PSG 2 – 1 Liverpool: Player Ratings and Talking Points

Another Loss Away in Europe

Liverpool were beaten 2-1 by PSG in Paris to put the Reds’ Champions League progression under serious threat. Liverpool started slowly and PSG took advantage by emulating the Reds of last year in blowing us off the park early. Similarly, the home fans channelled an Anfield-like spirit and roared their team to victory.

Their first goal was slightly fortunate but certainly deserved, as Juan Bernat arrived first to a failed reactionary clearance by van Dijk, and managed to deflect a shot beyond a helpless Alisson. Neymar doubled their lead after our ‘keeper brilliantly denied Edison Cavani, but the Brazilian villain was never going to miss from only a few yards out.

Liverpool slowly kicked on after this but failed to create any clear-cut chances. James Milner slotted home a penalty just before half-time, but it wasn’t enough. Even though the Reds had far more possession in the second half, they were unable to do anything meaningful with it.

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Player Ratings

Alisson – (Man of the Match) 9

The fact that the ‘keeper was Man of the Match in a loss tells the story. Regardless, Alisson was unbelievable and couldn’t do anything about either of PSG’s goals. He was the only reason that the score was kept respectable, as the Reds could’ve easily conceded another three or four if it weren’t for his interventions.

Some superb efforts to deny the likes of Angel Di Maria, Cavani, and Thiago Silva stand out as the best of the bunch. It’s obviously better if our ‘keeper doesn’t have to do so much work, but it’s still good to be sure that even when we’re being overrun, Alisson can keep our heads above water.

Joe Gomez – 4.5

Playing Gomez at right-back was an okay idea in theory. But the game isn’t played in theory, and the experiment didn’t work at all. The logic was to use Gomez as extra protection against Neymar, but that backfired badly as PSG ran through the right side of our defence all night.

A swift return to centre-back is needed for young Joe, and in hindsight, it was foolish to move him out of the role that he’d been playing so well in.

Dejan Lovren – 4

This was Lovren’s first Champions League appearance of the season, and it may well be his last. The Croatian played no worse than any of the other defenders, but it’s clear that VVD’s partner should be Gomez.

He couldn’t handle the speed and quick thinking of PSG’s attacking trio and was regularly caught out of position, including in the buildup to the second goal when he was woefully left in the dust.

Virgil van Dijk – 4

We’ve come to expect so much more from the Dutchman, and while the result doesn’t rest on his shoulders, we needed him to step up again and lead the defence to an assured performance, but he didn’t.

Like Lovren, he failed to keep up with PSG’s slick attack, and it was his failed, albeit difficult, clearance that led to the opening goal. Although, Gomez might’ve reacted quicker to either get ahead of Bernat, or close down the eventual shot.

Andy Robertson – 6.5

Robbo was the only defender who can take any pride out of that game, and even then, his reactions towards the end of the match showed that he’s just as furious about the result as many of the fans.

Kylian Mbappe was kept quiet for most of the game, and that was largely due to Robbo’s interceptions and covering runs. He was also able to threaten PSG’s flank with some nice overlapping runs, but unfortunately, his end product wasn’t up to scratch.

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Jordan Henderson – 3

Hendo needed to redeem himself in the eyes of many fans after needlessly getting himself sent off against Watford, but he’s only fanned the flames with this performance.

Unsurprisingly, his biggest sin was repeatedly passing backwards when the opportunity to break was on. We desperately needed some sort of drive or spark from midfield, or at the very least, for the midfielders not to slow the game down. Hendo was more of a hindrance than a help in that regard.

Gini Wijnaldum – 3

In fairness to Hendo, the rest of the midfield wasn’t much better. It’s so frustrating to see Gini absolutely dominate some games, and then go missing for 30-minute spells in others. The first time I saw him anywhere near the play, he was getting booked.

We needed our midfield to give the rest of the team a hand, but they neither provided the attackers with any meaningful ammunition nor gave the defence the support they so desperately needed.

James Milner – 5

Milner gets a better rating simply because he scored. To be fair, he was also the best of the worst when it came to getting attacking moves started, but that’s really not saying much at all.

He was just as guilty as anyone of allowing PSG’s players acres of space in the midfield and did little to turn the tables even once momentum had begun to shift. His penalty was our only shot on target. A damning statistic.

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Mo Salah – 4

Sometimes it feels like ‘one step forward, two steps back’ with Salah. This game showed all of the things that have worried Liverpool fans about Mo’s performances this season.

His decision making in the final third was frankly, abysmal. He’d shoot when the pass was on, and pass when the shot was on. To make matters worse, regardless of his decision, he’d execute the final ball terribly. It’s also a mystery as to why he’s on corner duty when he’s decent in the air, but more importantly, horribly inconsistent with his crosses.

Sadio Mane – 7

Mane didn’t manage to score or rescue the result, but he looked by far the most likely and won the penalty that could’ve changed the game for us.

He created chances all on his own when his fellow attackers weren’t showing any intelligent movement, and created space for himself with his pace and trickery when the midfield failed to give him a decent pass. Like Alisson and Robbo, he was let down by those around him.

Bobby Firmino – 3

Firmino did next to nothing all game, apart from one decent header that went high and wide. Being restored to a more familiar role could’ve meant a return to his form of last season, but we just got more of the same, minus the effective pressing and passing.

Bobby would’ve gotten a 4 as Mo did, but I’ve taken an extra point off for that disgusting thing on his upper lip. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the worst thing I saw during the game, but God did it come close.

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Subs

Naby Keita – (on for Wijnaldum 66′) 5

Naby tried hard and did give our midfield some much needed forward drive, but ultimately he couldn’t provide anything significant on the night.

Daniel Sturridge – (on for Firmino 71′) 4

His only contribution of note was to hold back a breaking PSG player late on. He got booked, but he needed to take one for the team to keep the deficit to only one goal.

Xherdan Shaqiri – (on for Milner 77′) 4

His only opportunities to make an impact came from set-pieces, and he didn’t take any of them particularly well. Although, his cross to Lovren was well-weighted.

Unused Subs

Simon Mignolet, Joel Matip, Trent Alexander-Arnold, and Fabinho.

Manager

Jurgen Klopp – 3

Klopp made some big decisions for this game, and they all backfired. He needs to take responsibility for that. Yes, most of the players were individually poor, and that’s not something Klopp can control, but the warning signs have been there, and have seemingly been ignored.

The decision to revert to a 4-3-3 was predictable given that Klopp had previously hinted that the new 4-2-3-1 system would be played depending on the opposition for now, but it’s questionable as to why he’d so carelessly change what had been a winning formula. We hadn’t been back to our absolute best with the new system, but there were positive signs including a more productive midfield and more varied attack.

To his credit, he made three good, positive substitutions. However, some will argue that they all could’ve come on even sooner, in particular, Shaqiri, who was bizarrely the last to be brought on.

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Talking Points

What the Result Means

The reaction to the result and performance mightn’t have been so severe if it weren’t for the context that surrounded it. Here’s what Liverpool need to do to qualify for the knockout rounds of the Champions League:

Beat Napoli 1-0
Winning the game 1-0 would put Liverpool level on points and head-to-head results with Napoli, but clear of them on goals scored, which is the next criteria.

OR Beat Napoli by a Two-Goal Margin
If Napoli score, then the Reds will have to win by two or more to advance. This would leave us level on points, but leading on head-to-head results.

OR Beat Napoli and Have PSG Drop Points to Red Star
Any win would be good enough if PSG were to do the unthinkable and lose or draw to Red Star. Here’s hoping the Serbians are as up for that one as they were against us. Funnily enough, If PSG drop points and Liverpool win, then the Reds would finish top of the group on head-to-head results.

