Is there are more frustrating phrase in football that ‘typical Liverpool’? I’ve been thinking about that all the time since reading Andrew Beasley’s excellent takedown of the matter from last Saturday. The problem with those sorts of phrases is that they’re never ‘wrong’. They’re the ultimate examples of confirmation bias, with the people that use them happy to say “I told you so” when Liverpool do drop points against poorer sides but never having to admit that they were wrong when we don’t. Ahead of the game against West Ham we had fifty-four points from twenty-seven games, or pretty much bang on two points-per-game. Who have we taken those points from, exactly, if it’s ‘typical’ of us to drop points to the weaker sides? It’s entirely fair to say that we should’ve done better at home against the likes of Everton, Burnley and West Brom, but to refuse to put any context into those results is only painting half the picture.
Little nervous for West Ham, would be classic Liverpool to lose after a performance like Porto
— KD🇩🇪x🏴 (@ElectricEmre) February 21, 2018
In the Merseyside Derby we absolutely battered Everton, with the Blues needing a weak refereeing decision to snatch a point that not even Sam Allardyce will have thought that they deserved. Another refereeing decision took three points – and a first goal for the club – away from us when West Brom visited, whilst Burnley took a point from visits to Manchester United and Tottenham and left Stamford Bridge with a win. Context, you see, is key. The Reds went into this game on the back of a genuinely phenomenal performance in Porto, notching up a British record away from home in the Champions League. That, combined with the length of time that the players had off in Marbella during the FA Cup weekend, led more than a few people to feel that dropping points to West Ham would be another ‘typical’ Liverpool result. It was always going to be a tough battle, given that David Moyes’s men are having to scrap for every point to avoid being dragged into the relegation battle. So what were the major talking points?
One-Hundred And Counting
One thing that has been ‘typical’ this season is Liverpool’s ability to put the ball into the back of the next. With ten games left to go, Jürgen Klopp’s side have scored one-hundred and three goals. Sixty-five of them have come in the league, meaning that if we’re averaging 2.3 goals per game. Sufficed to say, then, that this side knows how to score. As I suggested in my intro, there were more than a few people concerned that we wouldn’t get the job done today, that we’d stumble as we ‘always do’. Any concerns on that front were removed after twenty-nine minutes when Emre Can found the back of the net from a corner. Weird, considering Liverpool are so rubbish at corners. Yet find the back of the net he did and from that moment on the result never really felt as though it was in doubt. Perhaps that’s at least slightly because of David Moyes’s rather terrible record at Anfield.
0 – David Moyes has never won against Liverpool at Anfield in all competitions as a manager (D7 L7), failing to win with Everton, Man Utd and Sunderland. Hoodoo. pic.twitter.com/butWPGu8o0
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 24, 2018
Fourteen games with three different clubs and the Scot has never won; though you don’t need to win things to be a winner, of course. It helped Liverpool’s cause that his West Ham side was truly quite dire at the back, with Pablo Zabaleta and Patrice Evra looking their ages as they struggled to deal with the pace of Liverpool’s front men. It was ironic that our opener came from a set-piece, considering that’s one thing that you think both the Hammers and Moyes would be good at coping with. The other goals were generally well-worked, however, and if we’d have put six or seven past them then it wouldn’t have been flattering. This match ended in the same scoreline that we notched up at their place, but this was a far more comfortable performance.
Mohamed Salah remains a stunningly good player. Though he’s getting plenty of recognition in recent times, it’s interesting that he’s now scored just eight fewer league goals than Luis Suarez managed in 2013-2014 without quite the same sort of celebration around him. Considering the Uruguayan didn’t score in either the League Cup or the FA Cup and we didn’t have European competition that season, it means Salah has scored the same number of times in all competitions as Suarez managed. Perhaps the most important thing is that many felt, incorrectly, that Liverpool were a one-man-team with Suarez that year. There’s no similar criticism this time around, thanks to the goalscoring exploits of both Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino. Teams might be able to deal with one of them, but they can’t nullify all three.
Joel Matip Is An Enigma
It’s easy to see both why some people really rate Joel Matip and others definitely don’t. The defender can do something brilliant and something appalling in the same move of football. There was a moment towards the end of the first-half when he allowed Marco Arnautovic to just glide past him with putting any pressure on him. He then won the ball back off him before delaying his clearance to the point that he ended up being forced to put it out for a throw-in. It was his Liverpool career in a neat little package; so chilled out that he’s practically horizontal but without the ability to grant him the right to be that relaxed.
