If someone described last night’s game to you and told you that it took until the 75th minute for Liverpool to have a shot on target and that the opposition were limited to zero shots on target, you’d be forgiven for thinking that you were being told about a classic European away performance from the days of Gerard Houlliér or Rafa Benitez. In reality, the match was much more scattergun than either of those managers would have liked, with Jürgen Klopp’s side instead embracing a touch of chaos. The idea that Inter Milan failed to have a shot on target is impressive, but always seems a bit weird to me when they struck the crossbar in the first-half. It might literally be true that the shot wasn’t on target, but that suggests more control than I think we actually had. Even so, we weathered the storm perfectly and cam away from the San Siro with our second victory in the ground this season, placing one foot in the Champions League quarter-finals.
🤯 Inter didn’t have a single shot on target against Liverpool, the first time they have failed to do so in any home league or European game since we started receiving Opta data in 2009 #UCL pic.twitter.com/CQk2hgZO14
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) February 17, 2022
Whether the manager will feel as though he got his starting eleven wrong is something that only he can say. Certainly it is true that Harvey Elliott struggled to settle into the game, but he wasn’t the only player in Red that didn’t cope very well with the heavy press from Internazionale. The Italians put everything that they had into the first hour or so of the match and the story in the wake of the game is that they were unlucky not to come away from the match with something to show for their efforts. I’m not totally convinced that that is true and find myself marvelling once again at the fact that Liverpool always seem to be ‘lucky’ when they win. Of course, if you’re going to listen to clowns then you have to put up with the squirting flowers and inappropriate tumbles that accompany their presence. The Reds are a serious football team, riding their luck at times but you tell me a club that doesn’t have to do that and I’ll tell you about one being used as a sports-washing operation.
Put Some Respect On The Captain’s Name
From virtually the first moment that Jordan Henderson arrived at Anfield, there have been people out gunning for him. The place I used to sit on on the Kop had a bloke who consistently referred to him as ‘captain fantastic’ in a sarcastic manner, regularly criticising every single thing that he did. He wasn’t alone, with plenty of people all around the ground being overly critical of the former Sunderland man. For a lot of this season, Henderson hasn’t been in the best vein of form, for one reason or another. As a result, there have been plenty of people keen to write him off, to suggest that he’s past it and should be put out to pasture. His performance last night suggests that reports of his demise have been greatly exaggerated. The Liverpool captain is a brilliant footballer when he’s on-song, nominally put on to replace Fabinho in the six but actually appearing all over the pitch. He deserves far more respect than he gets from some quarters and proved as much in Italy.
Henderson was only on for ~30 mins but made 44 passes – more than Thiago, Elliott and Fabinho managed when on the pitch.
Took control of the game and raised the tempo https://t.co/bPceFgMyjR
— Mark Carey (@MarkCarey93) February 16, 2022
Not that that will be enough to silence his critics, of course. Those that have got it in for him will always want more, will forever be saying that he’s not good enough. They want to make it a battle between him and Naby Keita, as if the two players are somehow on opposite sides rather than working together to win matches for Liverpool Football Club. Such is the nature of Jordan Henderson’s personality, if he thought that the team would be better without him in it then I think he’d happily step aside. What many don’t realise is how much he offers to the team even when he’s not playing well. He is always talking, always cajoling and constantly lifting the spirits of his teammates in an attempt to get the Reds over the line. No player should be an automatic starter irrespective of their form, but last night proved that the Liverpool captain is not dead yet. He has lifted the European Cup, the Premier League and the World Club Cup wearing the armband and you write him off at your peril.
The Manager Has Options
If you asked Jürgen Klopp what he’d like to do, I’m sure that his honest answer would be that he wants to constantly improve upon the players he has available. Only the most biased Liverpool fan would say that Takumi Minamino hasn’t under-performed slightly since his arrival at Anfield, but he’s still done more than enough to earn his place in the squad. That being said, if the manager had the option to move him out and bring someone like Fabio Carvalho in, I’m sure that he would jump at it. Divock Origi will go down as a club legend, yet the German would surely be happy to upgrade him to Kylian Mbappe if he had the chance. Squads are constantly-evolving things, with the aforementioned Jordan Henderson likely to take James Milner’s place as the elder-statesman in the coming years. The important thing is that the manager has plenty of options to choose from, with this Liverpool squad now only having one or two weak spots everywhere you look.
Mad that we could bring those players on tonight. Made all the difference too. It’s what we’ve missed for years. Great 12/13, now it’s a great 16/17 players. Bit of luck and this squad could do anything! #LFC
— Graeme Kelly (@GraemeKelly1) February 16, 2022
Trent Alexander-Arnold is a generational talent, but the manager would surely love to have a reliable backup for him. At the current time, Trent isn’t playing as well as he has in the past, but the options to rest him are limited. Joe Gomez could be put in the right-back slot, as could James Milner, but neither are perfect solutions to the problem. As a result, Trent seems to be playing week-in, week-out, with limited chance for a rest. Whilst the manager has options in midfield, the injury-prone nature of some of the players and the age of others means that things can look sparse there when certain things all happen at the same time. Even so, right now, with a virtually full-fit squad, the manager has options aplenty when he looks to put together a team. The triple substitution made last night had a defining influence on the game, but he was able to make it having named a starting eleven that most people thought was as strong as we can go. There’s an argument this is the best Liverpool squad for a generation.