It was a strange one today. There were glimpses of the all-conquering pre-winter break Liverpool. And glimpses of the extremely vulnerable post-winter break Liverpool. Anfield continues to be a fortress—with today’s win setting an all-time top flight record in England for consecutive home wins (22)—but like with West Ham, it wasn’t always easy.
Regardless, we all wanted a response after three defeats in three separate competitions from the last four matches. And a come-from-behind win is certainly a response.
Captain James Milner: When Virgil van Dijk came in and was exactly the vocal and commanding center back we’ve needed for ages, many fans immediately pegged him as future Liverpool captain. With both Milner and Jordan Henderson out with injury, Virg wore the armband...and didn’t exactly cover himself with glory. Virg is better when he can just go do Virg things, as he did today. Milner, with the weight of the armband, was able to worry about everyone and everything else, and in the process came up big several times today. He led by example, saved the win by clearing a ball off the line, and took a fair few fouls for the team along the way.
Fortress Anfield: With a 12:30 kickoff, Anfield was never going to be at it’s ravenous best (like we hope we’ll see on Wednesday), but the record winning streak still continues. As long as the match is at Anfield, the Reds are in with a good chance.
Defensive Concentration: Liverpool started hot out of the gate, and it looked like the opening goal would definitely come for the home side. And then Bournemouth scored in the 8th minute. It was the 6th unanswered goal conceded by Liverpool. By the 15th minute they would have doubled their lead, were it not for a vital Adrian intervention. The Cherries were routinely able to exploit space on the break. We’re not going to say Fabinho is solely at fault...but the Brazilian is getting easily pulled out of position and bypassed in the midfield. So. Might want to work on that.
Clean Sheets: After a streak of conceding just 1 goal in 11 league matches, Liverpool have conceded six goals in three matches. And another 3 in 2 non-league matches. If the Reds hope to go through against Atletico, a clean sheet is far and away their best bet. Unfortunately, that looks unlikely at the moment.
Dissecting the Narrative
Crisis averted? Possibly. We’ll need more evidence, for sure. Despite the win, Liverpool were far from convincing, and easily could have dropped points again.
If we’re looking for positives, that Jurgen Klopp is righting the ship after a few rough weeks at sea, we certainly appear to be on the right track. There was an intensity from the off, and again once going behind, that has been lacking the last few times out.
If we’re looking for negatives, we cannot like the ease at which Liverpool’s opponents are getting in behind, creating big chance after big chance. It is especially worrying in a European knockout tie, where a single away goal could prove too much of a mountain to climb for the Reds.
The big test comes against Atletico on Wednesday. Will Liverpool kick on? Or limp across the finish line, league in tow, but opportunities lost in the cups?
What Happens Next
Perhaps it’s unfair to judge the players too harshly today. It was an early kickoff. They did enough to get over the line. Three more wins will do them in the league. And Wednesday loomed large over the match (as it has over this article).
This Liverpool side deserve to be considered one of the best. And somehow a single European Cup (last year) and a single league title (this year) doesn’t feel like “enough.” It should be. After years of famine, this success (plus the UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup) should feel like a splendid feast. And yet, we find ourselves living in the shadows of other great sides. Arsenal’s invincibles. Manchester United’s treble winning side. Manchester City’s Centurions.
Advancing in Europe, and playing our way toward yet another final, would go a long way toward silencing the critics. It’s not “just” a Champions League knockout, but our reputation on the line Wednesday night. Let’s hope Klopp can sort these issues and give Atletico hell.