Reds Cruise to Another Win
Liverpool’s perfect start to the season continues with a maximum of 15 out of 15 points accrued in the league. After a decisive first half, the Reds took the second half off and waltzed to victory.
Xherdan Shaqiri made his long-awaited debut, and had an immediate impact by forcing an own goal after 10 minutes from a shot which deflected off two defenders.
Joel Matip towered over his opposite number, Jannik Vestergaard, to double the lead before a cracking Shaqiri free-kick from long-range rattled the crossbar and fell to an onrushing Mo Salah to finish off the rout.
Alisson – 7:
Another quiet day for Alisson with very little to do aside from a few short passes to recycle possession.
He deserves a great deal of praise for pulling off a strong save in the 91st minute to deny Charlie Austin. It was his first save of the game so he could’ve been forgiven for falling asleep after waiting so long.
Trent Alexander-Arnold – 7.5:
Trent didn’t have much do to defensively, but he was a consistent outlet on the right flank for the attack.
He whipped in crosses all day and linked up well with those around in to try and create goal-scoring opportunities.
Joel Matip – 8:
Many fans, including myself, could be forgiven for feeling slightly nervous at the sight of Matip’s name on the team sheet, but the Cameroonian did well despite not being tested regularly.
He thumped a header home from a corner to put an exclamation point on his return but he, understandably, had a few moments where he was slightly too hesitant to take immediate action, which was likely down to rust.
Virgil van Dijk – 7:
VVD’s biggest contribution on a day where the defence had very little to do, was an excellent sliding challenge to thwart Shane Long.
All Liverpool fans had their hearts in their throats when Big Virg came off injured, clutching his ribs. Mercifully, Klopp confirmed after the game that it was just a precaution due to some pre-existing bruising.
Andy Robertson – 7:
Robbo, like the rest of the defence, had very little to do; especially in the second half which seemed to drag on for an age.
His linkup play was tight as usual, and the Scotsman almost scored a terrific volley in front of the Kop late on in the day.
Jordan Henderson – 7.5:
Hendo put in another solid shift for the team, controlling the middle of the park with and without the ball.
He ventured forward and ran with the ball more often than we’re used to seeing from Hendo in the last few seasons; an encouraging sign of confidence.
Gini Wijnaldum – 8:
A vastly underrated performance from the Dutchman, in a game where almost every single touch he made was inch-perfect.
Other players will steal the headlines, but Gini’s start to the season has been nothing short of phenomenal; and to think he could’ve left in the summer!
Xherdan Shaqiri – (Man of the Match) 8.5:
Finally Reds fans got to see the new signing make his debut, and what a debut it was for the Swiss international.
A big hand in two goals gave the home support just a taste of what’s to come, and even though many were disappointed to see him withdrawn at halftime, it’ll be a big asset to have a fresh and inform Shaqiri for the upcoming run of fixtures.
Sadio Mane – 6.5:
Mane didn’t have his best game of the season, but he didn’t need to for the Reds to secure an easy victory.
His passing was his greatest contribution on the day with a couple of lovely through balls, but other than that his final product was just slightly off.
Mo Salah – 7:
Salah himself was perhaps the only person more relieved than Liverpool fans when he scored a tap in from Shaqiri’s free kick.
Hopes that this would help him rediscover his confidence were dashed in the second half with consistent wasted opportunities. Although, to be fair, he almost scored an incredible backheel in the first half and was incorrectly ruled offside for his goal in the second.
Bobby Firmino -7:
Bobby dropped even deeper this game than normal and at one point came all the way back into our half to receive a short pass from VVD.
He also drifted wide even more often than usual, allowing Mane, Shaqiri, and in particular Salah to run into the half-spaces that he created centrally.
James Milner – (on for Shaqiri 45′) 7:
Milner was brought on to adjust the shape back to a more familiar one and to see out the game; he did both of these things competently.
Joe Gomez – (on for van Dijk 54′) 7:
Joe’s main highlight was his composure on the ball as he rarely had to make a defensive action.
Naby Keita – (on for Wijnaldum ’70) 6:
Naby came on for a fatiguing Gini, but didn’t seem that desperate to make an impact aside from one nice passing move with Bobby and Mo.
Simon Mignolet, Alberto Moreno, Fabinho, Daniel Sturridge
Jurgen Klopp – 9:
Klopp managed this game to near perfection in every sense: team selection, rotation, tactics, and substitutions.
In particular, Klopp chose the perfect time to change the system by introducing Shaqiri in a game that could’ve easily been looked over and taken for granted.
Interestingly, this is the first time, (that I can remember), in which Klopp made all three of his allocated substitutions before the 70th minute. One was partially forced, granted, but this is likely a sign that Klopp’s trust in his squad is growing.
What a perfect time for Shaqiri to be introduced to the team and to shine so brightly on debut given the run of fixtures on the horizon.
It could be argued that Shaq played the ‘Ox’ role, and the comparison is fair given his direct dribbling and passing. However, his ability to beat defenders and unleash a powerful shot adds an extremely potent dimension to the Liverpool attack.
Furthermore, having someone as talented as him on set-pieces could prove vital in tight games given how frequently our players are brought down around the box.
Strength in Depth
Aside from Shaqiri, Matip also had an outstanding day on his return to the first team, and the same can be said for our midfield which has been regularly chopped and changed.
While it’s too early to say whether Matip could fight for a regular place in the starting lineup given the form of Gomez and VVD; the signs are there that he’ll be a handy replacement when necessary.
Gone are the days of David N’Gog and Jay Spearing, now Liverpool’s bench is more of a ‘who’s who’ of Premier League talent, rather than simply ‘who?’
Rotating for the Chelsea Games
While being Liverpool means competing on all fronts, even die-hard fans have to agree that the Carabao Cup ranks lowest on the scale of priorities this season.
Even though Klopp rarely utilises wholesale changes regardless of the competition, surely this time will be different given the squad depth and the run of difficult fixtures that follows.
The likes of Nathaniel Clyne, Moreno, Matip, Fabinho, Shaqiri, and Sturridge should all unquestionably start so that others can get some well-earned rest, even if Klopp doesn’t want to throw youngsters such as Curtis Jones and Nat Phillips into the mix.
You’ll Never Walk Alone
Red Or Dead – Liverpool FC Football Blog – on 23/09/2018