Playing against Burnley is always a frustrating experience, especially during poor weather conditions at Turf Moor(dor). During rainy, blustery conditions, Liverpool struggled to sustain consistent control over the game during the first half in particular. The illusion of a series of good chances for Burnley, aided by very late offside flags, made it feel like the game was on a knife’s edge. Liverpool used a set piece goal, and the second half introduction of Thiago to earn all three points and keep within touching distance of Manchester City.
Let’s take a look at some of the winners, losers, and other narratives around the game.
The Brazilian holding midfielder has not been known for his goal scoring prowess outside of an odd howitzer from long distance. Fabinho has been in a rare run of form in front of goal of late, however, and scored again today, tucking the ball in after a chance created from a corner kick. He now has six goals on the season in all competitions, with five of those goals coming in the last seven games.
Fab. Fifth goal in his last seven games.— Andrew Beasley (@BassTunedToRed) February 13, 2022
Had four for the club prior to that.
Set Piece Supremacy
Speaking of the goal, it was Liverpool’s 14th goal of the Premier League season coming from a set piece delivery. They lead the league in goals off of set pieces, ahead of Manchester City (12) and Chelsea (10).
Thiago only came on in the 58th minute, but his presence was immediately felt. He was able to break Burnley’s line with his sensational long passing, including a couple highlight reel diagonal balls that are pretty much the norm for him. He was also his usual calm, assured self on the ball when in tight spaces. adding composure the the midfield that had been lacking in the first half. His ability to read the game and get into good defensive spots to force passes away from dangerous areas also was on show, with Burnley being limited to one shot on target after he came on.
The High Defensive Line
Commentators always seem to like pointing out Liverpool’s high defensive line and how it can be exploited. With an aggressive goalkeeper in Alisson, coupled with the speedy and smart center backs in Virgil van Dijk and Joel Matip, gives Liverpool license to play the riskier high line to compress the field. Today, Liverpool caught Burnley offside seven times. Due to a series of ridiculously late offside flags (more on the at later), it made it look like Burnley were creating chances off of the high line, but in reality, they weren’t.
The Brazilian goalkeeper has to be the best 1v1 keeper in the world right now. He quickly came off of his line time after time to deny a Burnley chance with some sensational saves. Granted, the vast majority of them were eventually whistled for offside, but he did make an very smart save from close range from a set piece. He also came out several times to win the ball with his head or feet, including a sequence where he dribbled 1v1 for a good 10-15 seconds before deciding to put the ball out for a throw.
Coming straight back into the team after a back issue, the Liverpool captain looked well from his best form on the day. He had some poor touches that led to turnovers, including one where he made a lunging tackle that earned him a yellow card and cleat studs to his knee. His passing was lacking as well, completing only 50%, and missing badly on some attempted through balls. The game changed significantly when he came off for Thiago. His leadership is always essential, but with so many strong midfield options, Henderson will need to regain his top form to ensure a place in the starting lineup.
Late Offside Flags
Look, I like the idea of late offside flags for marginal calls. In practice, however, the flags seem to be held down for even the most obvious of offside calls, leading to a continence of play that can be dangerous with 1v1 chances between keepers and attackers colliding, or desperation tackles coming in from behind. Against Burnley, there were quite a few clear cut offside calls that were held, forcing Alisson to come out to make sliding stops on attacking players. From a viewing perspective, it also provided a false narrative that Burnley were generating some very good chances when most of them, in fact, were offside.
From the Manager
“I am absolutely delighted with the way we played the circumstances, it was so tricky. Only if you stood on the pitch I think you could really feel the wind to the whole extent, because where we were in front of the stand, it didn’t feel that bad but on the pitch it was ridiculous because it came from all directions.”
-Jurgen Klopp on the conditions at Turf Moor
What Happens Next
Liverpool are fully into yet another busy stretch of the season, with matches in all four competitions being played in February. Liverpool will head to the San Siro to take on Inter Milan in the first leg of the Champions League Round of 16 on Wednesday. They will return home to Anfield next Saturday to host Norwich in the Premier League.