Neil Atkinson’s post-match review for The Anfield Wrap after Liverpool 2 Union SG 0 in the Europa League group stage at Anfield…
AFTER the Lord Mayor’s Show. Or a support act for the gig.
(I have never been to a show put on by a Lord Mayor. I have no idea what they are like and ultimately want no part of them – Toploader play at them and both main parties’ conferences I am saying. It’s one of those phrases that sits in what I call Footballing English and a great many of them appear to reference the card game Bridge. I’ve never played Bridge either.)
It’s odd that a lot of the footballers who will start against Brighton feature tonight. Only Andy Robertson, Virgil van Dijk and possibly Joel Matip miss out unless there is an enormous surprise. Everyone else is involved.
This is fascinating from a rhythm perspective. The manager doesn’t want that to fade and a lot of these Liverpool players are just used to midweek football. Also there is an element of training while playing. Imagine, hypothetically, Mo Salah isn’t involved. Well what does his Friday actually look like? Who does he play football with? Here, though, he gets a go. Without ever truly going.
And this is the problem – of that sort of home game, that sort of performance and even that sort of opposition. One shouldn’t ever come over patronising and to be clear, there were a number of ways Liverpool don’t win that game, but there was never truly a sense of peril.
Football is based on peril along with reward. The idea of something bad happening versus the idea of something good happening and a scale. Tonight’s fixture sort of falls down because the peril is never quite there. Union SG are a tidy, well-organised side but they never made clear they could land any blow other than one you would label “surprise”. Maybe a long shot or a set piece. Maybe. But Liverpool could have them at arm’s length and it felt like Liverpool knew that because they had done their homework.
The homework is clear on the fact that Liverpool fancy they can get something off the goalkeeper and fittingly it was the first half’s best performer who scores in Ryan Gravenberch. I love he called it his favourite ever goal afterwards because I want him to think that of every Liverpool goal he scores and there will be several. Have you scored your best goal for Liverpool yet, Ryan? Watch next week.
Watch next week. He wins the dress rehearsal concert and it is reasonable to imagine him lining up against Brighton and Hove Albion on Sunday.
Elsewhere Jarell Quansah does absolutely fine again, Ibrahima Konate is good, Trent Alexander-Arnold looks quick and I like all the rest of them. Diogo Jota’s finish is more than sweet and Liverpool have too much while giving as little as possible.
Toulouse winning gives Liverpool a great chance of having topped the group by the final whistle of the fourth game and that is what all this is about – progressing with a minimum of fuss and a maximum amount of rhythm. Union SG have enough about them to take points off LASK, LASK have enough about them to beat Toulouse at home and Toulouse sit on four, so logically they have enough too.
But Liverpool have more. Liverpool have gears. Liverpool aren’t missing any tricks and while no one is dancing on any moonlight off the back of this one, that isn’t a bad thing.