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Fulham v Liverpool A Liverpool Perspective
It looked like Liverpool were as shocked as most of the people watching just how well Fulham started the game with the way they played. Maybe they are showing signs of struggling to maintain intensity due to all the injuries, but it did feel like they just took the match too lightly to start with. They should have known better, as teams always raise their game when they face the reigning champions and there has already been the wake-up call from Villa this season.
The passing was far too loose and leisurely, there was no pace or intensity in the play in the first half. The slow build up play may have been intentional, to try and tempt Fulham out and draw the sting out of their press, but it never worked as the goal gave them heart to keep going. I think it is more a sign of this exceptional season taking its toll on the players as even Robertson was, for the first time this season, looking in need of a rest.
With the squad fast running out of options to rotate, Klopp is going to need to work some of his magic to keep Liverpool in the running this season. It did look a bit better before the game kicked off, with Alisson back and Alexander-Arnold in the team, while Oxlade-Chamberlain is fit enough to get on the bench, but Matip going off with yet another injury problem emphasised the defensive issues. One thing is for sure, those who have been on the fringes, such as Minamino, are going to get their chances to shine this season. If Liverpool are to retain their title, they are going to need those players to grab those chances with both hands, just as Jones has done.
I am not even going to get into the VAR stuff, I am sick of talking about it. What I will say is Fulham fully deserved to get a point from this game on their performance.
They were excellent in the first half, finally playing to their strengths instead of just dicking about with the ball in defence and midfield until they lose it in dangerous areas. Fulham were direct and used their pace to get at Liverpool as soon as they got the ball. Their intensity and pressing were extremely good and they could easily have scored more if they had a goalscorer up front. They look like a team fighting for their lives at the bottom at last, rather than one that is just playing out the season, as they did at the start.
Their new signings have helped immensely, Andersen in particular stood out as a solid defender, something they completely lacked prior to his arrival. The problem is that they did revert a bit to type in the second half, sitting deeper and arsing about with the ball at the back until the equaliser went in. That is something they need to rethink, they are much, much better defensively than they were, but they are still not good enough to see out a 1-0 win like that. They need to play to their strengths, and that is pace and movement in the attacking third, so the ball needs to be moved forward, not sideways, if they are to survive.
It is also surprising that they never really tried to take advantage of Liverpool having two midfielders playing in central defence in the second half. They were far too passive and allowed the game to slip away from them, when it really seemed to be there for the taking.
Klopp – it is worrying how often the team has started slowly this season, too often it has come down to Klopp getting them going at half-time. Though the amount of injuries probably plays a big part in the issue. Every team is going through inconsistent performances due to the inability to be able to field a settled side. Those playing in midweek European games anyway. The requirement to rotate and rest players is causing so many up and down results that this season is very messy and this will continue.
All that can be asked of Klopp is that he keeps his team in contention, despite the huge injury list, and he is certainly doing that. Once again he was able to alter the tactics at half-time to grab a result that had looked beyond the team in the first half.
Alisson – the rest of the team can give him thanks for keeping the score down in the first half. The game could have been out of sight if it was not for Alisson. That is why you sign a great goalkeeper though, for days like this.
Alexander-Arnold – really off the pace in this game. While he still put in some good deliveries, there was no denying he is nowhere near match-fit yet. That was the space Fulham were able to exploit as he really struggled to get anywhere near Lookman. This will have done him good, the minutes will help him get back to fitness and the struggles will remind him that he still has more to learn.
Matip – looked slow and cumbersome from the start. Allowed Cavaleiro to run off him time and again in the first half. It does seem that was down to the back spasm that caused Klopp to take him off at half-time, so hard to criticise him.
Fabinho – was a bit overrun in the first half, with Matip struggling. He kept going and had a much easier time in the second half. Interestingly, according to the commentator last night (I have not checked this so he could be wrong), Liverpool have never lost a game when Fabinho has started at centre-back. He may be makeshift but the Brazilian always does a good job.
Robertson – looked tired for the first time this season. He still provided some good moments getting forward, but he was not at the level he has been producing the rest of the season. That is still better than 90% of the left-backs in the Prem could provide at their best, but he did look in need of a night off.
Jones – showed some lovely footwork at times, including one special run and shot, but just lacked the final ball. He does not look out of place in the midfield and is producing good performances on a regular basis right now, doing the things Keita was bought to provide. The emergence of Jones has been a godsend in this season of injuries.
Wijnaldum – really has the look of a player playing for his future, he is playing some of the best stuff of his Liverpool career right now. In the first half he was getting forward well and then switched to the holding role in the second half and showed his versatility.
Henderson – was unable to affect the game much in the first half as Fulham bypassed the midfield and the defence struggled to hold the attacks up to allow the midfield to get back in support. In the second half, as an emergency centre-back, he was much better and got involved up the pitch as well. I can see why Klopp chose to switch him back there, not just for Henderson’s range of passing but also for his pace. Bringing on Phillips against a team with no aerial threat and lots of pace made no real sense. This was actually the perfect game to take a risk with two midfielders at the back, as it was a midfielder’s game there.
Mane – quiet first half but in the second half he took the game to them and ran them ragged. If only Liverpool had been able to get him more involved in the first half, the result might have been totally different. Mane had their entire right side tied up in knots at times as he glided past them almost effortlessly.
Firmino – worked back really well, showed some lovely skills on the ball but his passing was not there at all. A lot of the tracking back he had to do to chase a ball he had given away. Not one of his better days, despite some moments of beauty on the ball.
Salah – should have been stronger just before the Fulham goal, yes he was pushed but he went down far too easily. Scored the penalty (which was definitely a penalty, no idea what Kamara was thinking), but probably should have scored at least one more. Caused the Fulham backline problems but it was not a vintage Mo performance by any means.
Minamino – came on at half-time for Matip who was struggling with a back problem. An impressive performance, he is starting to look the part in midfield, with his hard work and ability on the ball. If he keeps improving Klopp is going to have to give him more time on the pitch.
Williams – replaced a tired looking Alexander-Arnold in the 67th minute. Some nice moments and he worked hard to get forward constantly down the right. Showed flashes of quality Alexander-Arnold-like delivery, he just needs to develop consistency with his balls in.
Origi – took the place of Salah in the 84th minute. Never got into the game and showed little to suggest he can genuinely push for a place in the first team, even as a rotation option. He needs to do more, to be more aggressive and get himself more involved.
Written by Tris Burke December 14 2020 17:45:32