Mateo Kovacic was very good yesterday, producing a pass more incisive than any of those from Thiago Alcantara when setting Timo Werner away midway through the first half, but starting the Croatian means 4-3-3 more often than not and with Jorginho back in favour that means N’Golo is Kante more likely to be played on the right, a position where he is just not as effective.
The Sarri midfield does not work and finding a way to accomodate the individual talent into one coherent, balanced midfield is another, albeit older, puzzle that Frank Lampard must solve over the coming weeks.
Havertz needs time
Let’s not read too much into Kai Havertz being the sacrificial lamb at half-time but this was another subdued showing from the headline summer recruit.
One striking thing about his performance in the opening half was how the intensity of his pressing attempts paled in comparison to Timo Werner and Mason Mount either side of him.
Lampard has demanded his forward players work hard off the ball – it is a huge reason he loved Willian so much – and perhaps it was down to Havertz not yet being fully fit but to fully impress he must press.
On top of that, a long and direct approach does not exactly play to his strengths either but he won three aerial duels and that is a tactic that will be seldom seen against teams inferior to Liverpool.
In defence of Christensen
Andreas Christensen was doing well until that desperate moment when he rugby tackled Sadio Mane and deservedly saw red following a VAR monitor check but such is the competition for places, does that mean he slips down the rotation with Thiago Silva close to being fit enough for his debut?
As Lampard said when asked about Toni Rudiger not even making the bench: “At the moment I have five centrebacks at the club. I can’t pick a squad which has three of them on the bench. That is the way it is. I have to pick a squad on the way they train, situations, and that is just how it is.”
Before the campaign began Christensen seemed the most likely of last season’s centre backs to suffer (at a time when it looked like Fikayo Tomori would be going on loan) from Thiago Silva’s arrival but he was solid against Brighton and started well yesterday, clearing off the line under pressure from Roberto Firmino when Kepa had gone walkabout.
The Dane deserves another chance but he may now have to wait if the Brazilian veteran is primed.
Alonso stakes his claim
Credit where it is due, the Spaniard has stepped up in the past two games with the imminent prospect of him being relegated back to second-choice.
Ben Chilwell’s return to fitness will see Alonso demoted soon but he has been quietly good in the past two games, handling the daunting double act of Mo Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold pretty well yesterday. Does it mean Emerson Palmieri is the one to depart in the next two weeks?