Let’s be honest, there was a real chance this game could have been a bit of a dead rubber fixture. All the signs pointed that way. We’ve already avenged the 6-1 loss we endured at the hands of Stoke at The Britannia last season by winning 1-0 there at the start of this campaign. Added to that we’ve had to play them three times before yesterday and no one wants to have to watch Stoke four times in a season. Not even Stoke fans.
Added to that is the situation in the league. Manchester United are probably the highest placed team that we can realistically catch before we run out of fixtures and they were eight points clear of us heading into this weekend. Then, of course, there’s the Dortmund factor. With many of our players running themselves into the ground out in Germany on Thursday night and the return leg at Anfield still to come, it would have been understandable if the players had played within themselves a little bit.
It even seemed as if Jürgen Klopp wasn’t sure how to play it. There was rotation, but not of the entire team. Can dropped out due to suspension and Henderson is almost certainly out for the rest of the season, but there were other changes that not everyone expected. The use of Sheyi Ojo and Kevin Stewart suggested that the manager wanted to have a look at the prospects he’s got available even if it meant three points dropped.
Klopp has decided to rest the top players but accidentally has played our best team instead.
— Paul (@Kolology) April 10, 2016
The players had other ideas, though. Not for them the notion of it being an end-of-season waste of time. Many of them, such as Joe Allen, have a Liverpool future to play for. Others, like Daniel Sturridge, have points to prove to all sorts of people, not least of all himself. There was also the fact that it was Stoke, a traditionally physical team the likes of which the more lightweight members of the Liverpool squad have failed to deal with at times this season.
Maybe the Stoke lads had their flip-flops on. Perhaps they’re already at the beach and proud of what they’ve achieved this season, with the more exotic players wondering whether there’ll be someone more continental coming in to take over from Mark Hughes during the summer. Yes they were two points clear of us going into the game but finishing ahead of us seemed unlikely so maybe they took it easy. It’s definitely fair to say that their goalkeeper wasn’t exactly Peter Schmeichel at his best.
Whether they were at the races or not, it was a brilliant performance from Liverpool. The team seems to have developed a real shape of late, understanding when to press and when to wait. It’s likely that the recent sojourn to Tenerife aided some of the lads with understanding what Klopp wants from them. It probably helped Klopp understand what he can get from his players, too. There’s still some doubt about whether the constant running that they manage is doable long-term next season, but these players seem to be getting fitter every week and the fact that they embarrassed Stoke City in a game that was supposed to have no meaning to it will certainly give the manager food for thought when he’s looking at our transfer options in the summer. Long may the lads we don’t seem to want produce performances that make us ask, ‘Why not?’
I Believe The Children Are Our Future
Teach them well and let them lead the way. Show them all the beauty they possess inside. Give them a sense of pride… It may not have the makings of a song the Kop can deliver with any real sense of gusto, but Michael Masser and Linda Creed knew what they were talking about. Jürgen Klopp knows it, too.
If Jordon Ibe was meant to be the new Raheem Sterling, what does that make Sheyi Ojo? And why do young players always have to be ‘the new’ anybody? Ibe was a player with a lot of promise, but only the most foolish would have said he was an obvious replacement for Sterling in the long-run. He lacks the former’s killer instinct and range of passing, to say nothing of the arrogance the one has and the other doesn’t.
Ojo, though, has arrogance coming out of his every pore. He’s an incredible talent that showed with his goal against Exeter City that he knows where the back of the net is. There’s no question that he’s got ability, but has he got what it takes to make it in the Premier League? He couldn’t get a game at Wolverhampton Wanderers recently, suggesting that perhaps he still has a little bit of growing up to do.
It certainly looked that way at times in the first half. For all that he has evidently got brilliant pace and is a tricky player, he seemed somewhat overwhelmed by the speed of the game and the strength of the opposition. At times he went down too easily, expecting Mark Clattenburg to give something whilst the referee just looked as if he wanted to say ‘welcome to the big leagues, kid’.
