In one of the most frantic openings to a season in modern history, Liverpool have begun their defence of the Premier League title with a record of 3W, 1D, 1L. Here we will go over some of the main talking points which have emerged from Liverpool’s season so far.
Fabinho fantastic at centre back
With Matip and Gomez injured when the Reds took on Chelsea, Fabinho was called upon to feature alongside Virgil van Dijk at centre back and he delivered a standout performance for the Reds.
Fabinho was pivotal in shutting down the presence of Timo Werner at Stamford Bridge – the former RB Lepzig striker had Liverpool supporters worried but Fabinho handled him brilliantly in a number of one on one situations.
With van Dijk expected to be out for the rest of the season, it is promising to see that Jurgen Klopp has another option available who can hold his own at the back. Given the poor run of form which has plagued Joe Gomez so far this season, we might even see him start ahead of the Englishman throughout the upcoming months.
Klopp’s high line exposed at Villa Park
Liverpool’s high line has been the backbone for much of Jurgen Klopp’s success at Liverpool, but it soon became his greatest downfall at Villa Park when the Reds suffered from their worst league defeat in the Premier League era.
Villa managed 18 efforts on goal with 11 on target as Jack Grealish and co ripped Liverpool to pieces – finishing the game 7-2. The hosts passed the ball through the Liverpool midfield with ease throughout the game and in retrospect, it might have been better for Jurgen Klopps men to shut up shop and avoid the Monday morning headlines.
After the game, Klopp described the result as “a punch in the face” but was hopeful that it could have acted as a wakeup call – something which might turn out to be their “most important game of the season”.
Adrian and the goalkeeper situation
After a run of poor form, Alisson was back on track against Chelsea and his saves held Liverpool’s advantage in the second half at Stamford Bridge. Unfortunately, he picked up a shoulder injury during training a few days later which moved the spotlight back to Adrian San Miguel.
Adrian was already in the bad books after his blunders against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League and against Chelsea in the FA Cup. It did him no favours then that it was his poor pass back to Joe Gomez which gave Aston Villa the advantage on his return to the Premier League. By the end of the game at Villa Park, it had turned into Liverpool’s heaviest league defeat since they lost 7-2 to Tottenham Hotspur in 1963 (although he is of course not solely responsible for how the game turned out). He also looked indecisive against Everton, and he could have done more to prevent Moise Kean’s header on the 19th minute which drew the game level.
Calls for Liverpool to sign another keeper came too late after the transfer window closed on October 5. Thankfully though, Alisson is ahead of schedule and looks set to return by the end of October (The Athletic) which means that he should be back in time for Liverpool’s clash with Manchester City on November 7.
Salah and Mane light up the league again
Although things have been looking a little more troublesome at the back end of the pitch, Mo Salah and Sadio Mane have once again been electric for Liverpool going forward with nine goals in five games.
Salah took the match ball home on the opening day of the campaign with two penalty’s and a thumping strike into the top corner against Leeds United. A week later, Mane scored two goals within 5 minutes against Chelsea and then featured on the scoresheet during Liverpool’s 3-1 win over Arsenal and the 2-2 draw against Everton. Even when Liverpool were crushed at Villa Park, Salah still managed to get two back for Liverpool which somewhat softened the blow.
Henderson’s Merseyside winner ruled offside
It looked as though the Reds had snatched another late win against Everton in the Merseyside derby before VAR ruled out Henderson’s goal. Thiago’s no look pass caught Carlo Ancelotti’s men off guard in the build up to the goal before Sadio Mane picked out Jordan Henderson who struck it past Pickford.
Unfortunately though, VAR came in and managed to draw a line alongside Sadio Mane as he turned to receive the pass which, barely (if at all), touched the elbow of the Senegalese international – giving the officials enough reason to disallow the goal. In turn, the incident sparked another VAR debate across the internet and robbed Liverpool of another two points. Even rival fans were baffled as to how David Coote and the VAR officials alongside him had come to the decision. “Sometimes they bend the lines to make it offside” Henderson joked after the game, whilst Andy Robertson claimed that “Sadio’s toenail was maybe offside but that’s what VAR brings.”
Thiago – the signing of the summer?
After months of speculation, Thaigo Alcantara signed for Liverpool on September 18 and featured in his first Premier League game after having spent just 48 hours at the club. From what we have seen so far, Thiago is up there with the likes of James Rodriguez as one of the signings of the summer.
His passes are creative, and they allowed Liverpool to keep on the front foot against Chelsea before Sadio Mane scored twice to win the game. On his return from testing positive for coronavirus, he linked up well with Jordan Henderson against Everton and received the man of the match award – standing out as one of the brightest players on the pitch.
The tackle he picked up from Richarlison in the closing minutes of the Merseyside derby was an awful one and the England international rightly received a red card as a result. Fortunately, though, Thiago was pictured leaving hospital with a slight limp and without crutches so he might be able to make a return before the Reds take on Manchester City.
Van Dijk out for months with ACL damage
Jordan Pickford’s horror challenge in the opening minutes of the Merseyside derby took Virgil van Dijk out of the game and physio Chris Morgan rushed over to treat him. Klopp expressed his concern for the Dutchman during his post-match interview and supporters were well aware of how uncharacteristic it was for van Dijk to stay down for such a long period of time.
He hasn’t been injured since October 2018, but concerns continued to grow on Monday afternoon after it was reported that van Dijk had been to see a consultant, and shortly afterwards the club announced that he has suffered from ACL damage and will now undergo knee surgery before starting a rehabilitation programme.
As a result, the pressure will no doubt mount on Joel Matip and Joe Gomez who will need to perform on a more consistent basis and keep their injury records under control as Liverpool look ahead to a congested schedule. There are 17 games remaining between now and the next transfer window and Klopp will need to face the problem head on with the players he has available before looking elsewhere for quick solutions.