposition might have had about getting back into the game.
For the first time this season, Liverpool are two goals ahead at home against a team who aren’t currently in the bottom 4 of the PL
— Andrew Beasley (@BassTunedToRed) March 2, 2016
To then keep turning the screw and get the second goal when we had the advantage was something we haven’t see Liverpool do virtually at all this season. It essentially killed the game off on the proviso that we didn’t do anything stupid to let City get back into the game before half-time…
Flanno’s The Manno
James Milner was excellent against his old club, arguably giving his best performance to date in a Red shirt. Kolo Toure was a colossus at the back, sweeping up virtually everything and refusing to give Sergio Aguero an inch.
But last night was Jon Flanagan’s match.
There was once a local Liverpool lad who many felt lacked the technical ability to make it at the highest level. He forged a career for the Reds by ensuring that, even if he wasn’t the best defender on the pitch, he gave his absolute all for the club and showed his passion at every opportunity. Manager after manager both relied on him and also made numerous attempts to replace him, with the player himself redoubling his efforts every time he felt his place was under threat from a new signing.
Great result & performance from LFC. The game was won with Flanno’s 1st tackle on you know who!
— Jamie Carragher (@Carra23) March 2, 2016
Jon Flanagan will probably never scale the heights that Jamie Carragher managed during his Liverpool career, but he offers similar traits to his former teammate. He is a local lad that provides a bit of local heart and passion. He isn’t the finest defender we’ve ever had, but what he lacks in ability he more than makes up for in the way he goes about playing his game. He also manages to concentrate for pretty much an entire match, rarely switching off or going to sleep when it matters the most.
Alberto Moreno is a braindead footballer. He is probably better than Flanagan in the final third and is also fitter and faster than his Scouse counterpart, but he has no brain inside his ridiculously coiffured Spanish head. He has no real sense of positioning, no particularly sensational ability to tackle and more often than not he relies on his pace to get him out of trouble. He’s not even that good in the final third.
.@jon_flan93 has made six interceptions so far tonight. More than any other player on the pitch… pic.twitter.com/dWH7o8L83g
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) March 2, 2016
Flanagan, on the other hand, is often in the right place at the right time precisely because his positioning is so good and reading of the game is so much better than the Spaniard’s. He may sometimes be found wanting technically but he is rarely found wanting in the guts and determination department.
Jordan Henderson said earlier in the week that Flanagan needs to be offered a new contract and very few people would disagree with that notion. Liverpool are lacking a Scouse heartbeat at the moment and he can provide it. He’s not as technically proficient as the likes of Nathaniel Clyne, but he’s the obvious choice as an immediate replacement for Moreno; a player that Carragher himself admits needs to be bombed out for the rest of the season.
Lallana Proves His Worth
The notion that the current crop of Liverpool players are ‘playing for their futures’ is a slightly ridiculous one. Football is, or at least should be, a meritocracy and the strength of the team’s squad means that if you don’t perform well enough then someone else will be there to replace you whilst you’re bending down to tie your shoelaces. Places are always playing for their future and the fact that Jurgen Klopp is using this time to assess his squad ahead of next season shouldn’t change that fact.
Adam Lallana is a player who has simultaneously managed to epitomise what our German manager expects from his players whilst also not being anywhere near good enough in the final third. His winning goal against Norwich aside, he hasn’t offered the sort of final third product that you would expect a £25 million player for Liverpool to offer.
I hate Lallana so much that if he scores or assists today I won’t Tweet for an entire week.
— Kloppholic (@Kloppholic) March 2, 2016
He’s the sort of player whose work rate impresses but whose final output depresses. The very epitome of a frustrating player that you constantly want to see more from. Against Manchester City we saw just what kind of things he can achieve when we get the ‘more’ we’ve been asking for.
His goal might have been more down to Joe Hart’s poor positioning than the former Southampton man’s stinging shot, but it was a goal that we needed at a time when we needed it and he saw the opportunity open up in front of himself so he took it. He was then a crucial figure in the making of the remaining two goals that we scored; goals that would arguably not have been forged without his involvement.
Only Klopp himself will know whether Adam Lallana will feature in his plans next season. He may still be too lightweight too often for the German maestro to seriously consider ways to get him into his first team. He could yet be shown the door alongside that other lightweight middleman who deserves more credit than he gets, Joe Allen. If he is still here next season, though, more games like this one against City will give Klopp pause for thought when he comes to write down his first choice eleven. The more players we’ve got putting pressure on the manager to pick them the better position we’ll be in, and that is to the benefit of everyone.