The arrival of Hull City at Anfield was supposed to be a stern test of Liverpool’s burgeoning title credentials. I genuinely felt that it would be a huge test of Jürgen Klopp’s side, with the Tigers having come within seconds of earning a well-deserved point against Manchester United at The KC Stadium earlier in the season through sitting deep and defending well.
Klopp: “Don’t lose your nerve and shoot from 45 yards. You need to stay in the races in these kind of games.”
— James Pearce (@JamesPearceEcho) September 22, 2016
The Reds showed at Turf Moor how difficult they found it to face such a side, losing both the match and their composure when they went a goal down early on. This was supposed to be a game that tested the team’s resolve and the crowd’s patience, but it turned out to be anything but. Liverpool were dominant from the get go and Mike Phelan’s side had no answers. But how did the Reds pull off such a dominant display and what else can we take from the match?
These Reds Never Stop
We all knew the stories and soundbites when Klopp first arrived. ‘Heavy Metal Football’ was to be the order of the day and Scousers everywhere couldn’t say ‘geggenpressing’ enough times in one sentence when discussing what we would look like. Last season, however, the lack of fitness to the standard the German required combined with the number of games we had to play meant that we had to wait a bit longer than expected to see the style of football we were expecting.
There were flashes of it last season, of course, but the first-half against Hull on Saturday was perhaps Klopp’s football at its finest. When the Tigers played Arsenal last weekend the scoreline flattered the Gunners a little bit. The match was reasonably even until the sending off and even then Hull’s players refused to go gently into that good night; fighting for everything and making Arsenal play out of their skins for the victory.
Klopp: “The first half was how football should be!” 👏 pic.twitter.com/04F3zEmpTe
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) September 24, 2016
To suggest that Liverpool deserved their lead when it got to 1-0 would be to understate things a tad. The Reds were incredible, swarming all over Hull from the get go and never relenting. Throughout the game we were not only the better side but were so relentlesss that Hull must have been wondering what they’d done to upset us. We didn’t give them any time at all to settle or space to move out from their defence. Every time they looked up at least one player in Red was there, more often that not several of our lads.
The sending off might have made things easier for us but let’s not pretend that that scoreline would have been lower if it hadn’t have happened. Klopp’s tactics risk us being left open at the back but such is the work rate of our team there’s not much chance of that happening. Hull were pinned back for the entirety of the first-half and every time they looked up there was nowhere to go.
It’ll seem like small beer after a 5-1 win, but Liverpool made 17 final third recoveries today, the most since start of last season (1/2). pic.twitter.com/FH5dx3zgGV
— Andrew Beasley (@BassTunedToRed) September 24, 2016
Stronger tests than Hull are coming, of course. Our next home game is against Manchester United and as much as José Mourinho is a terrible person with no class and a desire to be an irritant as often as he can be, there’s nothing the self-proclaimed ‘Special One’ enjoys more than spoiling a party. That he is now the manager of our long-term rivals from up the East Lancs Road merely serves to add a little extra spice to proceedings. If Hull were a test of our ability to beat teams who plan to ‘park the bus’ then Liverpool passed that test with flying colours.
Klopp’s Made Fools Of Us All
Let’s be brutally honest: When the transfer window closed we were all disappointed that the manager had opted against signing couple of players for the positions that we seemed weak in. Defensive-midfield was not covered by an out-and-out ‘specialist’, our midfield looked a tad light in the centre and our only left-backs were Alberto Moreno and a 30-year-old midfielder whose change of pace was from slow to stop.
Then the window ‘slammed shut’ and we were left with what we had. In the match against Burnley Jordan Henderson was played as our DM and it was an unmitigated disaster. Those that dislike the captain because he’s not Steven Gerrard, basically, were rubbing their hands with glee and calling time on his Liverpool career. More than a few people were keen to never seem him in that position again for the club.
Hendo’s no fool, though, and is probably one of the hardest working players in our squad. He immediately spoke to the manager and his back room staff and continued to learn what was expected from him. Since then he has been virtually flawless. His displays against Leicester City, Spurs and Chelsea were excellent and his critics have become strangely quiet.
