Talking Points – Wolves 0-2 Liverpool

Another efficient Liverpool performance saw them run out 2-0 winners over Wolves at Molineux on Friday night. Goals from Mohamed Salah and Virgil Van Dijk were enough to reward Jürgen Klopp’s side with three points and first place in the table come Christmas Day.

Reds recover from early mistakes to pass another tough test…

You could argue that some Liverpool fans were more concerned about this game then the fixture against Manchester United, but it was understandable given Wolves’ Robin Hood role this season. From the start it was evident that the hosts were up for it, and their tactic to press Liverpool’s players when in possession near the penalty area was working to good effect. Fabinho, Dejan Lovren and Naby Keita were just some of the Liverpool players whose mistakes were nearly pounced upon, but a couple of important blocks and saves from Alisson ensured Klopp’s side kept Wolves out. After the break Wolves press’ dropped off considerably and Liverpool, once Van Dijk doubled their lead, took serious control of proceedings. The win is yet another in a long list this campaign of tough games on paper that the Reds have managed to win, and Manchester City fans will be growing in frustration at the Reds’ ability to continue to prevail in trickier fixtures.

Liverpool dismantling teams effectively and in a variety of ways…

The match, particularly the second half, highlighted just how much this Liverpool side and Klopp have improved tactically in 2018 and this season. The Liverpool players worked tirelessly to ensure that Wolves’ switches of play left them with as few two-on-ones as possible, and while the hosts’ press dropped off, the Reds’ also became much more effective with their passing out from the back, and were soon tactically dominant. Klopp’s side have learnt how to deal with a manner of ways that teams might try to attack and defend against them, and Liverpool know that once the opposition have hugged and puffed, as Wolves did, then the Reds can begin a number of efficient tactics such as balls in behind to Salah or just simply keeping possession. The chaotic Liverpool of last year is gone, and in its place is a chess-like side that picks its moments and strikes crucial and knock-out blows. Whatever is being thrown at them, Liverpool are dealing with, and even if something new is attempted, then Klopp and his players simply learn how to deal with that as well, all while winning. Tactical superiority at it’s best.

Salah and Van Dijk epitomise the growth in quality…

This Liverpool side is now stocked with a host of quality players, with Salah and Van Dijk arguably the crème de la crème, but the growth in the amount of quality at Klopp’s disposal is staggering when considering what was at the club when he first arrived and the relatively low net-spend. It is said quality that is allowing the Reds to produce confident and assured performances on a consistent basis. Adama Traore is a tricky customer due to his rapid pace, but Van Dijk, as he does with most attackers, dealt with the threat comfortably. The Dutchman’s display was worthy of a goal as he netted his first Premier League goal for the Reds. You really do wonder what the mindset of attackers knowing they have to face Van Dijk must be. Do they have any hope? As for Salah, he truly is one of the best attackers and finishers in world football – his finishing touch that simply utilised all the pace on Fabinho’s pass was more than enough evidence of the Egyptian’s confidence and ability. As mentioned, once Liverpool are in the lead and the opposition play higher up the pitch, Salah and his teammates make deadly use of the space left in behind to ensure opponents are under fire right up until the final whistle.

Klopp begins crucial festive rotation…

It’s almost like math equations for Klopp over the Christmas period as he attempts to work out how to rotate his side. Certain players will need rest, certain players need to be starting alongside others in order to perform, certain players must start certain games. Basically, someone hopefully got Klopp a calculator for Christmas. Against Wolves the German made two changes, with James Milner coming in for Nathaniel Clyne at right-back while Jordan Henderson replaced Gini Wijnaldum in midfield. Both Milner and Henderson played very well, the latter in particular really growing into the match, and Klopp will be happy knowing players like Wijnaldum recovered some rest all while the team still won. The Reds’ next fixture against Newcastle on Boxing Day will certainly need to be a game where Klopp makes use of his squad, with the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri and possibly even Alberto Moreno and Daniel Sturridge likely starters given the following matches against Arsenal and Man City. As long as the victories keep coming, as we saw against Wolves, then whatever rotation is done is fully acceptable, and the changes will only increase as the festive schedule continues.

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