Liverpool secured their second 1-0 win of the season last night, beating a wilful Bournemouth side by a single goal at Anfield. It comes on the back of a 1-0 win away to Stoke, with a similar performance from the Reds against both sides. We’ve taken a look at some of the key talking points from the match to explore what the Reds need to do moving forward.
Don’t agree? Let us know in the comments section!
Jordan Ibe Needs To Be More Direct
It wouldn’t be unkind to suggest that Jordan Ibe hasn’t set the world alight in Liverpool’s first two games. He’s a talented young player with bags of potential, but so far he’s struggled to be the outlet that Liverpool need moving forward, to say nothing of failing to offer Christian Benteke much support when the big Belgian has won the ball in the last two matches.
We’ve no desire to slate a young player who has been dedicated to the success of Liverpool Football Club in the short amount of time he’s been wearing a Red shirt, so hopefully what we’re offering here is constructive rather than destructive.Jordan Ibe isn’t Raheem Sterling. As much as some fans might like to have thought otherwise after the latter’s departure for Manchester City, Sterling is midway between being a player with bags of potential and a world class talent. His goal against what is now his new club in the run in to the title challenge in 2013-2014 was something Luis Suarez, Sergio Aguero and even Lionel Messi would have been proud of.
Many fans wanted something to cling on to after the Jamaican born England international decided to swap Anfield for The Etihad, so plenty of them claimed that Ibe was the better player. The match against Bournemouth showed just how ludicrous that notion is, though, with the 19 year old failing to make any kind of impact in the game – just like he failed to do in the match against Stoke.
But what can he do to change all of that? For some supporters a player who fails to score a goal or get an assist in every match he plays in will never be good enough, however that’s not a realistic expectation of any player not in the bracket of the elite. What Ibe needs to do is become more direct. Too often in the match last night he would take 4 or 5 touches, looking at the opposition defender as if his stare alone would cause them to panic. If the youngster can develop his play enough to take the game to the other team, taking men on and driving into the box, he’ll become a real threat.
Maybe his current play comes down to Rodgers’ tactics, and it certainly appeared as though Ibe was hugging the touchline a lot more in the match at Anfield than he did at Stoke. But adding a directness to his game will give defenders something else to think about and add another distraction to Liverpool’s attacking play. He’s not as good as Sterling, but he’s got plenty of time to develop. If he maintains his desire to improve and continues to do things like come in for extra training sessions with Kenny Dalglish then there’s no telling where his talent will end.
Firmino Wants Too Much Time On The Ball
So far we have seen Firmino play for 12 minutes plus stoppage time away to Stoke and 20 minutes plus injury time at home to Bournemouth. That’s a combined amount of on pitch time of around 40 minutes, or less than 1 half of football. Perhaps, then, it’s unfair to talk about the talented Brazilian when he hasn’t even had a chance to unpack his boxes, let alone make an impact on a football match.
Yet in both the game against Stoke and the home match versus Bournemouth the 23 year old was caught in possession several times, seeming to want far too much time on the ball in a league that is known for its fast pace and quick movement. Had he dwelt on the ball for too long in the first game of the season but been a bit quicker to move it on in the game at Anfield it might not cause too much concern, but for the lad not to have learnt from the way the Stoke players snapped at his heels during the match at The Britannia should set an alarm bell off somewhere at Melwood.
We don’t blame the player, though. He’s new to the league and isn’t 100% sure what to expect so he can hardly be at fault for not yet adapting to the trials and tribulations of a league where everything moves fast. After all, anyone who’s ever seen an average Bundesliga match knows it’s not exactly the quickest league in world football.
Instead questions should be asked of Brendan Rodgers as to why he hasn’t yet given the Brazilian a place on the pitch from the start of either of Liverpool’s games. Against Stoke his absence can be excused, especially considering his involvement in the Copa America. The club from the Potteries are, despite their renaissance under Mark Hughes, well known for the physical approach to games. To throw the mercurial Brazilian in at the deep end of that game would have been too a rude welcome to the Premier League.
Yet if Stoke are known for their physicality then Bournemouth are known for their intelligent passing game, full of movement and speed. Exactly the sort of environment that Liverpool’s new number 11 could have thrived in. It would have given him a pleasant introduction to the league, with the home crowd right behind him and allowed him to figure out that you can’t dwell on the ball in England’s top flight.
Of course the Reds have 6 points from the 6 available, so we’re not going to sit here and criticise Brendan Rodgers for his tactical choices. Yet Adam Lallana disappointed at The Britannia and carried on in the same vain during the first home game of the season, so many supporters wouldn’t have been too disheartened to see Firmino given a run out at Anfield. The sooner he learns that you need to be fast of thought and foot in England the sooner he’ll be able to hit the ground running, and that can only be a good thing.
Benteke Gave A Performance To Win Over The Doubters
Liverpool’s pursuit of Christian Benteke was met with looks of confusion from plenty of Reds’ fans and outright derision from others. Why did Brendan Rodgers make such a fuss about getting rid of Andy Carroll 3 years ago if he was going to go backwards and bring in a big man now? What’s happened to Liverpool’s pass and move philosophy coupled with non-stop pressing, personified so well in the form of Luis Suarez? How can a player that thrives on crosses possibly fit in to a team that rarely crosses the ball? So went the questioning of the signing of the Belgian on Twitter and in forums this summer.
