After seeing the midfield line up many Liverpool fans have been stumping for ahead of the game, it seemed like Liverpool would play on the front foot. Instead, it was a very disjointed affair until the steadying presences of Jordan Henderson, Georginio Wijnaldum, and Roberto Firmino came on. In the end, the 2-0 scoreline belied how ugly the match was for the first 60 minutes.
Join us as we try and separate narrative from reality of the match up and how it all went down in the end.
What a weekend it has been for the local lad. He signed a new 5-year contract on Saturday, and on Sunday came off the bench to score a goal.
The introduction of Jordan Henderson, Gini Wijnaldum, and Roberto Firmino immediately changed the game for the better. Liverpool controlled the ball, created space, and showed a fluidity and understanding in the attack that payed dividends in goals.
Most of the time, you only notice a goalkeeper if they make an outstanding save or a boneheaded blunder. Alisson tends not to have either, mostly due to his stellar footwork and positioning. He couples that with a great ability of when to be aggressive. He put on an understated masterclass today, making several sharp saves without giving up a rebound by getting his body behind the ball. He also came out several times to claim or punch a cross, and even came to the edges of his box to claim balls. I only wish there was a keeper cam where you could truly focus on the little things he does to make it look so simple.
I love Ox. He has such an engaging personality, and can be an absolute difference maker in the midfield when he is on form. Unfortunately, he has had a rough go of it since the restart, and it was highlighted today while playing in his preferred midfield role. There is no question about effort here, but he really seemed like he was trying to force things to come off. His touch and his passing were all over the place today.
Divock Origi is a bit of an enigma. He has scored some absolutely massive goals, and at times is completely unplayable. Other times, like today, he just doesn’t seem to know where he is supposed to be on the field (more on that later). He often ran into the same space as Mohamed Salah or Sadio Mané, and failed to combine with anyone else in the attack. Outside of all that. he did have pretty great hair today, so at least he has that going for him.
Like Ox, there is no question about effort from Robbo, but for the second game in a row he was quite poor. Robertson received the ball quite a few times from long diagonals in a good attacking position, but he failed to do anything with the ball. Defensively, he was caught out a couple of times. He just seems to be chasing the game right now.
Liverpool’s attack is predicated on using smart movement and quick ball movement at high speed. It requires the attacking trio to understand where the other players are likely to move into so they can play off of one another. This fact was highlighted today in a negative sense with Divock Origi, and immediately in a positive sense when Roberto Firmino came on the field.
Origi kept making runs into the exact same space that Sadio Mané or Mohamed Salah were running into, which pulled extra defenders into the area and killed the passing options. Origi was also very reactive with his runs, waiting until the person with the ball moved into position to pass before starting his run, making it for difficult for other people to play off of him.
This is the antithesis of what Roberto Firmino offered when he came onto the field. Firmino is a wizard at recognition and anticipation. When he came on the field, he immediately opened up space for Salah and Mané to operate in by making small runs to drag his defender out of the way and affect other defenders. We saw this on Sadio Mané’s goal, where Firmino recognized that Mané was behind him, so made an early near post post run across the face of his defender to open up the passing lane.
What Happens Next
With five games left to play, Liverpool are still looking to set the record for number of points in a season. Win the rest, finish on 104 points. The Reds will be in action again on Wednesday at Brighton & Hove Albion.