Liverpool open up their Premier League campaign with a big 4-1 win over newly-promoted Norwich City. It wasn’t perfect but 3 points was the absolute expectation and, especially in the first 45 minutes, this Liverpool side ensured we would be holding the entire sum of those points at Anfield. Now join us as we examine some of the narratives, tactics, reactions, and questions Liverpool will be dealing with and the fans will be talking about in the aftermath.
When the line-up was announced, there no real surprises. Sure, pre-match, one might have felt Joel Matip had done enough in his stint to close out the season to keep hold of the place next to Virgil Van Dijk. Instead, Joe Gomez slotted in there. And up top, Divock Origi took Sadio Mane’s space in the attacking three. No shocker there either as Mané had just rejoined the club this past Monday after his lengthy international duty with Senegal at the African Cup of Nations.
The flourish in the small changes that worked to perfection was, quite notably, Divock Origi in the wide forward/winger role. Playing in that space during spot starts and mop up minutes off the bench last season, Origi sometimes looked a bit disjointed. Either a step behind the rest of the attacking band in terms of ideas or laboring to keep pace. On this evening, he was bright and electric. He showed his full complement of attributes: some pace, nifty close control, an eye for build-up and offensive development, and even held off a fair few defenders to keep control of the ball. Origi was, in short, a revelation on this evening. And he even took home a goal and an assist to show for it.
It remains to be seen if Origi has landed on a new sense of form and a better understanding of how to utilize his gifts within Klopp’s system. It’s obvious that that he has talent but given how dire Norwich were defensively - almost conceding space to Origi, in fact, that he was often given the ball with acres to roam in front of him - I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself with effusive praise. The young Belgian did a terrific job and we hope that he is able to maintain this form when minutes tighten up over the course of the season.
As for things on the other end of the pitch for Liverpool, it was a bit of a mess. I’m not a tactics expert (which is making me talking tactics in this post a bit of a gamble), but it appeared that Liverpool were intent on tilting the playing field forward. As such, there was little cover and the center backs were often left alone to manage breaks.
This did not work out perfectly for the Reds as the first half would have been a lot closer had Alisson Becker not managed to put in one fine save and the Norwich attackers - namely, Teemu Pukki - failing to put a good finish with clear chances early. The combination of poor finishing and stand up goal keeping is what kept the Canaries off the scoreboard and the goal they notched in the second half was more than deserved.
I’m not suggesting that Liverpool will find it impossible to keep goals out of the net. I’m merely indicating that there was a stunning efficiency with which Norwich moved forward and that was a bit of a concern.
What Happens Next
Liverpool will depart for Turkey to face off against Chelsea in Wednesday’s UEFA Supercup tilt. It’s one of the smaller trophies, but one that goes up on the wall, so this will be a match that will be contested. As if, under Klopp, there’d have been any other option.
We have a group of Liverpool players that clearly want to win every competition in front of them. Match to match, round to round, they want to be the ones left standing. That is a great feeling and Liverpool will already have to test their depth in this young season.
Still, there are concerns. Many will look, reasonably, at the closing of the transfer window with no major signings and see it as a missed opportunity. The season will bear out whether that will be the case or not, but given that we have a mid-week test so early might give credence to that sentiment.
And perhaps the biggest thing, the one we’ve been talking around, is what we’re all waiting for: news of Alisson Becker’s injury and how many matches, if any, he’ll miss. Adrián looked capable if rusty, but it’s clear that if Klopp’s intention is to outgun every opponent, asking more of the keeper, then we could be in for tighter scorelines. Here’s hoping the Brazilian net-minder isn’t set for a long time away from the team.
All told, it was a very positive result for Liverpool. The big hope is that this kicks the campaign off in the right direction. Bring on the rest of the league.