Ultimately though, we can only count on ourselves and will have to put in a heroic effort to progress. A draw won’t cut it, we’d be relegated to the Europa League in that case, and a loss could mean missing out on Europe altogether if Red Star win against PSG.

Embarrassing UEFA

It’s important to note that Liverpool are responsible for their own rubbish performance and painful result, however, there were a few things that didn’t help matters.

I generally don’t go after referees as it’s a difficult job, and for the most part, referees do a good job. One mistake in a game, even a big mistake, can be forgiven by more sympathetic fans, but this bloke was dreadful. Every second foul was given the wrong way, he showed yellow cards far too easily except in the case of Marco Verratti who should’ve been sent off a handful of times, and he had to be told by his assistant that a clear foul had been committed in the box. How UEFA could allow someone so incompetent to officiate over such an important game is beyond me.

PSG can be proud of the way they played but should be ashamed of their pathetic theatrics. Neymar was, of course, the worst offender, but Di Maria, Silva, Marquinhos, and many more were doing it too. You have to wonder what goes through their minds when they watch games back and see themselves rolling around like morons. I understand gamesmanship, and in this case it worked as the Reds lost their heads, but that doesn’t make it any less despicable. It’s one of the last blights on the beautiful game.

Problems to Address

Klopp’s got his work cut out for him now. Of course, few teams will be able to run through us as PSG did, but that doesn’t make the signs any less ominous. The result means Liverpool have lost all three of our European away games this season, a far cry from last year’s dizzying highs travelling abroad.

You’d like to think that this will be a kick up the backside in the vein of Tottenham away last season, but that’s perhaps too optimistic in the context of how we’ve been performing in general. Our attack is still a major concern, but not nearly as much as the midfield. The middle of the park holds the key for both ends of the pitch.

This is what Klopp needs to sort out as the highest priority because if our midfield is playing well, then our defence has to do less and our attackers will have more chances than they know what to do with. 4-2-3-1 has to be utilised from now on with Shaqiri as a starter. As for who will play as the double pivots? The jury’s still out on that one. What do you think?

You’ll Never Walk Alone

Cieren O’Dea

Red Or Dead Liverpool FC Football Blog and Fields of Anfield Road – 29/11/2018

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PSG vs Liverpool – Champions League Preview

It goes without saying for any Champions League game, but this one in particular, neither side will be satisfied with anything other than a win.

For Liverpool, it’s a golden opportunity to amend for past mistakes in the competition, especially the shocking loss to Red Star. A win here would guarantee qualification to the knockout rounds, while a draw or loss would leave them relying on other results and having to beat Napoli.

PSG face a similarly perilous position, but theirs is slightly more complex. They also face the prospect of relegation to the Europa League, but for them, that’d represent the ultimate failure of the ‘Neymar Experiment’, and could spell the end for the manager, and many players.

PSG Team News and Predicted Lineup

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Thomas Tuchel had the unenviable prospect of taking on a near-full strength without his star duo of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.

Fortunately, for him, both were declared fit and are expected to play tonight, which is a shame for Liverpool as their absence would’ve made winning far easier. As things stand, Reds fans will have to hope that our defence is up to the challenge, as they were at Anfield in the previous encounter.

Other than that, PSG’s lineup should offer little in the way of surprises, the only other significant possibilities are the inclusion of Julian Draxler and Juan Bernat.

Liverpool Team News and Predicted Lineup

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Liverpool will almost certainly select their strongest lineup, but there are a few players to be considered, particularly in the midfield.

Jordan Henderson is likely to start because he’s ineligible to play against Everton on the weekend. However, Fabinho’s deep knowledge of PSG’s players may come in handy if he’s preferred. Naby Keita is also a contender in what would be his long-awaited return.

Many fans will be hoping to see Xherdan Shaqiri play, but its doubtful that Klopp will try his relatively new 4-2-3-1 system in what will be a highly taxing game.

Pre-Game Analysis

PSG will still be hurting from the loss they suffered at Anfield, as many expected them to have too much firepower for the Merseysiders.

Mbappe, Neymar, and Edison Cavani in particular will be fired up and ready to try and make it up to their fans on home soil. It’ll be another major test for Liverpool’s defence, but one that they have already shown to be capable of overcoming.

Liverpool will be looking to exploit PSG’s likely intentions to attack from the off, meaning our midfield and attack will have to take advantage of the counter-attacking opportunities that the defence can provide.

Prediction

Both sides possess immense strengths and few weaknesses, so much will depend on which side takes their chances on the day, as they will surely come in droves.

Both sides tactical approach to the match should be almost as interesting as the game itself, as both teams prefer to hit teams on the counter. Someone will have to take the initiative in this game.

It’ll be a tough night, particularly for the defenders, but Liverpool will emerge victorious in a thrilling 3-2 encounter.

 

You’ll Never Walk Alone

 

Cieren O’Dea

Red Or Dead Liverpool FC Football Blog – 28/11/2018

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Watford 0 – 3 Liverpool: Player Ratings and Talking Points

Records Fall as Liverpool Rise

Liverpool’s current tally of 33 points is their highest ever total at this stage of a Premier League season, and likewise, only five goals conceded is the Reds’ best defensive record in the EPL. However, Watford didn’t make life easy on the day, particularly in the first half.

Gerard Deulofeu had a goal ruled out for offside after only a few minutes. Troy Deeney set up the chance with a wonderful flick-on, but aside from that, the first 30 minutes or so were rather dull. The game suddenly came to life though when Firmino had a shot saved before Watford went the length of the pitch and almost scored themselves.

Salah broke the deadlock with a deflected shot from an excellent team move after an anxious 67-minute wait. Alexander-Arnold then sealed the win with a beautiful free-kick that left Ben Foster in the dust, and Firmino’s headed goal just further emphasised what was already a decided result. Henderson was rightly sent off with a second yellow card, providing the only tangible negative from the game.

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Player Ratings

Alisson – 6

Watford only had one shot on target, and in fairness, Alisson produced a stunning save to deny them of that big chance, but for the rest of the match, our ‘keeper made things harder than they needed to be.

He played a couple of dangerous passes, and one to Firmino almost led to an embarrassing goal. Ultimately, nothing came from these mad moments, and no one wants to see the Brazilian make too many changes to his game, but surely he has to start being a little more composed in these situations if he wants to continue playing out from the back so frequently. His accuracy with long balls is superb, and we have the pace to chase balls down, so why not utilise them more?

Trent Alexander-Arnold – 7

Trent scored his first goal for England during the break and then doubled up with a curling free-kick to secure an important result for his club.

TAA was guilty of being a bit too casual in the first half, as some of his touches and passes were wasteful at times when the team needed him to be precise. However, he improved as the game went on and assisted the defence in obtaining another clean sheet.

Dejan Lovren – 8

Lovren came in for Gomez as the latter suffered a minor knock in training. Lovren didn’t look out of place though, and in fact, excelled in the game, particularly after the first twenty minutes or so.

The Croatian snuffed out Deulofeu after the Watford flyer had shown signs that he was ready for a big game. Overall, he defended extremely well throughout, including numerous important headers and interceptions when the Hornets began to threaten. Lovren’s an easy, and sometimes warranted, target for criticism, but it’s important to give credit when it’s due.

Virgil van Dijk – (Man of the Match) 8.5

VVD was incredible again. He just slightly edged ahead of his centre-back partner in terms of involvement, and his organisation was also of a typically high standard throughout.

Lovren handled Deulofeu, and Virgil took control of the Deeney situation after the awkward striker threatened to snatch a result with some impressive touches and passes.

