Talking Points: Liverpool 4 Crystal Palace 3

Liverpool emerged as winners from a frantic encounter with Crystal Palace at Anfield to extend their lead at the top of the table to seven points ahead of Manchester City’s match with Huddersfield. Despite falling behind and James Milner late red card, Jürgen Klopp’s side somehow managed to come out on top in a pulsating game.

Unnecessary tribute to 13/14 Reds but win is what matters…

If you needed a reminder as to why Liverpool didn’t win the title in the 13/14 season, the match with Crystal Palace on Saturday afternoon was a good one. Conceding three goals at home – soft goals at that – and having to rely on the attack to bail you out aren’t things which you can persist with in a title challenge and see on a consistent basis – this unfortunately why the Reds were pipped by Man City back then. Perhaps it was the lack of Gini Wijnaldum in the Liverpool midfield that led to such chaos in the second half, after a first half that went fairly to the expected script until Andros Townsend gave the Eagles a shock lead. Mohamed Salah scoring seconds after the break epitomised the chaos that was to come, and frankly Klopp’s side certainly benefitted from a handful if moments of good fortune on their way to victory. But at the end of it all and once the heart rates of Liverpool fans have returned to a steady pace, said victory is what will matter. Fortunately we aren’t seeing such frantic games on a frequent basis, so the Reds can be forgiven for producing such now and again, especially if they still come out on top. But please, let’s leave the 13/14 style in the past.

Individual errors nearly prove costly…

It was a strange afternoon as to be quite honest, it wasn’t really a bad team performance from Liverpool. Quite a few players in a red shirt actually played very well, and it was more some poor individual moments that led to errors which nearly cost Klopp’s side the three points. Joel Matip was solid alongside Virgil Van Dijk, though the former was guilty of playing Wilfried Zaha onside in the build-up to their first goal. James Milner was superb going forwards and it was his determination that led to Liverpool’s third, however as was feared Zaha tore Milner apart defensively and in the end his red card came as little surprise. Jordan Henderson was a big positive as he tried to keep things together in the midfield, but it was his hospital pass that forced Milner’s challenge for which he received a second yellow, and it could also be questioned as to where Henderson was when the ball dropped to Max Meyer on the edge of the box for the visitors third. With all these errors being considered, it is probably better this way than a bad team performance as Klopp and those responsible will recognise and attempt to correct their mistakes while taking pride from the majority of their display.

Attack all contribute to bail out defence…

In many matches this season the attack has underperformed and thus has had to rely on an imperious defensive display to bail them out. While 1-0 wins are an important part of a title challenge, it is very pleasing to see that when Liverpool conceded three goals in a league game for the first time this season, Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino were able to step up and return a helping hand. Salah’s first half featured him being hounded at by Palace players who thought he dived, but after the break Salah was a deadly as ever with direct running and two poacher-like finishes. The Egyptian is now two goals clear at the top of the scoring charts and is looking a good bet to make it back-to-back Golden Boots. Mane has taken some underserved criticism of late for his lack of goals and assists, but in the end the winger’s goal in injury time turned out to be the winner as he silenced some of his critics and continued his excellent scoring form against Palace. Hopefully the defence will regain its strength in the weeks to come, but having a forward line firing can only be a good thing.

Signs of title challengers present but still things to work on…

If Liverpool do win the title this season they will have done so with a variety of wins and ways of claiming victory. But no matter the manner, all would have shown the signs of title challengers. However, as Klopp and his squad jet off to Dubai for a training camp, they are still lessons to be learnt and things to work and improve on. The experiment of playing Naby Keita as a left midfielder must be put to a stop immediately, as it clearly doesn’t suit him and is leading to unfair criticism. The right-back conundrum only gets more complicated with the one-match suspension of Milner, and if Trent Alexander-Arnold cannot return to full fitness in time for the Leicester match then further experimentation will have to take place. That issue could also complicate midfield selection depending on Fabinho’s fitness and the form of Henderson and Wijnaldum. Some may see the Dubai trip as a break, but the training, development and decision-making will only increase as Liverpool seek to maintain winning ways.

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