Do you feel alive? Did you feel it at the final whistle? I do and certainly did. Liverpool are back on the march with a 3-0 thrashing of Norwich City in the first game of the 2021-22 Premier League campaign. Most people expected Liverpool to win today, even by multiple goals, but even then the Reds came out with a statement. It’s only Norwich, the recently promoted club who holds the record for being relegated the most times from the Premier League, sure. But who they beat doesn’t really matter because it’s how they did it. Liverpool are back to making you feel alive again.
The 2020-21 was the worst thing that could’ve happened. Empty stadiums. No proper title celebration. The injuries. God, the injuries. It’s the worst season that could have possibly happened but when the options were to live or to die, Jurgen Klopp and his boys choose hanging on for dear life to give us something to live for this season. And this season starts off just like that. The crowds are back. Mo Salah is scoring. Virgil van Dijk is defending. Trent Alexander-Arnold is balling out. And, perhaps most importantly, you and I feel alive again. These boys, the manger, and us are on the way to something special in the Spring. It started today and continues for the rest of the season.
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.
Dissecting the Narrative
So much of this summer has been focused on the transfer market. Manchester City are spending the GDP of a small nation on Jack Grealish and maybe (probably?) Harry Kane. Manchester United are trying to idiot proof their roster because they know they have an idiot in charge. Chelsea are spending over £100m on a striker they sold to Everton for about £30m.
All of that activity has pundits focused on Liverpool, because despite what the rest of the Premier League does, the focus is always on Liverpool. Of course, the Reds brought in Ibrahima Konaté before the transfer window opened. Added to a team that brought in Diogo Jota and Thiago Alcântara last season. And maybe there’s more to come this window, but Liverpool’s primary focus this offseason has been about getting players they already own, priceless legends to the club, back to their best.
Virgil van Dijk started against Norwich, played 90 minutes, and got a clean sheet. Joel Matip was crucial in that feat as well. Those two being back at the center of the defense meant Trent Alexander-Arnold had more freedom and license to get back to his best in attack. And when Trent is firing, it means the front 3 (whoever is playing there) can be at their most lethal. Sadio Mane was dangerous all match, with both Bobby Firmino and Jota scoring goals.
The reason those teams are spending so much money is because they know that Liverpool at their best are the team to beat. And it looks like they’re back at that, at least for the first match of the season.
Winners and Losers
Mo Salah, running down the wing
Salah becomes the first player in Premier League history to score in the first match in five consecutive seasons. The reports of a decline in performance were greatly exaggerated, I guess. He finished one goal off the Golden Boot last season and if he’s not in the conversation to win it this season then I’d be absolutely shocked.
There was a huge scare last weekend when Andy Robertson went down injured in the friendly. Thankfully, that ankle injury isn’t as scary as feared and he’ll be back in a few weeks. ALSO thankfully, Tsimikas is seemingly a very solid replacement based on how he played against Norwich. He’s not Robertson because no one is, but he plays in such a way that allows Liverpool to play their way. That’s not something you could say with James Milner or anyone else on the roster at left back.
Calm as you like, he’s Virgil van Dijk
What a man. I don’t really have any insight to offer here. Just dead happy Virgil is back.
James Milner as a Defensive Midfielder
While doing the live blog today I mentioned that Milner was struggling at playing as the deepest of the three midfielders. With the pressing and the structure Klopp wants from his two 8s, the demands on the position are immense. Milner doesn’t have the legs or the passing range anymore to play there consistently. Hopefully Fabinho comes back into the starting XI for Milner next week.
One match out of 38. Three points on the board. The march to #20 is on.