Andy Robertson – 7

Robbo wasn’t at his best, particularly with the ball, but he never looked troubled defensively apart from an incident with Will Hughes that initially looked like a certain penalty, but replays showed that the Scot intelligently pulled out of the tackle in time.

Like most of the team, Robbo improved in the second half, and once the first goal went in, he was able to find a lot more space to run into and his pinpoint cross led to the third goal after Mane saw his initial shot saved.

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Jordan Henderson – 5

I’ll give my thoughts on Hendo getting sent off in the ‘Talking Points’ section, but for now, I’ll only be reviewing his performance for the 82 minutes he was on the pitch.

Until he got sent off, he had a strong game, and if he kept his cool, he might’ve gotten a 7. In the first half, he was guilty of not being as proactive with the ball as he could’ve been, but he played a big role in Liverpool gaining a foothold in the game and securing enough possession so that chances could begin to come in droves.

Gini Wijnaldum – 6.5

Gini faced the same problems as Hendo in the first half and couldn’t impose himself on the game, however, it should be noted that Watford’s midfielders desperately outnumbered the midfield duo.

Unlike Hendo though, Gini didn’t bounce back as definitively and only started to become more adventurous once the result was already secured. Having said that, he didn’t put a foot wrong all game and one perfectly weighted pass to Robbo sparked the third goal; we just needed to see more of that assertiveness.

Bobby Firmino – 7

Bobby was virtually absent before the break, in part due to the fact that he’s clearly still adjusting to his new role in the system, as his starting position is much further from goal.

He picked it up in the second half though, and his passing was on point including one sublime ball to Mane that took three players out before Salah’s opener. His late goal wasn’t quite as pretty to look at, but it’ll still do his confidence a world of good after going quite some time without scoring.

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Xherdan Shaqiri – 7

Shaq had a strange game in the sense that he was the only Liverpool player who looked fired up and creative in the first half, but unlike everybody else, he declined in the second half.

Klopp was right to replace him as he looked to secure the result, but while he was on, he created a few chances including one for Mane that could’ve made the game far easier.

Sadio Mane – 7.5

Mane did everything but score, and a goal would’ve been fitting after he signed a new deal midweek. He hit an incredible, yet unorthodox, shot in the first half after a great ball by Shaq, but unfortunately, it went straight at Foster.

Mane was unlucky not to score a couple of other chances as well, hitting the post (albeit from an offside position), and seeing a scorching shot denied by Foster again until Firmino pounced on the rebound.

Mo Salah – 7.5

Watford were able to frustrate Salah in the first half as he found time and space very difficult to come by. His only chance came from a clever set-piece routine where Mo drifted from the edge of the box to the back post and would’ve scored were it not for another tremendous save by Foster.

His movement in the second half caused the Hornets more issues, and on another day he could’ve easily scored more than just the one that bundled home. It’s easy to forget that Salah’s scored nine goals already this season, which is still impressive especially considering his new role.

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Subs

James Milner – (on for Shaqiri 74′) 6

Didn’t have much to do when he came on, but he certainly helped steady the ship.

Fabinho – (on for Salah 86′) N/A

No time to make an impact.

Joel Matip – (on for Firmino 92′) N/A

No time to make an impact.

Unused Subs

Simon Mignolet, Nathaniel Clyne, Naby Keita, and Daniel Sturridge.

Manager

Jurgen Klopp – 7.5

Klopp did the best he could in a situation that was far from ideal. He had very little time to prepare his team for a well-drilled, and well-rested, Watford side, and had the added hindrance of an expected, but thankfully minor, injury to Joe Gomez.

In my opinion, as much as I like the new 4-3-2-1 system, our old 4-3-3 might’ve worked better in this game as Watford tend to overload the middle of the park with strong, and tricky, midfield players. However, Klopp showed faith and patience in his players and tactics, and it clearly paid off in the end.

There have been times in the past where fans and pundits have grown frustrated with Klopp’s perceived unwillingness to change and learn from past mistakes, but it would appear that Klopp is making appropriate adjustments this season. It was another solid result, and the German has to take a high degree of credit for the record start to this campaign.

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Talking Points

Hendo Sees Red

Hendo’s taken a lot of criticism online after needlessly getting sent off at a time where in previous seasons, when we weren’t so solid at the back, it could’ve cost us points. The referee had already spoken to him and warned him that he needed to watch his step, and while the final tackle wasn’t that bad, it came after a string of fouls and Hendo had given the linesman a spray only seconds earlier, which drew the ref’s attention.

There’s no defending any professional, let alone the captain, behaving so naively and allowing their emotions to get the better of them, especially in a game where the win was more or less already sealed. However, some of the abuse that’s come his way is entirely over the top and uncalled for.

Hendo is a divisive figure, and there’s many who believe that he either doesn’t fit well with Klopp’s style, of simply isn’t good enough for Liverpool. Others defend him and acknowledge his importance to the team. Either way, you don’t have to like a player, but we all, as Liverpool fans, should treat our players with some respect. Fair criticism and personal abuse are two very different things, no one’s expected to praise Hendo if you think he’s played badly, but that doesn’t mean that hateful words are welcome.

A New Klopp

One interesting aspect to note about this season is the emergence of a new kind of Jurgen Klopp. Gone are the days of gung-ho attacking set-ups. Instead, this Klopp has moulded his team and shaped his system around the result, rather than simply goals and finesse. It’s substance over style, and hopefully it’ll give the team a greater chance of winning trophies in the long run.

Klopp himself noted this after the game when he said, “I know you always expect perfection, but we had exactly one session to prepare [for Watford]. We needed to focus on the specific quality of the opponent. We had to stay stubborn. It wasn’t a brilliant first half, but it was still good.”

“It was a really mature performance. I know a few people miss one or two situations from last season, but in similar games last season we were not that convincing – it wasn’t clear that we controlled the game.”

Another Tough Run Ahead

Our next league game comes against Everton in what will probably be the most competitive Merseyside Derby in some time, but for now, the focus shifts back to the Champions League and a crucial fixture away to PSG.

The Parisians are looking unstoppable in their own league right now, winning 14 from 14 games, but we all know that the UCL is a different kettle of fish to Ligue 1. PSG also face the prospect of taking on the only team to defeat them this season without Neymar or Kylian Mbappe, as both are in doubt with minor injuries.

After PSG and Everton, there’s little time to breath with away games against Burnley and Bournemouth, before two crunch ties between the Reds and Napoli in the UCL and Manchester United in the league. Games against Arsenal and Manchester City follow soon after that, so the Reds will need to keep up their form to stay in touch with City.

You’ll Never Walk Alone

Cieren O’Dea

Red Or Dead Liverpool FC Football Blog and Fields of Anfield Road – 25/11/2018

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Watford vs Liverpool – Premier League Preview

After the monotony of the international break, it’s time to get back to watching Liverpool every week.

In our first game back, the Reds take on a Watford side that have largely struggled for points since their impressive four wins from four games at the start of the season.

Regardless, some of Liverpool’s toughest games in this campaign have been away fixtures against smaller clubs such as Crystal Palace and Huddersfield Town, so there’s no reason to think the Hornets will make life easy at Vicerage Road.

Watford Team News and Predicted Lineup

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Javi Gracia benefited from the international break as very few of his players were called away, and many of those who remained at the club have now either returned from injury or suspension during the elapsed time.

Etienne Capoue has served his ban, and the likes of Tom Cleverley, Will Hughes, and Sebastian Prodl have recovered well from their respective injuries.

Nathaniel Chalobah could be retained ahead of Capoue however given the former’s excellent recent performances. Isacc Success and Roberto Pereyra arrived back late from their international games and could be rested for the likes of Troy Deeney and Andre Gray.

