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Leicester City v Liverpool A Liverpool Perspective
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The hysteria surrounding this result is, quite frankly, embarrassing. Yes it was a bad result, but the nonsense suggestions that the performance deserved this result is the issue. This was a game Liverpool dominated until the final minutes when a crazy few minutes gave the Foxes a result they did little to truly deserve. That is not to say there are not issues with Liverpool, but they are being blown out of all proportion by idiot pundits who do not understand the game. I saw a headline on the BBC, for example, with Alan Shearer asking where Liverpool’s pressing game had gone. Obviously he did not watch the game, or does not have a clue what pressing is, because it was Liverpool’s press that smothered Leicester and allowed the ball domination.
At the back there is a lack of communication and understanding without van Dijk to organise it. Kabak on a couple of occasions showed he did not have an awareness of his teammates by going for balls he should have been leaving. I know most people are picking on the easy target of Alisson (who should have shouted as well), but he had come out for every ball over the top in behind, but Kabak never once checked to see if he was coming out for the one at the end. It had happened 4 or 5 times, it should have been at least in his head to check to see if the keeper was coming, but he never looked. The tactics of the team are that Alisson sweeps up loose balls, he should be aware of it, without needing a shout.
Kabak was constantly caught in behind anyway, he was rash on a number of occasions and on others he just was not reading the play and failed to drop off. Most of the time other players bailed him out, but he really needs to learn from this game. He is holding too high a line and leaving a space for balls in behind to go and was not aware of Vardy running off him. That was a worrying start to be honest, but it is to be hoped it is teething problems.
However, the biggest problem Liverpool have is finishing. The game should have been put to bed in the first half, but for some woeful shooting. In the second half it was a similar story, which meant that Leicester were always in the game and one goal for them changed the game. This wastefulness has been a long-standing problem but it is getting worse as confidence dips. Extra training on finishing is in order!
One thing is for sure, if the club were in this position without a manager and were trying to decide who they should go for to turn it around. Well, there really is only one man I would want them to bring in. That would be Jurgen Klopp. We, as Liverpool fans, are privileged enough to already have Jurgen Klopp in charge and there is no one better than him. The team is going through a difficult patch, but what they need is support, not media lies about Klopp quitting or players being abused on social media. YNWA should mean something right now, more than ever before.
This was very much a performance similar to the Foxes team of Ranieri, sit deep, soak up pressure and, when you do get it, get the ball over the top for Vardy to run onto. It is working because they have a very good replacement for Kante in Ndidi. He was exceptional. Without him, Leicester would have got swamped completely playing this way. They have to ensure they keep hold of him, as he is the fulcrum of all this side does. The worry they have is replacing Vardy, he will not be able to go on forever and they have no one else who can give them what he does. Right now they are built around him, which means they have problems the moment he is injured. The injuries will only become more regular each season, so they need to find a way to play without him, sooner rather than later.
What was impressive is how well Ricardo adapted to playing on the left. He started off being caught by balls in behind as he strayed a little narrow and too far forward, but adjusted his positioning to cut off that avenue of attack. Not before it should have been exploited by Liverpool for goals, but he got lucky and made the adjustments to ensure he no longer needed to rely on luck.
Klopp – in my opinion Klopp made a mistake by playing it too safe with Henderson alongside Kabak. Henderson is desperately needed in midfield right now and, good as he is at centre-back, he is the beating heart of the team in midfield. He needs to be in there. I know people will say Phillips was too slow to play against Vardy, but plenty of slow centre-backs have coped with him, it is the pacy ones that he tends to have a field day against. Someone like Phillips knows they lack pace and adjusts their positioning to compensate, the faster centre-backs tend to become too reliant on their pace and fail to make the adjustment, only to find Vardy is quicker than they are.
Other than that, he had very little in the way of options, with Fabinho and new boy Davies already injured and Thiago unable to train during the week. His only real choice was whether to play Henderson in defence or midfield. For me he got the decision wrong in an attempt to protect Kabak with experience alongside him.
Alisson – was excellent, sweeping up constantly every loose ball in behind the defence and making stops when needed, apart from the misunderstanding with Kabak. While I feel Kabak should have expected him to be coming out, he had for every other loose ball, Alisson still should have been screaming at the young Turk to get out the way. His performance on the whole was very good though, and it has sadly been overshadowed by a mix-up with a new teammate.
Alexander-Arnold – did extremely well against Barnes when facing him 1-on-1, also was alert, and showed great pace, to cover behind Kabak when a through ball exposed him. Also played some lovely passes but his communication is still lacking. He needs to be more vocal.
Kabak – rash. Whether that was because he is rash or whether it is because he was trying too hard I have no idea, but he was constantly making rash decisions throughout the game. Looked a bit on the slow side and never looked particularly comfortable on the ball either. With it being his debut, I am not reading too much into it, but it was not a good start.
Henderson – when he was in midfield, either through carrying the ball out from the back or through being up for a setpiece, the team looked so much more dangerous. The drive he has is wasted in defence. He did make an error or two in this game, but mostly read the play well.
Robertson – linked up well with Mane and got forward well but his decision making, particularly his shooting, at the decisive moment was lacking.
Milner – looked purposeful in the opening few minutes but then picked up a knock and had to come off.
Jones – had a good game, was heavily involved in almost every move, showed nice feet to set up Robertson, broke up the play well but just needs to drive more at the box. Leicester really tried to focus their press on him but he coped with it very well.
Wijnaldum – at times he backed up the play well picking up loose balls around the edge of the box. The problem is that he was meant to be the deep-lying midfielder and that meant that any ball which was cleared further than the edge of the box was past him and putting the defence in a 1-on-1 situation. When he did get back he was weak in the challenge. On the ball he slowed down play far too much. His form is the worst it has been in his entire Liverpool career sadly, as it is likely that he will be remembered for letting us down when we needed him most right now.
Firmino – that work of art of an assist aside, it was not a particularly good or bad game for Firmino. It was about as anonymous as he gets, even letting players run off him at times. Worrying.
Salah – lovely finish for the goal, but the rest of the game his finishing was poor. He had a few chances to attack them in behind early on, but failed to make the most of them. It could have been a comfortable win if Salah was in peak form. Even so, he is still top scorer in the Premier League for a reason, even an off form Salah is probably the best player in the league.
Mane – his movement and running with the ball was excellent. The problem is that his finishing is absolutely woeful at the moment.
Thiago – replaced the injured Milner in the 17th minute. Leicester targeted him when he came on and hounded him when possible, which is why he he took to trying to do too much on the ball to break that mini-press. However he would have been better to just move it on quickly and break it that way. I do feel the penalty was harsh on him, for one there was no gap there for Barnes to move through and he threw himself into it with the intent to win a penalty in my opinion. If it was not for Barnes being English, the media would have had a field day about the cheating foreigner, but he is English, so it became all the fault of Thiago. It is one of them that can be given either way by referees, but any player attempting to go through a gap smaller than they are wide is to me looking to win a decision.
Oxlade-Chamberlain – came on in place of Jones in the 75th minute. Unfortunately his arrival pretty much coincided with the team imploding, though it was no fault of his.
Shaqiri – was brought on in place of Wijnaldun in the 87th minute. Arrived too late to affect the game in any meaningful way.
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Written by Tris Burke February 15 2021 15:47:38