Yet the big man’s performance against Bournemouth has hopefully answered some of the doubters. For a first home performance in a team that is still a month or two away from gelling Christian Benteke was superb. He held the ball up well when needed, used his strength intelligently, tracked back and defended well when necessary and scored a vital goal. Yes he should have scored a second towards the end of the first half, but that’s the sort of finish that will come with game time and relaxing into his role as Liverpool’s main striker.
Amongst many surprisingly good bits of play from the front man was his ability to control the ball out on the wing before outpacing his defensive minder and pushing in to the middle of the park, going on to either have a strike at goal himself or else find another player on the other side of the box. It’s exactly the sort of different type of play that Liverpool were lacking last season. In fact, we’d even go so far as to suggest that Benteke is the player Mario Balotelli was supposed to be when he signed last summer.
Benteke gives Liverpool options. He allows Mignolet or one of his defenders to go long if they find themselves under pressure, safe in the knowledge that nine times out of ten the Belgian will be able to win the ball, hold it up and bring other players into the game. Our only criticism of the way the Reds are using him at the moment is that he isn’t being given enough support by his teammates. Plenty of times in the game last night Benteke would do his part and win the ball only to discover that there was no one up there to receive a pass or knock down from him.
The sooner that Rodgers is able to introduce the likes of Daniel Sturridge or Roberto Firmino into the attacking trio and give Benteke the support that his current work rate deserves the better Liverpool will look going forward. The Belgian will, fitness depending, start 19 home games this season. We thoroughly expect him to score 19 goals on the back of that. Liverpool’s attack used to be ferocious, now it’s strong and full of choices. Exciting times lie ahead.
Bournemouth Showed The Importance Of Gelling
Bournemouth left Anfield with two over-riding feelings last night: On the one hand they will have felt aggrieved at the refereeing decisions they felt went against them, whilst on the other hand they will have felt extraordinary pride at the manner in which they had played at the home of the most successful club in English football. In short, they impressed.
Eddie Howe’s men turned up at Anfield and didn’t baulk from the challenge they faced, they didn’t get bogged down by the weight of history and nor did they cower from the occasion they were presented with. They came out of the blocks quickly, taking the game to Liverpool and causing the Red half of Merseyside to up their game in order to get a positive result.
On reflection the truth is that Liverpool never looked likely to concede, even if Bournemouth did dominate for vast periods of the game. The Cherries attempted 18 shots on Simon Mignolet’s goal, yet only 2 of them were on target, meaning that their dominance looked good but didn’t lead to enough goalscoring chances for the Reds to be worried.
What Bournemouth’s performance did do, though, was show Liverpool and Brendan Rodgers the importance of giving your team time to gel. Whilst the Reds gave home debuts to 4 players from the off with 1 more coming on from the bench, the Cherrie’s starting line up contained just 3 new faces from the team that won the last game of the season – and the title – in the Championship in May. Howe didn’t try to change too much, instead introducing his newer players gradually and sticking with what he knows.
It was a tactic that worked, leading Bournemouth to look the more relaxed and comfortable of the two sides in possession, zipping the ball around with speed and abandon during a match in which they should have been too nervous to even look at the ball, let alone pass it with such accuracy. It’s something Brendan Rodgers should take note of as the season moves forward, especially as the Liverpool manager has 8 new signings to integrate into his squad to say nothing of the returning Daniel Sturridge and the signings from last summer that still don’t seem settled in the Premier League. Giving your team a chance to gel can make a huge difference to your success on the pitch.
Where’s The Press Gone?
As much as Bournemouth’s possession football didn’t look overly threatening to Liverpool’s 1-0 lead in the closing stages of last night’s match, there were times when the Reds’ inability to close down their opposite numbers did seem as if it might lead the newly promoted side to an unlikely equaliser.
James Milner, one of Liverpool’s new signings and the player we here at And Could He Play think could quietly be one of the best additions of the summer by any Premier League club, was operating as a one man pressing machine for huge chunks of the game. There was a time after Jordan Henderson departed when Milner spent about 5 minutes single-handedly closing down the entire Bournemouth team.
But where was the press from the rest of the players in a Red shirt? Admittedly the departure of Henderson due to a muscle strain made a big difference to the team’s ability to press, but there were portions of the match, especially in the closing stages, when Liverpool didn’t press the Cherries anywhere near enough. Is this entirely down to fitness, or has Brendan Rodgers decided to employ a different tactic moving forward?
Liverpool have taken 6 points from the 6 that were available in the two matches we’ve played, but improvements could definitely be made moving forward. Bournemouth are a newly promoted side and their trip to Anfield is arguably the biggest in their history to date, yet they were not over-awed by the occasion and gave the Reds plenty to think about. We expect a different type of performance from the lads in the game against Arsenal and there needs to be – two wins in a row is nothing to be sniffed at, but play like that in London and neither the scoreline nor the result will be as flattering.