Liverpool Team News and Predicted Lineup

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Jurgen Klopp didn’t have the luxury of getting to train with the majority of his squad for two, uninterrupted weeks. Quite the opposite was true for the German, but despite this, Liverpool have a nearly full squad to choose from.

Jordan Henderson has returned from a hamstring injury and could possibly start ahead of Fabinho. Naby Keita has also recovered from injury, but unlike Hendo, he was forced to travel with his national side, which could see his Liverpool return delayed.

Xherdan Shaqiri is always an option now as well, but further changes would likely happen at the back, if Klopp elects to rotate at all. Alberto Moreno could come in for Andy Robertson after he played two full games for Scotland. Dejan Lovren could come back into the side as well.

Pre-Game Analysis

One of the great unknowns in this game will be whether Klopp decides to utilise a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3. In the past few weeks, I’ve been very vocal in my assertion that Klopp should use the former far more often than he currently is because it allows Shaq to play and the results have been telling.

However, in this game Klopp should, and probably will, stick with the 4-3-3 simply because Watford play very narrow and overload the midfield. Pereyra in particular is a threat on the right, although he often drifts inside and occupies the half-spaces created by Deulofeu.

Mo Salah has a tremendous goal-scoring record against Watford, and all fans will be hoping to see that trend continue. All of the attackers need to step up though so that the defence doesn’t have to work as hard to secure the result, as we’ve seen in previous away games.

Prediction

Watford’s form isn’t brilliant, but the fact that they sit in seventh place ahead of the likes of Manchester United, Everton, and Leicester, is telling. They won’t roll over, and any result will have to be well and truly earned.

Liverpool’s form this season at both ends of the pitch is exemplary though, and the back-line in particular have been impressive. Another clean sheet and a couple of goals should be very achievable.

A win is needed and will come after Liverpool maintain a first-half lead. The Reds will head home as 2-0 winners.

You’ll Never Walk Alone

 

Cieren O’Dea

Red Or Dead Liverpool FC Football Blog – 24/11/2018

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Liverpool 2 – 0 Fulham: Player Ratings and Talking Points

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old. Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them. Lest we forget.

A Step in the Right Direction

Liverpool defeated a spirited Fulham 2-0 at Anfield to see them out for the international break. While many were expecting, or at least hoping, that the Reds would thump the Cottagers in the fashion of last year’s demolitions, but the scoreline doesn’t reflect Liverpool’s dominance.

In fairness, Fulham had a couple of big chances in the first half, but for the majority of the game, Liverpool were well and truly on top. The opening goal was marred by controversy as in the space of 13 seconds Fulham had a goal ruled out for offside before the Reds went the length of the pitch with Salah who slotted the ball home coolly.

The replays showed that it was tight, but ultimately, the correct decision. Shaqiri scored the second and final goal to secure the result with an excellent finish off of a cross from Robbo. After a hotly contested first half, Liverpool were able to stroll to victory as Fulham went into damage limitation mode.

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Player Ratings

Alisson – 7

Alisson was guilty of making a couple of minor errors in the first half, but was luckily not punished for it. After the break though, the ‘keeper was left to soak up the afternoon sun in peace.

He was largely responsible for Salah’s goal. In the blink of an eye, Alisson stopped appealing for offside, picked the ball up, and released an inch-perfect pass down the wing for TAA who in turn played it to Mo. It’s hard to imagine any of Liverpool’s recent run of ‘keepers having the presence of mind to pull of such a play.

Trent Alexander-Arnold – 6

Trent was frustrated for large portions of the game due to over-hitting a couple of crosses and making some poor touches. It’s good to see a player demand more of themselves, especially when they use that frustration to push on as Trent did.

Even though he enjoyed less freedom than in the first half, Trent was far more composed after the break and created a few chances for his teammates without shirking his defensive responsibilities.

Joe Gomez – 7

Gomez had a solid game without needing to step in too often. Although, Fulham’s best chance of the game happened when Ryan Sessegnon rounded Joe with an unorthodox touch, but fortunately, shot wide.

He was as comfortable on the ball as ever, and his speed enables Liverpool to play with a high line without having to worry too much about teams lobbing balls in behind.

Virgil van Dijk – 7.5

VVD was the captain on the day and excelled in the role. His defensive organisation and strong leadership qualities are invaluable to such a young team at the back.

He saved Alisson on one occasion when the ‘keeper spilled what should’ve been a fairly comfortable save, but apart from that, his biggest contributions were his excellent passes that often switched the play or released a winger.

Andy Robertson – 8

Robbo was back to his near-best against Fulham. He had to balance his powerful attacking runs while being mindful of Ryan Sessegnon whose pace can cause some real issues.

He did so comfortably and notched an impressive assist with a beautiful cross to an unmarked Shaqiri. He’s certainly deserving of that new contract that’s been rumoured.

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Fabinho – 6

Unfortunately, Fabinho couldn’t recapture his encouraging recent form as his tackles and passes were too sloppy on occasions. He still needs more time to fully adjust before we see the best of him.

Fans did see get a few glimpses of what he can offer aside from his defensive abilities. Fab lofted a lovely ball over the top to Trent, but the youngster headed over when he possibly should’ve tried to knock it back across the penalty spot.

Gini Wijnaldum – 6

Gini had another quiet game without ever really putting a foot wrong. He didn’t look as tired as against Red Star, but he’s still not performing as well as he was earlier in the season.

That was particularly surprising given that his best games had previously come in matches where he played alongside Fabinho in a 4-2-3-1. He didn’t need to be dominant on the day, but it was still disappointing to not see him get more involved.

Bobby Firmino – 6.5

Bobby came back into the team but still looks to be getting used to this new system and how he fits in among the other attacking players. It’s a bizarre conclusion to draw because he often played a similar, but not identical, role during his time at Hoffenheim.

He created a good chance for Salah to score from and was characteristically tireless in his efforts to drop back and win the ball. Even when he isn’t creating much himself, the space he opens up for others with his off the ball movement can’t be overlooked.

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Xherdan Shaqiri – (Man of the Match) 8

Shaq was playing as though he had a point to prove after being left on Merseyside for the defeat in Serbia. A goal was just rewards for him on the day as he created plenty of chances for himself and those around him.

His was constantly finding space in the first half and struck a fine balance between playing perfectly weighted passes to his teammates and backing himself to score from distance. It’s a mystery why he has to share free-kick taking responsibilities when he’s on the pitch though, as he’s by far the most potent from dead ball situations.

Sadio Mane – 6.5

Mane was threatening again but is still some distance from performing at his lethal best. There were a few occasions when his touch let him down, and he sliced a couple of shots high or wide.

He did create a half-chance early on when he dribbled through several Fulham players, but Mane stumbled as he released the ball, so his pass to a flat-footed Salah was marginally over-hit.

Mo Salah – 7

There’s still some debate over Salah’s ability to play up top, even though Liverpool’s system is fluid enough to allow him to drift over to the right when he wishes.

In any case, Mo had a good game, and he took his goal well. Last season’s Salah might’ve scored a couple more as he let a glorious chance go begging in the first half, but his overall play is showing signs of improvement.

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Subs

Jordan Henderson – (on for Wijnaldum 69′) 6

Hendo was solid when he came on aside from one slightly misplaced pass. There wasn’t much for the captain to do though, as Fulham had already conceded the result.

James Milner – (on for Shaqiri 81′) N/A

No time to make an impact.

Naby Keita – (on for Fabinho 90′) N/A

No time to make an impact, but it’s good to see him back.

Unused Subs

Simon Mignolet, Dejan Lovren, Alberto Moreno, Daniel Sturridge

Manager

Jurgen Klopp – 7

Klopp selected what’s arguably Liverpool’s strongest lineup as he gave his side the best possible chance of bouncing back from the midweek disappointment in the Champions League.

