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Liverpool v Manchester United A Liverpool Perspective
How can I find much to say about that snoozefest? It is easy to see that Liverpool are on a poor run right now as the team is playing like one lacking confidence. While they applied good pressure at times, there was no fluency in the play, players are stood watching (I have to say Wijnaldum was particularly culpable of this) rather than making themselves an option. Then they are often unable to get to the pass because they are not making the run until the pass is played, when the run should be first and the pass played to meet the run.
There were other things as well, quick free kicks being taken but before the Liverpool players were ready other than the taker. Attempts to force the play with killer passes that are not on and players looking to play a pass when the shot is on. All in all, that was a Liverpool team there for the taking with no central defence and lacking in confidence, so in a lot of ways, Liverpool fans should just be grateful United never really tried to take advantage. Though it does leave that feeling that really Liverpool should have gone on and won.
It is quite worrying how often I am shouting at the TV to just shoot, only for the player to take 3, 4, 5 more touches and lose the ball, or pass the ball away from danger. There is a real lack of responsibility being taken in forward areas right now. Until that is solved, and the players stop trying to take that extra touch or pass, Liverpool are going to continue to struggle. As Bob Paisley once said: “Put the ball in the back of the net and we will discuss the options you could have chosen afterwards.”
It is good to see Jose Mourinho’s style has not been forgotten in Manchester, you know that style that got him the sack after the fans turned on him for being too defensive. It does seem that when you are Ole Gunnar Solksjaer it is ok to play this way though. There will be people that say their tactic worked because they had a couple of chances to score, but they were playing against a team without a centre-back, and they had pacey forwards and quality passers of the ball to find them. United should really have been creating regular chances and forcing Liverpool to hold players back. They simply did not manage to do that, so it has to be seen as a tactic that only succeeded if you feel a draw against a badly weakened team in a poor run of form is a good result.
If it had been a case of playing that way to start with to get a feel for the game and see which Liverpool turned up, I would have seen that as the right choice. However they saw that the Liverpool that turned up were completely out of sorts and still sat deep and held on tight. They did defend extremely well, but I just expect more of a Man Utd team that are top of the league with a chance to turn the screw on one of the main rivals who are playing poorly and missing key players.
Klopp – you could see he had tried to tweak it, the pressing was higher and more relentless plus there was much more width to the play, but the lack of confidence in the forward line made the tweaks useless. Now Klopp is in a difficult situation, everything is working fine until it reaches the opposition’s penalty area, then it falls apart. The front 3 are shot shy and lacking confidence and the midfield are not brave enough in taking their opportunities to shoot. He has to decide whether to give them the chance to play themselves back into form or make changes.
Alisson – like myself, he was clearly bored in the first half, almost ending up on the halfway line at times. He did have more to do in the second half with a couple of decent saves, though the shots were hit at him.
Alexander-Arnold – he was a lot more cautious than usual going forward and sat a little deeper than you would normally expect. That was probably a consequence of Salah sitting wider than normal in an attempt to draw out United’s defence. Played some nice balls into the box, the disappointment is that the only people getting on the end of them were defenders throwing their bodies in the way.
Henderson – did a very good job in the defence, reading the game well to cut a lot of attempts to play balls into United’s forwards out. The desire he showed to continue to chase back when he was caught out was outstanding. Time and time again we see a quick attacker get in behind a centre-back who then strolls back making no attempt to chase back, even though there is every chance they could make it back to affect things, they rarely bother. Henderson, on the other hand, chased back until he did affect the attack. If all defenders showed that attitude a lot less goals would be conceded.
Fabinho – another good game, though he was rarely put under any real pressure to test him.
Robertson – like Alexander-Arnold, he was much more restrained than we are used to. Unfortunately when he did get forward his delivery was not at its usual standard.
Thiago – a mixed game, some of his footwork on the ball was a delight and at least he tried to shoot when he got a sight of goal. Unfortunately his passing was not at its best and he was muscled out a couple of times when defending. I do not think playing so deep helped him really influence the match and meant he was not in and around the box to get more shots off, or pick dangerous passes.
Shaqiri – worked hard but gives away too many needless and silly fouls. He did enough to suggest he deserves more of a run, if he can stay fit, in midfield for the long term, as his left foot can be a real threat and his willingness to run beyond the attackers is something missing in the team.
Wijnaldum – this was one of his poorest games. He spent large periods offering absolutely nothing and was caught a few times flat-footed watching the game when a ball was passed to him. Even on the ball he was slowing up the play. Wijnaldum looks like a player who has his mind elsewhere and needs his contract situation sorted out one way or another quickly. I would have substituted him off at half-time personally and he only got worse in the second half. It was one of his ghost games.
Mane – if there is one full-back who can really give Mane trouble it is Wan-Bissaka. His best spell was when he and Salah swapped for the second part of the first-half and he was up against Shaw. He has not looked like himself since picking up the virus earlier in the season and it is starting to become a worry now.
Firmino – his pressing was exceptional right up until the 50th minute or so when he picked up some kind of knock and began to limp. After that he was not moving freely at all for the rest of the game. Before that the rest of his game was poor, other than the press. The tricks and flicks are not coming off at the moment.
Salah – I had to go and check he was top scorer in the Premier League this season as he looks like he has his boots on the wrong feet at the moment. Salah looks short of confidence, but that seems bizarre for the player at the top of the scoring charts!
Jones – came on for Shaqiri in the 76th minute. Never really managed to get into the game.
Origi – replaced Firmino in the 84th minute. I know he is famous for late goals, but he has to get a chance to score.
Milner – was brought on in place of Wijnaldum in the 89th minute. Far too late a sub to make any difference to the result.
Written by Tris Burke January 18 2021 10:28:46