There Are Two Teams on Merseyside: Liverpool & Liverpool Reserves

No one was looking forward to this match as soon as rumours about the lineup began to circulate. Having ridden his first team players hard during the Christmas period, Jürgen Klopp was always likely to ring the changes for the FA Cup Merseyside derby, but nobody really expected as many as nine changes from the team that put Sheffield United to the sword. Or, to be more specific, nobody really wanted as many as nine changes because the joy of Everton not having won at Anfield since 1995 was not something worth risking. A quick look at Twitter will have shown you any number of tweets desperate for the manager to go as strong as he felt he could in order to ensure that that record ticket on for at least another year, but as usual he had other plans. He knows how good his squad is and he has the ultimate trust in players that many of us probably wouldn’t even recognise if we bumped into them on the streets of the city.

The decision of the manager to make as many changes as he did was justified when James Milner pulled up with an injury after just seven minutes. Milner is thought of as being basically indestructible by most Liverpool supporters, yet not even he can get away from the physical demands of playing for Jürgen Klopp. The German will be irritated by the former Leeds, Aston Villa and Manchester City man’s injury, but he will at least have been heartened by the excellent performance of Yasser Larouci after he came on to replace him. Whilst no one would be delighted about him having to play against a decent team, he was still impressive enough to mean that if Andy Robertson does need a rest then he can come in for him. Bill Shankly once joked that there were two teams on Merseyside: Liverpool and Liverpool Reserves. This afternoon the squad stepped up to the plate to demonstrate that it might not have been a joke after all.

Adam Lallana Has Proven Me Wrong

If you’ve read much of stuff then you’ll know that I am always desperate for Liverpool players to prove me wrong. Ultimately I only want the very best for the club, so any comments that I make are made with that in mind. I have been critical of Adam Lallana in the past, largely because of his fitness issues. As with Dejan Lovren and, seemingly, Naby Keita, you can have the best player in the world in your squad but if they’re not fit when you need them to be then they’re a complete waste of time. That has been the former Southampton man’s biggest issue, picking up injury after injury in recent seasons. I had all but written him off, saying in the summer that he should be moved on if we could get any more for him in order to free up his wages and his space in the squad for younger, fitter players. Whilst I’d still be tempted to do exactly that this summer instead of offering him a new contract, I’m delighted at how well he’s played this year.

When he’s been called upon by Jürgen Klopp he’s stepped up to the plate in a convincing manner, delivering the kind of performances that I didn’t think he had in his locker any more. The performance he put in on the pitch against Everton in the FA Cup third round was absolutely superb. He never stopped running, harassing and closing down Carlo Ancelotti’s players, being a shining example of a senior pro to the younger lads in the side. Again, I wouldn’t be overly confident if we had to start him against Tottenham Hotspur next weekend, but if his performance against the Blues is anything to go by then he’d doubtless make me look an idiot once again. I’m made up for him, having always enjoyed watching him in a Liverpool shirt. If this does end up being something of an Indian summer for his time at the club then what a set of memories he’ll have to take away with him. I hope he can now captain this side all the way to the final.

The Kids Made Everton Look Rubbish

Everton had their chances. It would be churlish to suggest otherwise. Adrian’s performance in the first-half was excellent, pulling off save after save from brilliant chances for our Merseyside opponents. If any of their players had been a little bit more composed then they would doubtless have gone in with a lead at the break. Instead, though, the former West Ham goalkeeper continued his brilliant form for us and refused to give them a goal. It was a platform on which the rest of the team could build, which was great to see. When thinking about who I’d have given Man Of The Match to, I looked at the performances of Lallana, Pedro Chirivella and Neco Williams and felt that it would be tough to any of them to pick one of the others. Then Curtis Jones decided to complete what must have been an absolute dream for him since he was a little boy and score an absolute screamer to give us the lead and, ultimately, the win.

To give the Blues their due, they were decent enough in the first-half and then started to tire in the second, demonstrating that Carlo Ancelotti might well have made a mistake not making more chances after a tiring period. Even so, the future feels much brighter for Liverpool than it does for Everton right now. The Italian will know that he has his work cut out to get this team into any sort of serious shape, whilst his counterpart will be wondering how he can start to integrate the talent at his disposal into the first-team more. I don’t want to get carried away, of course. Everton are not a very good team and they’re in a bad way at the moment. Yet I also think it’s important to acknowledge just how well Klopp has done to change the outlook of the Liverpool team from top to bottom. Whilst Miguel Delany is writing odd pieces that suggest that the Reds are some sort of footballing devils, the German is just showing how good a side can be when everyone’s pulling in the same direction.

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