The defence wasn’t as rock solid as in previous games, which suggests that the Reds either underestimated their opponents once again, or simply had an ‘off day’. They did manage to keep a clean sheet though, so the focus will remain on Liverpool’s underperforming attack. The jury’s still out on whether this is down to Klopp’s change in tactics, the individual players’ form, or a combination of the two.

Regardless, Klopp can be mostly pleased with what he saw against Fulham and will undoubtedly be praying that this international break is kinder to him than the last on an injury front.

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Talking Points

Starting Shaqiri

This isn’t the first time that Shaqiri has deserved the man of the match award, and it certainly isn’t the last time we’ll see him running the show this season.

Shaq made a big statement to Klopp that regardless of whether the manager wants to play with a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1, Shaq has to play. In the case of a 4-3-3, then the Swiss superstar could take the place of any of the current front three, given the fact that his form has eclipsed all of theirs. He could play on either wing, but preferably the right, which would mean either a straight swap with Salah, or in place of Firmino and the Egyptian moves to striker.

In the 4-2-3-1, which appears to be Klopp’s preferred system, Shaqiri’s role suits him to a tee. His passing has been sublime even though that’s an aspect of his game that regularly flies under the radar. It’s up to Klopp and the rest of the team to improve and benefit more from what Shaqiri is providing in this formation.

Early Signs That Salah is Returning

Salah’s still not at his scintillating best, that’s an indisputable fact. However, his recent form has been a significant improvement over the start of the season, and the signs are there that we may not have to wait too much longer to get our Mo back.

The Egyptian has scored three goals in his last four Premier League games and five from five in all competitions. Of course he’s had enough chances to potentially double that tally in that time period, but no one can argue that his haul in these games is unacceptable by any means. Like most of the players, he needs more time to adjust to the new system, and once he does, more confidence, and in turn more goals, will surely follow.

Moreover, he’s been using his pace and link-up play to a far greater degree recently, which will undoubtedly aid the adjustment process for himself and those around him.

Good Enough

It’s important to acknowledge that until the second goal went in, Fulham were putting up a respectable fight. They sensed Liverpool were in a precarious moment and did their best to capitalise on that. A bit of luck and some resilience from the Reds though was enough to see off a couple of infrequent scares and secure the result.

The fans seemed wary of this too as the Anfield crowd was palpably cautious for most of the game. It’s up to the players to inspire the supporters to sing and make Anfield the cauldron that we know it can be, but that goes both ways. The fans have to do their best to get behind the team even when they aren’t playing as well or providing as much entertainment as last season.

It’s on to the always unwelcome international break now, and hopefully the travelling Reds will be used sparingly. For those that’ll remain at Melwood though, it’ll be business as usual as Klopp endeavours to perfect his new system.

You’ll Never Walk Alone

 

Cieren O’Dea

Red Or Dead Liverpool FC Football Blog and Fields of Anfield Road – 12/11/2018

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Liverpool vs Fulham – Premier League Preview

Liverpool have to move on from the disastrous result against Red Star and perform well against Fulham.

On paper, the Reds couldn’t ask for a better team to restore their confidence and the Cottagers are bottom of the table having only earned one win and two draws, while conceding 29 goals in 11 games.

What the result against Red Star did show however, is that Liverpool cannot afford to underestimate lesser opponents, and that will still be the case against Fulham.

Liverpool Team News and Predicted Lineup

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Klopp confirmed that Keita, Hendo, and Gomez are fit and available. Gomez could replace TAA at right-back after the latter struggled against Arsenal and Red Star, meaning Lovren may return at centre-back. Matip also played poorly in midweek and is unlikely to feature against Fulham.

Sturridge and Lallana didn’t impress against Red Star either, so are likely to return to the bench. Klopp has played with a 4-2-3-1 in the last two home fixtures with Shaqiri joining Salah, Firmino and Mane in attack.

Klopp has a wealth of options available to him in midfield and may rest Gini and Milner after both players have looked fatigued recently. Fabinho looks set for a recall, while Hendo could also return to the team. Keita is another option in midfield, particularly if Klopp sticks with a 4-3-3.

Fulham Team News and Predicted Lineup

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Fulham boss Slavisa Jokanovic has given no updates on Fulham’s injury situation with much of the talk surrounding his side’s woeful run of form and his precarious position as manager.

Joe Bryan presumably remains an injury doubt, while Kevin McDonald was substituted with a knock in the defeat to Huddersfield Town and his availability is unclear. Given that McDonald has been named in Scotland’s squad his problem is probably not too serious.

Timothy Fosu-Mensah could lose his place to Cyrus Christie at right-back after enduring a nightmare against Huddersfield. Stefan Johansen, Floyd Ayite and Aboubakar Kamara are among the peripheral squad players available to Jokanovic should he wish to mix things up again.

Pre-Game Analysis

Fulham’s struggles are well-documented and Liverpool are well placed on all areas of the pitch to be able to dominate the game.

However, Fulham’s biggest threat, and perhaps only hope for a result, is their Serbian striker Aleksandar Mitrovic. He has scored most of Fulham’s goals, and his linkup play is underrated.

Mitrovic excels at winning the ball in the air and then holding it up for the likes of Andre Schurrle, Ryan Sessegnon, and Luciano Vietto. If Liverpool’s centre-back pairing can stop him from winning these balls and holding up play, then Fulham’s chances of scoring will dramatically decline.

Prediction

This is a must-win game for Liverpool. The result is by far the most important thing, but Fulham at home presents the perfect opportunity for a return to form, a restoration of confidence, and to silence the doubters.

Fulham will smell blood after seeing the Reds lose to an inferior side, and will be desperate for a result given their current position, but Liverpool should assert themselves early and never give the Cottagers a sniff.

Liverpool will head into the international break having won in a convincing 4-0 result.

 

You’ll Never Walk Alone

 

Cieren O’Dea

Red Or Dead Liverpool FC Football Blog – 06/11/2018

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Red Star 2 – 0 Liverpool : Player Ratings and Talking Points

Horror Result

Liverpool were beaten 2-0 away to Red Star after conceding two quick goals midway through the first-half. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but one we must accept.

Regardless of team selection, Liverpool deserved to lose on the night in one of the worst results of the Klopp era. The manager and players shared the fans’ frustration, and will be looking to make amends on the weekend.

The best thing to do now is to move on quickly, but first, let’s re-live the misery by looking back at where it all went wrong and discussing the result in context. Oh boy!

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Player Ratings

Alisson – 4

Like many others on the night, Alisson didn’t perform to the standards that we expect of him. He surely had to do better for Red Star’s second goal.

Other than picking the ball out of the back of the net twice, he had little to do. Although, despite the second goal, in a game such as this one, the goalkeeper can’t accept too much of the blame.

Trent Alexander-Arnold – 2.5

Trent probably could’ve done with a week out of the spotlight after his personal issues and performance against Arsenal, but then again, if he had a great match we’d all be saying that the decision to play was the only thing to help him get over those things.

In any case, Trent had another shocker. He was poor on the ball and was outdone in defence. Bad stretches are to be expected out of a young player though, so it’s far too early to be dropping him entirely, especially when the only real alternative is Clyne who’s barely played in years.

Joel Matip – 3

Many questioned the decision to start Matip when he’s clearly lacking in match fitness, but how can a player get fit without playing? Again, if he’d played well, then we’d all be praising Klopp’s rotation.

His performance was weak, and it’s difficult to understand how such a big man fails to impose himself physically onto much smaller attacking players.

Virgil van Dijk – 4

VVD was better than Matip, but that’s not saying much. For the second game in a row he spurned a few chances, but most importantly, he wasn’t as authoritative at the back as he normally is.

