Talking Points: Stoke City 0 Liverpool 3

A brace from substitute Mo Salah helped wrap up another important victory over Stoke at the Britannia on Wednesday night. Sadio Mane’s first-half goal gave the Reds the lead before the heated encounter was finished off by Liverpool’s Egyptian superstar.

Win kicks off run of must-win matches…

Since the defeat against Spurs, Liverpool have slowly but surely rebuilt their form back up and claimed some positive results and wins. This run needed to continue on the classic ‘cold Wednesday night in Stoke’, a place where Klopp’s side have enjoyed a string of victories in recent seasons. The chance to move above Spurs in the table was not one that could be spurned, and thankfully Liverpool provided. The away side settled comfortably into the game and were ahead after just 17 minutes when surprise starter Dom Solanke’s flick was latched on to by Mane who finished calmly. A moment of panic from Simon Mignolet could have easily seen him given a red card when he took out Diouf who was through on goal, this followed by two great chances for Solanke and Mane respectively to further increase their side’s lead which were squandered. It was end-to-end stuff in the second half, and just when Stoke were building momentum Salah struck with a quick double to seal the win. The clean sheet is also Liverpool’s first away from home in the League this season – a pleasant change from the heavy amount of goals that have been conceded by the team on the road recently. Overall a positive win, but Klopp and his players must keep on winning amidst the tight battle for top four they find themselves in this campaign.

Reds’ show some fight, but nearly too much…

In recent seasons this Liverpool side has been fairly criticised for being too soft. Having players who are weak both physically and mentally and who aren’t willing to participate in some of the darker sides of the game. Fortunately, this was actually seen today, and it needed to be against a Stoke side that are always up for a fight. The likes of Joe Gomez and Emre Can were willing to get stuck in, and when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain squared up to Martins Indi it epitomised this angry side to the Reds we don’t see enough. However, this aggression did get out of hands at times and on another day could have cost Liverpool. 5 of their players were booked, and numerous fouls were given away against a Stoke side very dangerous from set-pieces. Game management is vital at this level, and players cannot afford to lose their cool and focus at crucial times. The fight needs to be controlled and used sensibly, but overall it is a welcome change.

Can and Gini Wijaldum highlight what’s needed in the midfield…

Jordan Henderson and James Milner were frankly dreadful against Chelsea. First and foremost there was no defensive protection, and then when asked to create and dictate play the pair fell well short in this area also. Can and Wijanldum were used as a midfield two in the 4-2-2-2 against West Hame to good effect, and this was again the case on Wednesday. Can simply knows the defensive midfield role so much better than Henderson, even down to the little details like knowing when to commit cynical fouls. The German is also capable of driving forward with the ball and taking players on – again something Henderson can’t. As for Wijnaldum, when he is at the races he brings plenty of flair and finesse to his performances, and is much silkier and mobile than Milner. The attributes that Can and Wijnadlum offer and what Naby Keita will offer when he arrives next season, are exactly what Liverpool need in their midfield going forwards.

Salah’s impact from the bench reflects strength in depth ahead of festive schedule…

It was fairly obvious that if Klopp was willing to rotate against Chelsea, then he would have no worries about rotating against Stoke. As expected, Mane and Roberto Firmino were both reintroduced to the starting line-up while Philippe Coutinho and Salah dropped to the bench. Salah, despite the form he has been in, needed to be rested for either of the two games post-Chelsea, and as things turned out it was an expertly played move from Klopp, with Salah coming off the bench to score two more wonderful goals. The fact that a player of Salah’s quality can be brought on and a player of Coutinho’s ability remain an unused substitute, all while Liverpool still win 3-0 in a potentially tough fixture, bodes extremely well for Klopp and his squad. The depth, especially in attack, that the Reds have as we head into Christmas and a crazy amount of games in a short space of time will be vital. Liverpool collapsed due to a lack of rotations and squad depth in January last season, but this times it looks like Klopp has learnt his lesson.

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