I’M JUST going to do some observations of Sunday’s game this week. I’ve written this bit last and I apologise for the disjointed nature – but I’m not arsed ’cause Liverpool won 4-3 away at Arsenal, and a few days down the line I’m still flying. I’ll number the points because they don’t flow into each other, and it just looks like the drunken ramblings of a mad man.
Firstly, it’s worth pointing out that it’s the first game of the season and you shouldn’t get carried away with what you’ve seen, so please, stay grounded, enjoy it for what it was, but maybe remember that for 45 minutes we looked second best, slightly disorganised, and a bit of a rabble against a patched together Arsenal side. Thankfully, Philippe Coutinho is a genius and he got us a goal at a time that will have demoralised Arsenal, as much as Sevilla’s first goal did Liverpool in the Europa League Final.
That moves me nicely onto point number one, actually.
1. Alberto Moreno. Now he’s public enemy number one at the minute and there’s a fair bit of evidence to say that that is perfectly acceptable. Defensively he’s highly suspect, he makes some rash decisions, and he’s what I expect Crash Bandicoot would be like if he became a person, and decided to play left back.
I don’t really want this to be seen as a defence of Moreno because I think he’s lacking and I’m not a huge fan, but I think he gets a bit of a hard time. Something really annoyed me about that goal in Basel, outside of any decision or action that came from him. Coutinho for that goal was symptomatic of the level of protection he gets – he’s a one man left hand side generally, and in that case when he does get cover it doesn’t end up being very good.
Seriously, go and watch that goal back, if you’re over it, and just watch Coutinho. If anyone can tell me what he’s doing then I’m all ears. He’s a brilliant footballer, but his defensive effort when doubling up with Moreno was pathetic. Occasionally, Moreno should be able to make a mistake and have someone bail him out. He’s a full back, he will get beaten, where’s the cover?
Help him out from time to time. That problem isn’t cured by buying a new left back. Moreno didn’t do his job there, Coutinho didn’t bail him out with a tackle and he didn’t make up for the poor effort up the other end of the pitch.
Fast forward three months; Sunday saw him give away a penalty – when again Coutinho was absolutely diabolical – and be woefully out of position in the space of about 90 seconds, in a move that saw us concede the opening goal. Some people will have seen Moreno and wondered where he was when Arsenal attacked us, he was nowhere near the rest of the back four. It looks absolutely terrible.
But it’s a counter attack that comes when Adam Lallana loses the ball, and four or so touches later they’ve scored. No, the goal wouldn’t have happened had he held his position, that’s perfectly valid, but you can’t simply claim that everything that happens on a football pitch is done because a player just decides to do it of his own free will. Decisions like that are made on the training ground by the manager, preparing for every eventuality.
Imagine Lallana had beaten Francis Coquelin and he’s turned Arsenal round. I’d quite like to see Moreno’s pace on the counter up the left. If Lallana had done that and Moreno is stood holding hands with Ragnar Klavan, you’re furious that he’s not getting forward. Well, I am anyway.
The problem Moreno has is that if he makes a mistake, fouls for penalties obviously can’t be included in this, there’s no one there to bail him out. We seem to overload the right side of the pitch and leave him on an island. I don’t often see Nathaniel Clyne being isolated like he is. I don’t see us going down the left like we do the right.
2. I thought we generally defended well. Mignolet while faultless for the goals, and the penalty save aside, didn’t have a lot to do. It’s rare that we’ll go to a top side and limit them to the number and type of chances that we did. That’s encouraging. We were clinical with our finishing; we went away from home to last year’s runners up and scored four without a recognised striker.
3. Simon Mignolet shouldn’t really be doing drag backs in his own box but it’s nice to see he has the confidence to do so. Obviously there’s quite often a thin line between confidence and stupidity, but his confidence seemed to spread a bit today. He dominated his box better, was a bit more aggressive when balls came in and, barring the kick after said drag back, his kicking was better.
I’m not sold enough on him to think he’ll carry on like this and make himself undroppable, but if we get another two months like that then Loris Karius won’t be walking into the side without a fight. Karius is clearly Liverpool’s long term goalkeeping option but it’s for the best if Mignolet plays well enough until October to give Klopp something to think about.
If you’re into NFL it’s going to be like watching Case Keenum Quarterback the LA Rams, he’s holding the shirt until Jared Goff is ready but the better Keenum performs, the longer it’ll be before Goff gets in under centre. I apologise to the 95% of people who didn’t even know there was an American Football team in Los Angeles. And the 99.9% of people who didn’t understand the term ‘under centre’.
Got a problem with Mignolet? Adam Bogdan would have been doing what he was 12 months ago. Bogdan. Let that one sink in.
4. Lallana really does have lovely hair, doesn’t he? I enjoyed one central midfielder passing to another one in the penalty box while we had another four men in the box at the same time. Get bodies in the box and you’ll score goals. We had six in the box. Six! I remember seeing players look up a few years ago to see Andy Carroll standing still, and now what have we got?!
5. If Liverpool were a jigsaw that needed new pieces in the summer, then you’d be hard pressed to find one that fits better than Sadio Mane. Liverpool lacked pace last season, they lacked directness and they lacked goals from the three behind the striker. I like Roberto Firmino, Coutinho and Lallana but I just don’t think 30 goals is anywhere near enough, given we played 64 games in all competitions. To put it into perspective, after one game we’ve got 10% of that number.
So in the summer, we went out and bought someone who has pace in abundance. Who is direct. Who gets goals from that very area of the pitch. It was pretty exciting to watch him run at Arsenal for that fourth goal, and then unleash an unstoppable left footed drive past Petr Cech, and his daft helmet.
Having pace on the counter is a huge asset, not just because it means you can use it, it also means that teams know you have it and they cut their cloth accordingly. They’re a bit hesitant about over committing and that can help your defence out a little bit. It’s a signing that may not work in the long term, because that’s how signings work, but the idea of it is absolutely bang on the money for what we need to progress as a team.
6. The fixture list makes all 20 teams play each other twice. People will tell you it doesn’t matter, and express confusion when people are interested about the order in which you’re going to play 19 teams you knew that you were going to play anyway. Sunday was actually a great example of that being absolute nonsense.
Manchester City go to the Emirates in December. Are you honestly telling me we didn’t get a huge advantage over what I’d like to think is a direct competitor by playing an Arsenal team minus Olivier Giroud, Laurent Koscielny, Mesut Ozil, and Per Mertesacker? Of course we did. I’m not taking anything away from us here, but things like this happen every season.
Would you rather have played Dick Advocaat’s Sunderland side or Sam Allardyce’s Sunderland last season? I’d much rather have played Ian Holloway’s Crystal Palace side at Selhurst Park on that May evening we don’t like to talk about than Tony Pulis’s. I’m quite happy that last season saw us go to Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea and not the Guus Hiddink version. I could go on.
The fixture computer dealt us a very good hand with that first fixture. Let’s hope we can carry it on with a newly promoted side still adjusting to life in the league, and a Spurs side who start as slowly as they did last year.
Up. The. Reds.
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