He was also largely at fault for the first goal which sent us on our way to a dreadful defeat. Even our great centre-back can’t always be expected to save our skins.

Andy Robertson – 4.5

The best of the worst in defence; Robbo still wasn’t very good though. Apart from one outstanding pass early on to unleash Mane, he was terribly wasteful on the ball.

Robbo has been one of the few players this season to somewhat maintain his form from the end of last season, but on this occasion, he was poor.

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Gini Wijnaldum – 3

One tactical decision that did have fans excited before the game was the decision to shift Gini back to the holding role that he shone in earlier in the season.

Unfortunately, Gini produced one of ‘those’ away day performances where he simply fails to turn up and influence the game in any meaningful manner. He did pick up slightly in the second-half, but was still light-years away from what we needed.

James Milner – 3.5

I can’t remember the last time Milner had such a bad game. Normally his absolute worst performance would still earn him a 6/10 such is his consistency.

He was just as bad as the rest of them in Belgrade though, and in particular, he was far too casual on the ball for Red Star’s first goal. He was one of many who looked knackered.

Adam Lallana – 2

It’s still early into Lallana’s return from injury, but it’s getting harder and harder to see how he could possibly have a long-term future at the club.

He hasn’t lost his touch and is still capable of beating defenders with his skill, but his overall game is lacking and he looks miles off the pace. Naby Keita’s return couldn’t come any sooner.

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Mo Salah – 4

Salah had a frustrating night as Red Star constantly had two players marking him. That was probably overkill in hindsight as his poor touch and final ball hindered him more than any defender could.

In fairness, he went the closest to scoring by hitting the post and forcing the ‘keeper into a good save late on, but he’s still looking a shadow of the player that fans fell in love with last season.

Sadio Mane – 3.5

Mane did look threatening at times, but then again, David N’Gog might’ve looked threatening in this game. He couldn’t have done much worse than the front-three who did play.

Like Salah though, he did most of Red Star’s defending for them as when he wasn’t falling over, he was producing sloppy touch after sloppy touch. His passing was somewhat threatening, but there was little to no linkup play to take advantage of it.

Daniel Sturridge – 2

What a chance for Sturridge to stake a claim on a regular first-team place, especially considering the fact that our previously untouchable front-three have been sub-par. Unfortunately, he dropped the ball and won’t be taking anyone’s place anytime soon.

Klopp was right to hook him at half-time after missing a chance that you would’ve put the house on him scoring, and then trying to correct his mistake minutes later by shooting when he should’ve passed to an open Lallana.

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Subs

Bobby Firmino – (on for Sturridge 46′) 4.5

Firmino’s introduction did make a minor difference, but not to the scoreline. Salah’s form has gotten so much attention that it’s easy to forget how average Bobby’s been for most of the season.

Joe Gomez – (on for Alexander-Arnold 46′) 5

Gomez came on as a mercy sub to replace TAA. There wasn’t much a right-back could do at 2-0 down, but some sloppy passing didn’t help.

Divock Origi – (on for Lallana 79′) 3

Everyone would’ve preferred to have seen Keita come on. Origi’s time at the club is done, and he did nothing to prove otherwise with the admittedly short time he was given in this match.

Unused Subs

Simon Mignolet, Alberto Moreno, Fabinho, and Naby Keita.

Manager

Jurgen Klopp – 3

Where to start? The one saving grace for Klopp is that unlike Brendan Rodgers and Roy Hodgson, he openly admits when the team’s been awful. It’s a minor consolidation, but a sure sign that he’ll make it clear to the players that they’ve not been good enough.

When Klopp was asked if he could ‘put his finger on’ what went wrong for Liverpool, he said, “I only have 10 fingers”. Klopp knows we have problems. It’s now up to him to find solutions, and fast.

The biggest criticisms Klopp’s received in the wake of the game have been that he underestimated the opposition, which he denied, his rotation, and subs. In theory, this was a good game to rotate, but the three players he chose looked embarrassingly unfit, and the decision to leave Keita on the bench when the midfield had been so appalling was frankly baffling. However, in Klopp’s defence, he wasted no time in making the first two changes, which is encouraging, as he normally waits far too long to do so.

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Talking Points

Last 16

Napoli managed a draw against PSG, which mean that Liverpool would’ve been one result away from securing top spot in Group C, potentially avoiding one of Europe’s giants in the first knockout stage.

As things stand now, all four teams have something to play for. One win should be enough to go through, but we’ve made hard work of it. PSG away and Napoli at home will be no cakewalk, and considering how many other results have gone our way, it’s difficult not to feel disappointed.

The one good thing about this situation is that Red Star have still got everything to play for, so they could be more motivated to give us a hand by making PSG and Napoli drop points. Probably wishful thinking, but it’s better than considering the possibility of dropping down into the Europa League.

Cause for Concern

For once, most football pundits have been absolutely spot on in their assessment of the result. It’s a shock, but it had been coming.

Liverpool’s results, for the most part, this season have been excellent, but this has meant that some poor performances have been brushed under the rug. The most common rationales have been fitness and more time needed for played to bed into the new system, but these excuses are beginning to wear thin.

Several alternate theories have been expressed to explain why the attack and midfield are so much worse now. Some say Buvac’s influence on the attack is being missed, while others argue that this is simply what a Countinho/Oxlade-Chamberlain-less Liverpool looks like. All that’s certain is that our form is a big concern.

Not All Doom and Gloom

Get out your virtual pitchforks! Someone’s trying to be optimistic about Liverpool on the internet! In all seriousness though, I’m as disappointed and upset about this result as any fan. However, it’s important to bear a few things in mind going into the next run of fixtures.

It’s true that we aren’t as potent as last year, and that City are deservedly ahead of us, but as a club, we’re in a much better place. I know it’s difficult to hear at this stage of Klopp’s reign, but we’re still rebuilding, and for the most part, we’re getting better. Think of where we were when he came in. Our defence is better than last year, but our midfield is still adapting to change. This will undoubtedly improve over time and will have a knock-on effect for the attackers.

We’ve arguably been overperforming for years under Klopp, especially last season. This time around, we’re probably playing to our level, and that’s why it appears worse than it actually is. It only looks this bad because of how good we’ve been before. In time, we’ll get back to our best. It’s just a matter of trying to stay alive in the Champions League and EPL until we do.

 

You’ll Never Walk Alone

Cieren O’Dea

Red Or Dead Liverpool FC Football Blog and Fields of Anfield Road – 07/11/2018

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Red Star vs Liverpool – Champions League Preview

No Excuses for Anything Less Than a Win

Liverpool head into matchweek four of the Champions League atop of their group and with a solid chance of progression.

The disappointment that some players may be feeling about the weekend’s result against Arsenal needs to be forgotten and moved on from.

Last time Liverpool faced Red Star, Klopp’s side strolled to a 4-0 victory, and the German will be looking for a similar performance in Serbia.

Red Star Belgrade – Team News and Predicted Lineup

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Red Star are a completely different side when they play at home because the atmosphere that the fans create inside the stadium inspires the team to play above their level.

This is how they were able to get a draw from Napoli, who are the only side to have beaten Liverpool in the Champions League so far. Although, PSG were able to thrash them, so once the first goal goes in, the floodgates can open.

As fans will remember from the game at Anfield, Red Star play physical football and that will be even more evident on their home patch. Liverpool will need to be patient, but potent, as they try to silence the home fans.

Liverpool – Team News and Predicted Lineup

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The biggest news out of the Liverpool camp is the Xherdan Shaqiri hasn’t travelled with the squad. This is disappointing as it sets a bad precedence. Sure, there’d been security warnings directed the Shaqiri stemming from his actions at the World Cup, but by all reports, the player wanted to go, so he should’ve played.

