I know this has become something of a personal crusade of late, but I really am sick to the back teeth of the attitude of some Liverpool supporters. It might be prominent online, but there’s little doubt that it’s feeding into the way people behave at Anfield, too. There’s an ‘oh we’re bound to blow this’ sense every time we head into a game that we should win, which is bizarre when you consider that we’ve generally been winning the matches that we should do this season. I realise that we’ve dropped points against teams we should beat, including both Everton and West Bromwich Albion in our two home matches prior to tonight, but all teams drop points every now and then. Even the all-conquering Manchester City have dropped two points and who did they drop them to? Everton.
Swansea are bottom of the league.
Swansea have lost 12 games.
Swansea have only won 3 games.
Swansea have -15 goal difference.
Swansea are without a manager.
— – (@AnfieldRd96) December 26, 2017
Even so, some people love to pre-emptively moan or suggest that we’ll drop points, mainly in order to be able to say “I told you so” on the rare occasions that that happens. Going into a home game, having spent the season so far conceding just three goals in the league at Anfield and knowing that one of them was a mis-hit cross and the other was a penalty that shouldn’t have been given, why on earth were some people worried about what Swansea might do to us? They’ve only won three games and just one of them was away from the Liberty Stadium. They’ve conceded goals for fun and were up against a team that has been scoring them as though it’s the simplest thing in the world. Would Manchester United, Chelsea or Tottenham fans think their teams would do anything other than win easily on such an occasion? Supporters can criticise the players for not behaving like they’re at a big club, but when will fans start doing the same?
Philippe Coutinho Is Magic – When He Wants To Be
The opening goal struck by Philippe Coutinho was a thing of beauty. It’s easy to pretend that it was just another goal from his arsenal because of how often he scores worldies, but the reality is that few players have the ability or the vision to score a goal of that ilk. The Little Magician is one such player and we’re lucky to have him in our side. He’s not beyond criticism, of course. Against the Gunners on Friday night our midfield was left wide open precisely because he goes walkabout too often when the going gets tough or the opposition starts to battle in the middle of the pitch. He doesn’t track back or fight to help out his defence as often as I’d like from a top-class footballer and that can be problematic when a relatively inexperienced player such as Andy Robertson is playing left-back and needs the support. Today wasn’t such an instance, however. Today the Brazilian could play with the freedom he wanted, so he did exactly that.
I always want Phil Coutinho playing in midfield but in fairness, that goal comes from him being further up the pitch, combined, of course, with him being able to hit incredible shots from just outside the area.
— Sachin Nakrani (@SachinNakrani) December 26, 2017
I mentioned in my match review in the wake of Liverpool’s win over Bournemouth that we should he enjoy him whilst he’s still at the club. We don’t know what the future holds for him with Barcelona sniffing around, but it’s certainly true that he’s done anything except down tools since the summer. Does that mean he’s been told behind the scenes that he’ll be allowed to leave in January or at the end of the season? Perhaps. Regardless, if he keeps performing the way he has been of late then his price will only be going up, even to the point that the Spanish giants might not be able to afford him. The games are coming thick and fast over the next week or so, culminating in the Merseyside derby in the FA Cup against Everton on January 5th. If he’s playing so well in order to try to earn his move to La Liga then that’s fine as far as I’m concerned, as long as he keeps it up until he’s no longer a Liverpool player.
Is Klopp Reminding Milner How To Play Left-Back?
The constant calls from some to see Andy Robertson come into the side at the expense of Alberto Moreno were resisted by Jürgen Klopp for most of the season, up until the Spaniard was injured and the manager’s hand was forced. The former Hull left-back hasn’t been poor since he came into the team, but he’s been found wanting on a couple of occasions and didn’t look great on a couple of occasions during Arsenal’s three-goal blitz at The Emirates. James Milner has only been used sparingly in the position that he made his own last season, partly because he doesn’t want to play there and partly because Klopp hasn’t needed him to. With Moreno seemingly out for a little while yet, however, and Liverpool facing a game in four days then another two days after that, it would be madness not to refresh the former Manchester City midfielder’s memory about how to play as part of the defence.
