Anfield, Liverpool – Following the showing at Wembley which was perhaps the worst display since Jurgen Klopp’s arrival at the club, Liverpool were back in the comforts of Anfield. Newly promoted Huddersfield Town came to visit the storied ground in a match-up that saw two old friends go head-to-head in Klopp and Wagner. Any worries held by supporters were left untreated by the timid display shown in the first half. However, after the interval there was no stopping the men in red. Three goals went in the Kop end with no response from the visitors, bringing some much needed joy back to the red half of Merseyside. Here are the five key talking points from Liverpool’s 3-0 victory over Huddersfield Town.
1 – No Coutinho, no problem
Since his return from the back injury that ruled him out of the opening month of the season, Coutinho has clearly been the team’s best player. Thus when rumours began to spread in the build-up to Saturday’s clash that he had picked up another injury, many were sent into disarray. This came in addition to the long-term absences of Lallana and Mané which in turn made the squad look lacking in quality heading into the fixture. And while the first half was lacklustre to say the least, the second showed one side clearly above the other. Sturridge, Firmino, and Wijnaldum all got on the scoresheet and the net came close to rippling on numerous other occasions. From what we had seen before in most cases, Firmino playing on the left to accommodate Daniel Sturridge wasn’t a partnership that tended to work. However, what was done differently on Saturday was that the pair interchanged positions often making it extremely difficult for the Huddersfield defenders to pick them up. Mohamed Salah was lively as well, getting himself more involved in the build-up play than usual. This was a convincing performance from The Reds and you wonder how good they could possibly look once the whole cast is fit and firing at the same time.
2 – Who Is the Penalty Taker?
If this question was asked around this time last season, there would be absolutely no disputing who would be put in charge if the team was ever afforded a penalty. James Milner was oh so reliable last campaign scoring seven times from the spot and only missing one (a penalty saved by Fraser Forster). However, the return of Alberto Moreno to the starting line-up meant that Milner would start the season on the bench; giving Klopp the need to designate a new penalty taker. Up stepped Firmino, scoring a penalty on the opening day of the season and then missing his next one against Sevilla in the Champions League. At this stage it was still not clear what would happen if both Firmino and Milner were on the pitch at the same time that a penalty was awarded. However, the common consensus was that it would definitely be one or the other. Thus it was rather surprising to see Mohamed Salah step up to take the spot-kick after Tommy Smith was adjudged to have brought down Firmino in the box. The Egyptian stepped up and saw his penalty saved. It obviously ended up having no effect on the final outcome of the match but it leaves the situation within the team unclear. Does Salah lose his responsibility after just one miss similarly to Firmino? Will James Milner be considered a candidate again? This is a strange situation to be in but one that needs to be cleared up nonetheless.
3 – Full-Backs Continue to Impress
If you said at the end of last season that Joe Gomez and Alberto Moreno would be the team’s starting full-backs for the opening months of the next campaign, you would’ve thought that a catastrophe had taken place. An inexperienced centre back and a left back who spent last year benched by a central midfielder don’t necessarily give off much confidence. However, most would agree that the pair have been the team’s best defenders so far this season. Moreno has been as brilliant an attacking option as ever, always providing an outlet on the left and quality offensive support. However, what’s been different this season is his much improved defensive discipline. Instances of the Spaniard being caught out of position or defensively exposed have been few and far between, if any. Although starting the season from a different state, Gomez wasn’t a player that fans expected to see much of. However, he’s provided a consistently solid presence on the right side of the defence. Many have in fact been calling to see him partner Matip in the centre of defence, such has been his quality. Both Moreno and Gomez continued their fine form on Saturday, not giving Huddersfield a sniff as they helped the team record their fourth home clean sheet of the season.
4 – No Wholesale Changes from Klopp
After the debacle at Wembley last week, numerous fans have been screaming for the manager to make massive changes to the side’s setup. Many wouldn’t be satisfied until they saw Mignolet dropped, Lovren out the team, Henderson stripped of the captaincy, and Solanke given a start up top. However, Jurgen Klopp only made two initial changes from the team that got annihilated by Tottenham, one of them forced by the injury of Coutinho. To the surprise of almost everyone, Dejan Lovren’s name was in the team sheet to start the match, although an injury in the pre-match warm up saw Klavan step in his place. Seeing Klopp respond to the intense criticism levelled at both him and his team by fielding almost the exact same team was telling. It’s apparent that Klopp either sees the side’s issues as not personnel-based or that there’s a lack of options within the squad to fix them with. Saturday saw no defensive issues for Liverpool but there are tougher tests than Huddersfield to come. Klopp has been accused of naivety throughout his time at the club, one can only hope that none is at play right now.
5 – Time to Start Racking Up Points
As things stand, Liverpool find themselves sitting in 6th place in the league, and 4 points behind 3rd placed Tottenham. Saturday’s win helped them keep pace with the teams above them but now a run is needed to start making up ground. The Merseysiders face West Ham and Southampton in their next two games as those above them face off with each other. The team’s biggest problem last season was not being able to consistently dispatch the sides lower down in the table. And without an imperious record against the big boys to fall back on this season, there’s little room for error against sides like West Ham and Southampton. Before either of those games are played however, The Reds host Maribor in the Champions League. Hopefully the European clash can get the team geared up for the run ahead.