Elsewhere, Lovren missed the Arsenal game with a minor injury but should return for this game. This would take Trent out of the spotlight after his nightmare against Arsenal, while Gomez would move to right-back.

The midfield could be a combination of many players. Adam Lallana will surely be asking to start so that he can prove he deserves a more permanent role, and the same could be said of Sturridge up top.

Pre-Game Analysis

Klopp’s formation and lineup will be under scrutiny in this match as he has a number of difficult decisions to make.

Fabinho, for example, should arguably be dropped after his performance against Arsenal, but then again, he’ll get better with more game time, and it’s difficult to imagine a more appropriate match for the Brazilian to be used in.

Whatever the lineup and formation, Klopp will look to silence the home fans by playing the Serbians off the park from the get-go.

Prediction

A win would certainly make Liverpool’s path to progression much easier, and depending on the result in Naples between Napoli and PSG, it could make the top spot of the group much more attainable.

Liverpool most likely won’t be able to win by as big a margin as last time because Red Star are far better at home, but the result should be the same.

It may take some time to break down the Serbs’ stubborn defence, but Liverpool will ultimately walk away as 2-0 winners.

 

You’ll Never Walk Alone

 

Cieren O’Dea

Red Or Dead Liverpool FC Football Blog – 06/11/2018

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Arsenal 1-1 Liverpool : Player Ratings and Talking Points

Disappointing Draw

Liverpool drew 1-1 with an impressive Arsenal side in a game that’s difficult to analyse. On one hand, Liverpool were unlucky not to have won 3-0 after Mane’s goal was incorrectly ruled out for offside, and VVD missed two big chances. On the other, Arsenal were dominant for long stretches of the match, and it’s arguable that Liverpool barely deserved a draw.

Klopp voiced his disappointment after the game regarding the offside decision but correctly pointed out his side’s own failings. Klopp said, “It’s a pity it didn’t count, but we made a few more mistakes than the ref to be honest. It was very intense, Arsenal are in a very good moment, I thought we made life a bit too easy for them.”

Liverpool didn’t come out of the blocks with their usual aggressiveness in the big games. Arsenal dominated the early periods, but it was Liverpool who had the two biggest chances of the half through Mane and VVD. Milner smashed home a rebound in the second half and the Reds looked like holding on, but a brilliant goal by Alexandre Lacazette rescued a point for the Gunners late in the game.

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Player Ratings

Alisson – 6.5

This was probably the busiest Alisson’s been since he arrived, and for the most part, he handled the intensity of the match well. He made strong saves to deny the likes of Lacazette and Lucas Torreira, but could’ve done better on occasions such as misjudging a cross that Henrikh Mkhitaryan should’ve opened the scoring from.

Little to no blame can be put on the Brazilian for the late goal. The pass was expertly threaded through a tired defence, and Lacazette’s composure to scoop-turn away from Alisson and ability to find the far corner was superb. Alisson made the right choice by coming out, and a lesser striker would’ve had no chance of finishing from the angle that the goalkeeper left him.

Trent Alexander-Arnold – 3

This game was one of few, including Manchester United and Crystal Palace away last season, where Trent had a poor performance. He looked vulnerable all night and was constantly beaten by Arsenal’s attackers who took it in turns to have a crack at our right-hand side.

Sead Kolasinac, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and Mesut Ozil all found joy against TAA, but in fairness to the youngster, no one stepped in to give him a hand or even bother to track Ozil who drifted over to his side frequently. In reaction to the game and this performance, some fans have suggested this is a sign that Trent’s been found out at fullback and needs to move into midfield. This is a harsh assessment, and it won’t be long before Trent is back to his best.

Joe Gomez – 7

Gomez was simply incredible for most of the match. He made numerous blocks and interceptions to keep his side in the contest, and it’s undeniable that he’s playing like a centre-back with many years experience in the league. He uses his intelligence just as impressively as his strength and speed.

His positioning wasn’t the best when Alex Iwobi assisted Lacazette for the goal, as he left too big a gap for the ball to be played into. Lacazette did come from behind him though, and fatigue surely affected the situation as well.

Virgil van Dijk – (Man of the Match) 8

First and foremost, van Dijk defended brilliantly for the majority of the game and was responsible for rescuing Liverpool from themselves far too often. VVD had three big chances in the game, and the first was a case of ‘the wrong man, in the right place’, as the big Dutchman couldn’t sort his feet out to poke the ball past Bernd Leno. He was faultless for the second and third though, beating Leno to a header which agonisingly came back off the post, as well as forcing Leno to tip the ball over after another headed effort.

Like Gomez, van Dijk must shoulder some of the blame for the equaliser, but it can’t be stressed enough how impeccable the pass, run, turn, and finish were. VVD didn’t track Lacazette as he slipped behind Gomez, and he failed to alert his partner to the danger.

Andy Robertson – 8

While Trent struggled, Robbo thrived. The Scot benefited from the majority of traffic going down the opposite side and used this to his advantage by bombing forward whenever possible and linking up with Mane in a throwback to their excellent combination play of last season.

He could’ve had a goal for his efforts, but was unable to direct his powerful shot around Leno. Nevertheless, his runs and crosses were a constant thorn in the side of Arsenal’s defence and midfield who couldn’t pin him down.

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Fabinho – 3

Fabinho had a nightmare. Klopp and the fans were left furious as the Brazilian continually gave the ball away with sloppy passing and careless dribbling. Liverpool consistently put themselves under pressure by giving the ball away in midfield, and Fabinho was the worst offender.

He played much better in the last two games operating in Klopp’s 4-2-3-1 system, so perhaps some of the fans’ frustration should be tempered with an understanding that Fabinho needs more time to settle into the 4-3-3.

Gini Wijnaldum – 6.5

Gini was the only midfielder who didn’t give the ball away every other time he touched it, but he did little else to influence the result. His silky touches are a joy to watch, but they aren’t enough to win a midfield battle, and that was where the game was very nearly lost.

Crucially, Gini didn’t slide over to help Trent when it was clear that the youngster wasn’t coping well with Arsenal’s attack. In particular, Ozil was allowed free rein at times while Gini sat centrally, watching Trent struggle.

James Milner – 7

Milner had a poor start to the game and was uncharacteristically wasteful in possession at times. Like Gini, Milner either failed to recognise the fact that Arsenal were directing their attacks at Trent, or simply didn’t react to it.

He improved in the second half though, and his well-taken goal could’ve sealed all three points on another day. His work rate never slowed, even after he suffered a nasty head clash with Gomez.

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Mo Salah – 6.5

Salah is slowly continuing on his path back to top form, and had another promising display against Arsenal. He wasn’t at his absolute best, but his movement and passing were significantly better than earlier in the season.

His speed caused the Arsenal defence to panic on some occasions, and the Egyptian could’ve registered a winning assist, but twice his final pass to Mane just evaded the Senegalese flyer by mere inches.

Sadio Mane – 7

Mane did well to follow up on Firmino’s chip and stay onside in a tricky situation, although the officials disagreed with that last point. Mane didn’t get enough of the service that he needed, yet every time he did get the ball in space he looked Liverpool’s most dangerous asset.

His outstanding run and powerful cross forced Leno to palm the ball out of the path of Salah, before Milner belted the followup shot into the back of the net for what might’ve been a winning assist from Mane.

Bobby Firmino – 5.5

Bobby didn’t impact the game nearly as much as we’re used to seeing him do in big matches. His run and chip for Mane’s offside goal was classic Firmino brilliance, but aside from that, he barely got involved in the game.

His passes and touches weren’t nearly as potent as fans have come to expect from him, and Klopp rightly hooked him off for Shaqiri in the second half.

