When the line-up first came out last night showing nine changes from the last outing against Southampton, Liverpool supporters could have been excused for feeling a bit nervous. No one in the starting XI had scored for Liverpool this season, and three--João Carlos Teixeira, Connor Randall, and
Zapp Cameron Brannagan--had never started a game for the Reds.
"They were mostly with us in training so I saw them and for me it was clear that the first chance I could give them, I would do it and that was tonight," said manager Jürgen Klopp, who felt he needed to rotate some of his regulars after playing three games in eight days and with a trip to Stamford Bridge coming up on the weekend. "Some players needed a break and these players I was completely sure they had the quality to help us tonight and that's what they did."
Despite injuries and fatigue forcing his hand, Klopp was pleased with their performances, while also, perhaps understandably, rating them on a curve. Clearly an advocate of "learning by doing," he seemed most pleased by the way the youngster responded to their trial by fire, particularly right back Connor Randall.
"What we saw tonight was not 'all of them,' but it was the best they could do and so I'm completely satisfied," said Klopp. "For example Cameron Brannagan has a very difficult position in the system we played today, in the half space as an eight. It's really not easy to defend this position. And Connor Randall, all the long balls they played were in his space, so if he was not a good header before this game now he is much better because he had the chance to improve 20 or 30 times!"
It wasn't just the three debutants who impressed, though. Klopp ran out an almost wholly changed team made of reserve, fringe, and youth players, and there were impressive performances across the board as Liverpool as a team turned in a performance that deservedly led to a win that can be built on.
"We had our common movements," the boss added, "moving into the right space, attacking at the right moment, always attacking when they have to defend. They want to do what I say, that's important. I'm nearly surprised it's so good in this moment. These young players don't think too much. That's important. They think about football, not about pressure. I think they know why they won."
Indeed. And based on their performances last night, especially Teixeira's, we should expect so see more of this youth movement in the near future.