As soon as Liverpool’s name came out of the hat alongside Manchester City’s for the quarter-finals of the European Cup, this match took on added significance. Whilst I remain cautiously optimistic that we can make it past the Cityzens on our way to number six, there’s little question that we’ll have to take the hard route if we do. That means that we need to make doubly sure that we finish in the top in order to guarantee European football again next season and the added attractiveness that brings when hoping to sign new players in the summer. If we can push out one of Tottenham or Chelsea on route then that’s even better. The Blues are looking like a less and less attractive proposition with every passing month, given the managerial instability and the fact that Roman Abramovich’s interest seems to be waning ever so slightly. A summer spent chasing the likes of Danny Drinkwater and Ross Barkley won’t have filled Chelsea fans with excitement. They have an ageing squad with a few standout players, but how long will Eden Hazard and Willian stick around if they miss out on Europe for the second time in three seasons?
next season chelsea need a mass overhaul. with the new manager, he needs to get rid of all the deadwood we have, use our good players properly, replace the ones we sold with good players, implement an attacking system that is tough to break down. that’s what pep did this season
— . (@_MarwanF_) March 17, 2018
As for Tottenham, they’re a team I’d quite like to fall apart because they’re so good at just keeping on going. When we lost to them at Wembley we got our act together and overhauled them with an impressive points tally, yet they’re still on our tails, sat two points behind with a game in hand. If they were to drop out of the top four then I could see them losing a few of the players that have got them where they are, with Harry Kane unlikely to stick around forever if the likes of Real Madrid come calling. A win against Crystal Palace after the international break will put us five points clear of Mauricio Pochettino’s side and ten points away from Chelsea. They’ll have games in hand, but that’s some real scoreboard pressure and you have to fancy that if we’re ten points away from Chelsea at the start of April then we’ll be almost certain to finish in the top four. They’d need to have championship winning form and we’d need to have a collapse worthy of relegation battlers for them to overhaul us. It’s happened before, but it’s not a common occurrence. That’s why it was so important that we get three points today, so what were the talking points from the game?
Mo Salah – The Egyptian King
It’s impossible to use enough superlatives to describe Mohamed Salah, isn’t it? What a stunningly good player he’s turned out to be. Mina Rzouki’s shout that the Egyptian was just another Juan Cuadrado, something that she said when speaking to BBC Radio 5 live, is looking more and more laughable with every passing day. I don’t think anyone expected him to become the player that he is right now, least of all Liverpool supporters. But instead of arriving and giving us a bit of added pace to help out us when Sadio Mané is tired or injured, he’s scored more goals than any other Liverpool player in a debut campaign, including the likes of Kenny Dalglish and Fernando Torres. Supporters all over the land who swore they’d never fall in love again after Luis Suarez left us are finding themselves going back on that promise now.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) March 17, 2018
He was on one from the word go today, scoring after just three minutes but harrying and chasing balls all around the pitch. He’s now moved himself four goals clear of Harry Kane in the chase for the Golden Boot, with both the Spurs striker and Sergio Agüero out injured for at least a little while. According to Andrew Beasley, only four players in the last five seasons have netted more times than Salah has at this point and all of them have gone on to be that season’s top scorers. He completely destroyed the Watford defence practically single-handled this evening, causing them nightmares from the kick-off. All of his goals had something special about them, but his third was particularly impressive. To get the ball into the back of the net from where he was, surrounded by about seven players, was incredible. Man City will be a tough proposition, but if we can keep him fit and firing then we’ve got a genuine chance.
Something’s Brewing Around Anfield
Every now and then, a mood takes over Liverpool Football Club. It’s normally accompanied by a new song that sweeps through the stands and gets everyone energised. There have been two notable occurrences of this phenomenon in recent times, with the first one being in 2004-2005 when we were on our way to Istanbul and ‘Ring of Fire’ was the song. The second time was in 2013-2014 and ‘We are Liverpool’ became the tune of the Kop. It’s happening again now, thanks in no small part to the ‘We’ve conquered all of Europe’ tune that is so addictive. There’s no guaranteeing that a song and a feeling of fun and excitement will automatically bring success – look at ’13-’14 – but I think at the moment that it’s indicative of a feeling that the club is in good hands and is going places. Whatever happens this season, Jürgen Klopp is building a team that is playing exciting, attractive football that it the antithesis of everything that José Mourinho is doing at Manchester United.