What happened to the Joel Matip we signed from Schalke? One of the best CBs in Bundesliga. 😐
— AB (@abhinav757) February 24, 2018
When we were rumoured to be preparing a big money bid for Virgil van Dijk the likes of Jamie Carragher said that his signing alone wouldn’t sort out of problems. To an extent they were right, of course. One player alone doesn’t mean that you’ll suddenly never concede again. Yet the reality is that the Dutchman does paper over a lot of the cracks in Liverpool’s defence thanks to his ability to calm things down, organise and communicate. Yet even he can’t do too much about the erratic style of Matip’s defending. It’s not that the Cameroonian is uniformly awful, which would be easier to cope with. It’s that he’s just not consistent enough and now looks every inch the weak-link in our backline. Dejan Lovren has his critics, but I’m so much more confident with him partnering van Dijk and hope that’s the plan for the rest of the season.
Robertson Is Getting Better And Better
I don’t think many people were blown away by the signing of Andy Robertson in the summer. The Scot had a decent enough season with Hull City last year but still ended up seeing his team get relegated, so it’s not as if there would have been scouts all over the country lining up for his signature. Given that Manchester City went out and spent just shy of £52 million on Benjamin Mendy and nearly £46 million on Kyle Walker, you’d be forgiven for thinking that full-back is the most important slot on the pitch. Yet Jürgen Klopp realised that that is very much not the case and that bringing in a decent player and training him to become a better one is about the most that you need to do for that position.
Andy Robertson has been outstanding today. Another terrific cross for Mane to tap in. 4-1. Reds up to 2nd for now.
— Attack of the Kop (@AttackoftheKop) February 24, 2018
Despite being ready to drive Alberto Moreno to his next club myself in the summer, I was impressed with the Spaniard’s improvement at the start of the season. Despite some people wondering ‘what Robertson needed to do get a game’, I could completely see the logic of letting the left-back acclimatise gently over the first few months of his career. After all, Moreno was playing well and Klopp asks very specific things from his footballers that takes time to understand. Why rush the Scot into the team when he wasn’t ready and maybe destroy his confidence? It’s also fair to say that the Anfield crowd has become an unforgiving one.
The manager will feel that his decision making was bang on the money, given that Robertson has been close to flawless since he came into the side. His crossing went a bit awry against Tottenham the other week but he’s re-found it in recent times. The moment in the first-half when he was looking for a pass, couldn’t see one on and so just decided to dance through the West Ham midfield was delightful. City spent close to £100 million on two full-backs and today Liverpool played with a £10 million left-back and a right-back that came up through the Academy. Klopp has once again shown that you don’t need to spend fortunes in order to improve, despite what all of the naysayers will have you believe.
Second Should Be Our Target
Manchester United could well beat Chelsea tomorrow and go back above us in the Premier League. Yet as things currently stand we’re second and have the ability to finish the season there. If we beat them at Old Trafford, and I’m aware that’s a very big ‘if’, then we’ll be well-placed to come second for only the fourth time in the Premier League era. The last three times we’ve done so there’s been a massive drop-off afterwards, with the following season seeing us lose around twenty points off our total. I don’t think that will happen this time, however, with the manager building a team that looks as if it’s going places. Man City will head into the next campaign as favourites for the title once more, taking the pressure of us if we keep performing as well as we have been.
Since losing to Spurs at Wembley, Liverpool have taken 44 points from 19 league matches.
– Best rolling half season since game 24 2013/14 to game 4 2014/15.
– Only 4 points shy of best rolling half season in last 13 years (2nd half of 2013/14).
— Andrew Beasley (@BassTunedToRed) February 24, 2018
I absolutely think that the the priority should be finishing in the top four. That’s why if Manchester United beat Chelsea tomorrow I won’t be devastated, given that it will leave the London club four points behind us and put us in the driving seat for a Champions League berth. Yet I think we should absolutely be looking up rather than down and the manner in which we swept West Ham to one side today showed that we’re not messing around in our pursuit of the best finish we can muster. I wrote a piece this week about how Jürgen Klopp is doing as manager, mentioning the fact that there are still some people who have been asking questions about him. If we can end this season in second and going deep into Europe, there’s no question that those dissenting voices will have to remain silent moving forward. Today was a Hammer blow to those that are weirdly desperate to be negative.