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Subs

Xherdan Shaqiri – (on for Firmino 77′) 5

Shaqiri didn’t do anything wrong when he came onto the pitch, but he didn’t quite have the impact that fans were expecting. Perhaps Klopp should’ve brought him on earlier to give him a better chance of influencing the game.

Joel Matip – (on for Salah 90′) N/A

No time to make an impact.

Unused Subs

Simon Mignolet, Alberto Moreno, Adam Lallana, Daniel Sturridge, and Divock Origi.

Manager

Jurgen Klopp – 6

Many fans were hoping to see Klopp continue to use the 4-2-3-1 formation that had been working so well in previous weeks, but there was nothing wrong on paper with his choice to revert to a 4-3-3. Moreover, when it was clear that the original system wasn’t working, Klopp wasted little time switching back to his 4-2-3-1, and it had a positive impact on the game.

Likewise, his team selection can’t be faulted. Shaqiri was the only player who might’ve started instead of being relegated to the bench, but he would’ve replaced Milner who scored the goal to help us get the draw. Many fans have criticised Klopp’s perceived negativity as he brought Matip on for Salah with only seconds left on the clock, while Sturridge was left on the bench. Not bringing on Studge was strange given the impact he’s had to our season as a substitute, but Salah was out on his feet, so bringing on Matip to secure the result made sense.

Klopp’s fury was clear from the first few minutes at the casual passes that were gifting Arsenal possession. The decision making was generally sub-par, and that’s not something that the manager can be blamed for. His half time talk and adjustments did have an obvious effect and tilted the game slightly more in Liverpool’s favour in the second half.

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Talking Points

Best Formation

Klopp’s decision to abandon the previously successful 4-2-3-1 system in favour of his old 4-3-3 suggests that he believes the former still needs some work on the training ground before it’s ready to be used against the top sides.

Recent results and performances would suggest otherwise though. Utilising Gini and Fabinho in a double pivot has been a revelation for our midfield, and Shaqiri’s performances have generally warranted more starts.  Using a 4-2-3-1 is ideal because it suits most of our players perfectly. For example, Trent can receive more cover from a four of five-man midfield, meaning the likes of Ozil and Aubmeyang can’t double team him.

It’s a mystery why Klopp isn’t as convinced as most fans about this subject, but the Arsenal game will have surely persuaded him that 4-2-3-1 is the way forward, at least for now.

How Bad Is The Result?

The performance was unacceptable in patches, but the result is what matters most. A lot of fans have reacted poorly to what they see as two vital points dropped. Their core sentiment is difficult to disagree with in the sense that it was an important game and one that both Manchester City and Chelsea managed to win. By extension, this result could be viewed as two points of lost ground to our rivals.

However, when the bigger picture is assessed, it’s not nearly as bad as some are making out. After 11 games, Liverpool are still undefeated and have amassed a whopping 27 out of a possible 33 points. Moreover, we’re the only team in the top six who have played four games against other top six sides. There are plenty more chances for our rivals to take points off of each other, but only a few for them to take points off of us. Beating Chelsea, City, and Arsenal would’ve been ideal, but at least we didn’t give any of them a win.

Even though many fans are stressing about the fact that City dominate smaller teams, Liverpool remain the only side in the league who haven’t dropped points to anyone outside of the top six. City drew with Wolves, Cheslea drew with West Ham, and the likes of Arsenal, Tottenham, and Manchester United have suffered more than a couple of bad results against lesser sides. We may only be top of the league for a few more hours, but we’re in a better position than many seem to suggest.

Different Challenge Ahead

Liverpool have emerged from perhaps our trickiest run of fixtures of the entire 2018/19 season unbeaten, and top of both our Champions League group, and the Premier League, at least until City play. Fans should be happy with that. Being clear top would’ve been amazing, but the lads have done a commendable job nonetheless.

Now that we’ve put ourselves in a competitive position, it’s time to capatilise on that by continuing to pick up wins against the smaller teams. Before we take on Manchester United in mid-December, Liverpool play Red Star, Fulham, Watford, PSG, Everton, Burnley, Bournemouth, and Napoli.

A win at Red Star could secure qualification for the knockout stages of the Champions League, and every one of those Premier League fixtures are winnable. In that same period, Chelsea play Tottenham and Manchester City, while City also have a game against Manchester United. If the players can make the most of it, this could be a period of real optimism for the club heading into the new year.

 

You’ll Never Walk Alone

Cieren O’Dea

Red Or Dead Liverpool FC Football Blog and Fields of Anfield Road – 04/11/2018

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Arsenal vs Liverpool – Premier League Preview

Big Test for Both Sides

Two of the Premier League’s most inform teams will do battle at the Emirates, and the stakes are exceptionally high for such an early point in the season.

For Arsenal, the hosts, this is their greatest test since Unai Emery’s philosophy has started to bear fruit. Much has been made of their long unbeaten run, but it’s been quite some time since they’ve faced a team of Liverpool’s quality.

For Liverpool, this is a must win game. Not only because it is against a top-four rival, but because both Chelsea and Manchester City picked up all three points at the Emirates. If Liverpool want to stake their claim as genuine title contenders, then anything other than a win must be seen as a failure.

Arsenal Team News and Predicted Lineup

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Arsenal limp into this fixture with some key absences. Their defence are on their last legs, although their formidable attack is as potent as ever.

Mohamed Elneny, Laurent Koscielny, Kostantinos Mavropanos, and Matteo Guendouzi will all miss this weekend’s fixture. While the likes of Hector Bellerin, Sead Kolasinac, Nacho Monreal, and Sokratis will be assessed as close to kick-off as possible.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles could come in to replace Bellerin if he’s not fit to start, while supposed Liverpool transfer target Aaron Ramsey could be brought into the midfield in Emery elects to add more numbers in the centre of the park.

Liverpool Team News and Predicted Lineup

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It will likely be too soon for either of Jordan Henderson or Naby Keita to be in contention against Arsenal, but other than that, Liverpool’s lineup will be strong.

The rest of the team more or less picks itself, especially the defence, and to a lesser extent, the midfield, given the poor recent showings by Dejan Lovren and Adam Lallana.

The only doubt is whether Klopp will elect to retain Xherdan Shaqiri meaning that Liverpool will lineup closer to a 4-2-3-1. This would be a bold move by Klopp, but one that could play dividends.

Pre-Game Analysis

If Shaqiri plays, and Klopps trust Gini Wijnaldum and Fabinho to control the midfield as they’ve done in the last two games, then Arsenal’s makeshift defence will be put under even more pressure. If Milner plays though, it will mean Liverpool have a better chance of nullifying the impact of players such as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Arsenal have a record of starting slow this season, which may sway Klopp’s decision to try and kill the game early with a Shaqiri-spearheaded blitz. However, Emery is a shrewd manager and will have planned for Klopp’s attack well.

Liverpool will need to punish Arsenal if they linger on the ball too long, as they are a side who prefer to play out from the back. However, if they get the ball further afield, then they have every chance of scoring goals.

Prediction

Both managers will have had their eyes on this fixture for many weeks now, and as such, both will have prepared game plans that they believe will secure the win.

Liverpool will be the more desperate of the two for a victory, but that’s not to say Arsenal won’t be giving it a real crack at home.

Ultimately, Liverpool’s defence should be able to repel Arsenal’s formidable attack more often than not, but the same won’t be said of the Gunner’s defence against whichever attacking combination Klopp prefers. A well earned 3-1 victory for the Reds will make a  real statement going forward.

 

You’ll Never Walk Alone

Cieren O’Dea

 

Red Or Dead Liverpool FC Football Blog – 27/10/2018

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