Talking Points: Liverpool 4 Burnley 2

Braces from Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane ensured Liverpool returned to within a point of Manchester City after victory over Burnley at Anfield. Jürgen Klopp’s side were far from their best, but got the job done in tough conditions on Merseyside.

Dodgy officiating and sloppy defending nearly cost Reds…
In a week where VAR and controversial decisions have been the hot debate in football, yet more fuel was added to the fire right at the start of Sunday’s early kick-off with another howler of an officiating mistake, and incident that highlights VAR cannot enter the Premier League soon enough. There are times when goalkeepers get too much protection from referees, but how Andre Marriner and his assistants didn’t notice the clear foul by James Tarkowski on Alisson which completely prevented the Brazilian from reaching the ball, we will never know. To be frank, Marriner was terrible all match – Mohamed Salah being constantly wrestled by Burnley players barely leading to any punishment. Liverpool’s below-par performance wasn’t entirely the referee’s fault though, and Joel Matip epitomised a defence that was sloppy and shaky at times. Matip should have dealt with a long-ball much better than he did as he gifted the Clarets the corner from which they opened the scoring. The marking for the visitors’ second goal was also non-existent, and Klopp and his players will be disappointed in the drop from their high defensive standards of late.

Lallana and Klopp prove doubters wrong…
I will be the first to admit that I owe Adam Lallana and Klopp an apology. Many Liverpool supporters were hopeful of seeing Naby Keita’s name on the team-sheet ahead of kick-off, but in seeing a different name, especially Lallana’s, lots of fans were furious. You can fully understand people’s frustrations and concerns with Lallana featuring, however to his credit the midfielder was soon making his mark on proceedings with his energy, movement and creativity. Lallana’s pressing was what led to the Reds’ second goal as he closed down and blocked an attempted clearance, and overall played very well. Regardless of who it is, having a player to link the midfield and attack and make runs with or without the ball beyond opposition lines is something Klopp’s side have lacked too often this season. It will be interesting to see if Lallana keeps his place for the coming matches, but for now it seems fans, myself included, need to trust Klopp a bit more sometimes.

Attacking trends continue…
Most of what the front three produced in the win has been seen frequently in recent weeks and across the season. Roberto Firmino finally got back to scoring ways with the easiest brace he will ever score, and overall was one of his wife’s best performers. When Firmino plays well, Liverpool play well and normally win, so to see the Brazilian back in form is pleasing. Sadio Mane was also on hand to net a couple, and his continuation of excellent form sees him move to joint-third in the PL scoring charts this campaign, just two goals behind leader Sergio Agüero. As for Salah, his goal-drought goes on but so does his contributions in the making of goals. The Egyptian was heavily involved in Liverpool’s first three goals and still remains an integral part of the attack. However, the front three as a whole were still wasteful and the game should have been put way to bed before Burnley got their second. God knows how many Liverpool will score if they attack at total efficiency at some point this season.

One down, eight to go…
A great team display would have been nice, but the most important thing is that Klopp’s side picked up three points and maintain the pressure on Manchester City. After the draw last weekend, it was acknowledged by many that at least eight wins from nine may well be required for Liverpool to pip City, and with victory over Burnley, it’s one down, eight to go. The Reds can in fact end next weekend back on top of the table by two points if they beat Fulham, given City’s FA Cup commitments. As long as Liverpool keep on winning, it will be a while until City would have the chance to be in first at the end of a gameweek. Just how much the dynamics of chasing or being hunted or playing first or second really affect players is tough to establish, but all the Reds can do is keep on winning.

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