They look like teams from totally different eras of football and I know which one I’d like to be watching on a weekly basis. It might well end up that they win the FA Cup and Liverpool have nothing at the end of the season, but I would still wager that we’ve had a lot more fun. The song that we’ve created is lending Anfield a real atmosphere even in these sorts of boring games that normally get watched in near silence. It’s addictive and great to sing, letting supporters bounce and jump in a way that we haven’t been able to do since the Torres song. I have been having an argument with Man City fans over the last couple of days who are convinced that the Anfield atmosphere is a ‘myth’. That might have been the case in the past, but it’s not any more. If today was anything to go by, the ground is going to be buzzing when Pep Guardiola’s team visit in a couple of week’s time. I hope that the assumption that the atmosphere won’t affect the first-leg of our encounter isn’t just being held by the supporters but the team, too. Finer teams than City and Watford have wilted under the lights in a European night at Anfield.
Andy Robertson Has Been A Revelation
Mo Salah will quite rightly take all of the headlines, but what an impression Andy Robertson has made since he earned his place in the first-team. The Scot was the most unheralded transfer of the summer, but he’s done everything possible to make sure that everyone knows his worth now. When you think about how much Manchester City spent on fullbacks during the transfer window, the former Hull City left-back makes a mockery of the idea that you have to spend huge amounts of money in order to improve in a position. The left side of defence has been a problem position for years for Liverpool, with Fabio Aurelio being the last player to look truly comfortable there but lacking the fitness to be able to hold down his pace for long. In Robertson it looks as though we’ve finally got it sorted, with the youngster able to help us look solid at the back at the same time as assisting with our attacks.
This may be pushing it, but Andy Robertson’s the sort of transfer that everyone should celebrate. Shows it’s not all about paying premium fees. Spotting the right player, allowing him time, coaching him well still goes a long way.
— Rory Smith (@RorySmith) March 17, 2018
It’s not just that he’s aggressive when defending and intelligent in his position, but he knows when to break forward and when to stay back. His movement and crossing for Salah’s second was world-class, the ball across the box harder to miss than score with. His is a transfer that suggests that everything on that front is very nicely poised indeed heading into this summer. Long gone are the days of Brendan Rodgers and the transfer committee, when no one could agree on who was buying the players and there seemed to be no coherent plan for the ones that we did get. Since Klopp arrived we’ve barely seen a flop; only Loris Karius was in the ‘should do better’ category, but even he has come good in the last couple of months. Add to that Sadio Mané, Virgil van Dijk and, of course, Mo Salah and it’s difficult to put forward and argument that Jürgen Klopp’s determination not to settle for the second-best hasn’t been successful. Robertson is the quintessential example of that, showing against Watford that he has all of the attributes to be our first-choice left back moving forward.
Hopefully Emre’s Injury’s Nothing Serious
I’m not a massive Emre Can fan, especially when it comes to playing against the low-block sides. I think he always wants two or three touches when the likes of Jordan Henderson or Gini Wijnaldum only want one. Given the arrival of Naby Keita in the summer and the likelihood of us signing someone else in midfield, I won’t be heart-broken if he does end up heading off to Juventus or somewhere once the season is over. Yet for all that I don’t think he’s great in matches like today’s, when a team is happy to sit back and defend, I think he’s a force to be reckoned with when it comes to games against the big boys. When we played Manchester City in the league at Anfield, for example, Can ran the midfield. I think the drop off from him to James Milner caused us all sorts of problems and Milner’s inability to get up to the pace of the game is what allowed Man City back into the match.
Think Emre was saying “not too bad” then as he came off. Understand why he divides opinion but would much rather have him available for City than not
— John Gibbons (@johngibbonsblog) March 17, 2018
You might have noticed I’ve made several references to Man City so far in this match report, which is unusual when you consider that we were playing Watford. Yet the Champions League encounter with the league leaders looms large over everything and will continue to do so until it’s over and done with. When Emre Can went off after twenty-seven minutes I wasn’t concerned about the result of the match we were playing, after all I don’t think he adds anything against those sorts of teams, but I was concerned about what it would mean for our progress in Europe. Even the German’s biggest critics should be hoping that he’s only felt a slight twinge to take him out of the international matches rather than anything more serious. If he’s not at Anfield next season I won’t be heart-broken, but if he’s not at the stadium for our European Cup encounter then I think we’ll be a weaker side for it.