76: Another sub for the Reds:
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) December 26, 2017
That, alongside a desire to protect Robertson’s legs, might explain why the manager to sub one for the other with fifteen minutes remaining. Especially when he might have felt a desire to rest Emre Can after the German seemed to pick up a knock in the first-half, or Coutinho with so many important games still to come. Milner was a little rusty when he first came on, but he settled into the game and created a couple of nice opportunities as the Swansea City defence started to look a little ragged. Personally I’d be delighted to see him used as an alternate left-back once again, if for no other reason than it would mean the manager won’t pick him as a midfielder. Our number seven is fine playing in a position that doesn’t require much pace, but when he’s played in the midfield he looks as slow as treacle. Playing him as a defender gives us the opportunity to get his experience into the starting eleven without getting over-run in an important part of the pitch, so I hope I’m right in my assumption of why the sub happened when it did.
Oxlade-Chamberlain Deserves The Praise He’s Getting
I still can’t get over the way some Liverpool supporters reacted after Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain made his first start for the club. It was in the League Cup game against Leicester City and he didn’t perform as well as I’m sure he would have liked, given it was his full debut. Even so, he showed sparks of a decent player and clearly still had to rid himself of the shackles of playing under Arsene Wenger. At the time he’d barely even had a moment to train under Jürgen Klopp, let alone find out about what the manager wanted from him as a midfielder. To decide upon that performance that he wouldn’t be good enough for the club was embarrassing. I’m delighted that he’s proven the naysayers wrong over the last couple of weeks, with his performance today suggesting that the manager might have made a mistake in not playing him against his former club on Friday.
The Ox stepping it up a level now he’s joined a proper club.
— Greg L (@Gregor31) December 26, 2017
As José Mourinho spends his time after matches complaining about the lack of funds he’s been able to spend as Manchester United manager, despite being in charge of one of the most expensively assembled squads in world football, Klopp simply gets on with the job of coaching his players to become better at the job he wants them to do. Not everything can be done on the training pitch, of course, and that’s why we still concede goals far too regularly and will continue to until we replace the weak links on our back five. Yet plenty can be done and Oxlade-Chamberlain’s improvement proves as much. The England midfielder has also shown what a sensible and grounded person he is in two different interviews recently, speaking well on both occasions. It was madness to declare him as poor after only one game and it would be folly to decide that he’s a world-beater after only a couple. What I will say, though, is that his goal proved that he’s got plenty to offer us moving forward.
The Defence Looked Good
I’ve been quietly impressed with Ragnar Klavan over the past few weeks. The Estonian came in for some criticism from some quarters last season and not all of it was unfair. He’s responded really well, however, and has looked like our most reliable centre-back over the past few weeks. He anticipates opposition attacks well and deals with pretty much everything he needs to with relative ease. Yes, today was ‘only Swansea’, but Tammy Abraham looks a really exciting prospect and Klavan had him in his back pocket from the moment he came on. Joel Matip didn’t look uncomfortable given he’s been out injured for a little while, catching up to the speed of the game easily enough. I’ve already talked about Robertson so I won’t say much more on that front, except to say that I thought he added to the attack really well when he needed to.
Aside from his superb goal, Trent’s all-round game was fantastic today. Gives you so much going forward from right back but showed his defensive nous as well. Great to see.
— Joel Rabinowitz (@joel_archie) December 26, 2017
Then there’s Trent Alexander-Arnold, who looked every bit as good as his reputation suggests he should. The youngster is arguably our most talented local lad since the Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher doub-act. The fact that he’s still only nineteen-years-old should fill all of us with an immense amount of excitement for the future. The manager is handling his progress exactly as he should, giving him time on the pitch against the dross of the league like Swansea and then taking him out of the limelight when it’s possible to do so. Joe Gomez is perhaps the most accomplished of the pair defensively, but Alexander-Arnold is no slouch and Gomez is clearly going to be a centre-back in the future. Might the two of them be Liverpool’s defensive future? It would be great to see them playing for us in five years or so, having developed into the players that their current form suggests that they almost certainly will be.
Their Attacker Look Ludicrous
I could talk about the brilliance of Roberto Firmino or the fact that Jürgen Klopp did my head in be starting Simon Mignolet again. Instead, I have to take a moment to mention Oliver McBurnie and how ridiculous he looked. The Scot is just over six foot tall, yet he looked like he was about nine foot four because of the kit he was wearing. It was almost as though the rest of the Swansea team had decided to play a joke on him by swapping out his shorts for some that they’d shrunk in the wash and his socks for a kid’s pair. It was genuinely distracting watching him, especially because he also decided to play without shin pads. The fact that I’ve mentioned him in a review when we’ve won 5-0 probably tells you everything you need to know.