Both #LFC full-backs, Milner and Clyne, are in the top 13 chance creators in the Premier League in 16/17. No other defenders in top 20.
— Jimmy Rice (@JimmyRiceWriter) September 24, 2016
Meanwhile James Milner has proven himself, once again, to be the ultimate pro. No messing from the former Aston Villa man, no complaining or moaning. He came to Liverpool because he wanted to play in the middle and when he was asked to play left-back he made it clear that it’s not his preferred position but that he’ll do what’s asked of him by the manager. He’s now made the position his own and poor, brainless Alberto Moreno can’t get a look in. His two penalties were merely the icing on the cake for another excellent display that was close to faultless.
As for elsewhere, Adam Lallana has been moved out of the final third of the pitch into a deeper position and somehow that’s made him more deadly going forward. His goal against Hull was yet another sign that he’s developing a killer instinct and is joining the rest of the team in causing the opposition any number of problems. It’s no longer just out strikers that need to be watched, it’s every man on the pitch.
Reports Of Coutinho’s Demise Were Premature
When Liverpool took the defending Premier League champions Leicester apart without Philippe Coutinho, more than a few people thought that he’d struggle to get back into the side. Indeed, in most predicted sides ahead of the match against Chelsea his name was absent. No on was disappointed when he replaced Roberto Firmino, obviously, but no one would have been devastated had he missed out either.
Just when you thought he might not be the best player in the league…. https://t.co/c8xkBjDjuw
— Robert G (@RobGutmann) September 24, 2016
The Brazilian can frustrate from time to time. His willingness to shoot from outside the area when it’s really quite obvious what he’s going to do can drive you bonkers. When commentating for a foreign TV channel on the game against Derby last week former Liverpool player Jason McAteer could be heard saying that he ‘frustrates the arse’ out if him.
Yet the little magician is a player of exceptional quality on his day. Roberto Firmino has a better work rate and is perhaps the closest player we’ve got to what Suarez offered; He isn’t as mercurial as the Uruguayan but he occupies defenders in the same way. Coutinho, however, can produce more moments of sheer jaw-dropping magic than his countryman, earning him his nickname. Against Hull he was sensational yet again and his goal was unbelievable. His drop of the shoulder is something of a trademark now but even if the opposition knows it’s coming there’s nothing they can do about it.
Only complete idiots would suggest that Coutinho had lost mojo, but sufficed to say that any reports of his demise were premature. He is yet another player in the side that the other team need to be aware of at all times. Even on an off-day – such as against Arsenal on the opening day of the season – he can still do something insanely brilliant to mean that he can’t be left alone. How will teams deal with the free-scoring Reds this season?
Goals, Goals, Goals
Whichever you look at it Liverpool are full of goals. We’ve put the ball in the back of the net nine times in our first two home games – it took us seven and a half matches to score the same amount last term. We’ve scored more goals in the Premier League than any other team since the arrival of Jürgen Klopp as our manager. We know how to score.
Liverpool have scored 24 goals in 8 games with those goals spread between 10 different players ….
— Sachin Nakrani (@SachinNakrani) September 24, 2016
What’s even better is that the burden to score is not just on one player. In the past we’ve been as good as dependent on a single lad to find the net but nowadays everyone seems capable of scoring. We’ve scored sixteen Premier League goals without Danny Ings, Daniel Sturridge or Divock Origi being called upon to deliver any of them. There was a time when if Sturridge didn’t score then Liverpool didn’t, but those days seem to be long gone and we’re much the better for it.
If the Reds carry on at this rate then it’s impossible to imagine that they won’t be involved in the title shake-up at the end of the season. Some people don’t like such talk, but if we remain the free-scoring team that we’ve been since the start of this campaign then we might even be able to outdo the 100+ goals we scored in 2013-2014. We also seem to be a touch more defensible solid than back then, too. That is a combination that will almost certainly be matched by Manchester City and nobody else. That comment might come back to haunt me, of course. But right now I’m enjoying watching the Reds play so much I don’t care if some tells me I’m ‘jinxing things’. If this is a jinx then long may it continue.