Then all of a sudden he just seemed to get it. His movement on the left flank was too much for the Stoke players to cope with and both the burst into the box and the cross for Sturridge’s goal were superb. For all that Jordon Ibe has promised, Ojo delivered more in 45 minutes than the other Liverpool youngster has in significantly more pitch time.
Then there’s Divock Origi. When the young Frenchman was signed in the summer of 2014 he offered a lot of promise. Despite what the majority of people might claim, no one but the most avid follower of Ligue 1 had seen anything of him. He had the essence of a young player we’d sign but never see much of, a la, Joao Carlos Teixeira.
Such is the nature of football fans on Twitter, though, that when things were going badly for us in the final third plenty of Liverpool supporters were saying we needed to get him ASAP, cancelling the loan back to Lille that had allowed us to sign him in the first place. Then, when he was playing poorly for the French side, plenty of people said he didn’t deserve to get a game for the Reds based on his form in France.
— Sven Claes (@svenclaes) April 10, 2016
When he eventually did play for Liverpool but didn’t immediately score a hat-trick every game, plenty were keen to write him off completely. Never mind that he’s so young. Who cares that he’s moved from France to England? Does it matter that the Premier League is so much faster than football pretty much everywhere else? The lad was seen as complete and utter bobbins after virtually no time at all.
The people who slagged him off back then will now fit into one of either two categories: The ones pretending they never said anything and the ones who’ll say he’s terrible until he’s no longer at the club.
Origi is the perfect storm of size, strength and speed. This kid could develop into something really special. #LFC
— Matt Topolski (@MattTopolski) April 10, 2016
For everyone else there’s the pleasure of watching him grow into a great player, with his two goals against Stoke different in type but excellent in execution. Jürgen Klopp admitted recently that he told Origi to bulk up and the lad has put on so much muscle that he’s gone up a shirt size. His hard work is beginning to pay off.
A special mention should also go out to Daniel Sturridge. The striker, who has come in for a degree of criticism recently, was the first to stand up and applaud Origi’s goal versus Dortmund in the week and he spent the entire 90 minutes talking both Origi and Ojo through their game. He helped them out, taking the pressure off them and giving them tips and hints of how to improve their game. If Origi, particularly, takes on board what Sturridge is saying then he could develop into a genuinely world-class talent in the years to come.
Kevin Stewart has completed 90% of his passes so far this afternoon. pic.twitter.com/3U2o6TvjDQ
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) April 10, 2016
Finally there’s Kevin Stewart. Not exactly a kid any more, but still young and inexperienced enough to be mentioned in the same breath as Origi and Ojo. He took his time to settle into the game but once he had done he coped very well with the more combative side of the game. The best thing I can say about him is that from a distance he had the body shape and movement that reminded me of Lucas Leiva. If he goes on to be half the defensive midfielder for Liverpool that Lucas proved to be then once again he could save Klopp venturing into the transfer market.
Speaking of transfers, is it finally time that we put to bed the notion that the famed transfer committee was a waste of space? Firmino, Origi, Sakho, Can and Moreno are all rumoured to be players that were pushed by the committee and accepted by Brendan Rodgers. All of them have come on leaps and bounds under the management of the Northern Irishman’s replacement.
That’s not intended to be a slight on Rodgers, of course. More indicative of the fact that when the players have been allowed time to settle they offer more to the team than they did when they first arrived. That Klopp is keen to allow the committee to present him with names and he’ll let them move forward on the better options is perhaps a sign that he knows what they’re able to being to the table.
The majority of top teams have some form of ‘transfer committee’, of course. It’s just that Liverpool appears to be the only one that has given it a name, something that can only be seen as a mistake in this day and age of wanting to assign blame when things don’t work out. Not every player reported to have been recommended by the committee has been a complete success and it goes without saying that a routine win against a disinterested Stoke side doesn’t prove anything to anybody. But perhaps we can now stop looking at the committee as something that’s caused problems and accept that it might just be able to find the solutions.