Liverpool: Don’t believe the hype
Don’t believe the hype.
I’ve seen people already saying that this “wasn’t the most inspiring performance”, well I would challenge that assertion vehemently.
Liverpool over the past two seasons have been as exciting a team to watch in Europe as there has been. Even before we added Salah to the equation that took us to that next level we were still breathtaking to watch at times.
What Liverpool need to take that next step is the more underrated quality that City showed in abundance last season, consistency.
Watching Liverpool tonight, I couldn’t help but think whether or not this was a moment that would to some extent define our season.
We know Liverpool can match anyone at any level in terms of the blistering attacking football that saw us tear a swathe through Europe, what we don’t know is whether or not we can keep sides out who have the same attacking talent as we possess.
Someone posed a question on a page I frequent earlier on “Liverpool have had some great central defenders in the Premier League era, who would make the Premier League all time greats”
Now, as the biggest Sami Hyypia fan in the world, it pains me to say that being honest and putting aside how much I loved this man, he doesn’t make my Premier League 11. None of the defenders we have actually even come close to be honest when compared to the talent that this league has seen in that position. Virgil Van Dijk could.
When we signed Van Dijk I was asked what I thought about him, I replied “he could be better than Sami, in fact he could be everything he was but with pace and better on the ball”. I got some sceptical looks but I’d say now at least people can see where I was basing my comparison.
Van Dijk, like Hyypia is also a leader who makes everyone around him a better player. Watching our imperious dutch man tonight, I couldn’t help but think back to Sami and how he used to at times do to players what VVD was able to do to Benteke and Palace.
If you think anyone but VVD was man of the match tonight then I question your sanity. First of all he was stopping attacks before they began while at the same time pocketing Benteke (a player who two seasons ago we couldn’t handle and scored a brace at Anfield) he was also making the game easier for our full backs and Gomez as Palace simply couldn’t get anything from him at all.
When Palace and Benteke did manage to get one thing out of Van Dijk, we saw the other part of the team that we didn’t have last season and haven’t had for quite some time. A world-class keeper.
Alisson looked like he was out with his mates on the park, not in the middle of a heated Selhurst Park. Truly great goalkeepers just have this way about them where they look unflappable.
It’s very early days but Alisson tonight showed exactly why he’s one of the best keepers in the world and why Liverpool were happy to part with more than £60 million.
I nearly choked with laughter as the commentator exclaimed what a routine save he made when Milivojevic curled the ball towards the top corner. There was nothing routine about saving a shot that Milivojevic could’t have placed better if he picked the ball up and put it there himself.
You might hear a lot of this nonsense though because Alisson makes difficult saves look routine.
Add to these two an ever improving Robbo and Alexander Arnold who have already proven themselves at the highest level and a confident Joe Gomez finally given the chance to shine in his favoured position and we’ve got a first choice back four that at this moment looks more than reliable.
In to midfield and Keita is making a world of difference. Another special player who has slot in seamlessly. Tonight he made one bad pass, last week he made one bad pass. He’s adjusting but at 23 he’s a special talent for whom allowances have to be made at this early stage.
Milner was Milner, reliable as ever, tenacious and a true leader. It’s what we’ve come to expect.
Let’s not forget we’ve still got another player in Fabinho to come back but after Wijnaldum’s performance tonight, he will do well to get back in the side.
Last week I didn’t see the hype about Gini’s performance but this week in a much tougher trip after missing an early tackle he should have made, he looked very much at home in his new position.
I’ve heard people saying Salah had a bad game, again I’m not sure what game they were watching. His movement was excellent and his unselfish play for the team again was great to see. Given his 44 goal haul last season, any game he doesn’t score in will be seen as a bad game and it will be wrong to be seen as such. When Salah stops running at people, leaving them for dead and getting in position to score the types of goals he did last season then let me know.
Firmino will come in for some stick as well. Here I have to concede again he clearly wasn’t at his best but again it’s what he does that you don’t see that is most important. This wasn’t one of his better games but his selfless movement and intelligence means he’s simply irreplaceable even when it isn’t all falling for him.
Mane was the pick of the attacking trio and while his finish was brilliant as he rounded a helpless Wayne Hennessey, to me again it wasn’t about goals. For me, it was about his willingness to take people on, chase back, press and his passing that allowed us to keep our width.
Think about it, we just went to one of the toughest places any team will go this season, we absolutely bossed the game, our keeper hardly had to break sweat. Our back four was only bested by the supreme talent that is Wilfried Zaha and even then it was late on and you have to expect that Palace will have some chances, just as for example Huddersfield did when they scored past City.
The point is, this was inspiring for all the reasons that Liverpool have struggled to compete. We didn’t just run away from the opposition, we did need the clean sheet for the most part, we did have to rely on the rest of the team and not just have our front three decimate a side. Our whole team turned up to be counted tonight, there was literally not one bad performance one to eleven and then Henderson even made a big difference when he came on off the bench.
The win was more comfortable than the nerves of some fans will allow them to have realised. This was professional, it was the type of performance you need if you want to compete in this league and that is why it was inspring.
We have everything we need. Players we didn’t think would start like Gomez, Milner and Wijnaldum are making a huge difference, we didn’t even need to use Shaqiri, Sturridge, Lallana or even need Fabinho on the bench. Lovren isn’t being missed in the slightest, a world cup finalist.
This is it, I get it, you’re not used to it and neither am I but this is what being a genuine title contender looks like. It’s two games but if you can’t see the signs then you’re not looking.
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