It was a win of the gargantuan variety for the Reds to finish off 2017 on a positive note as they came back from an early deficit to defeat Leicester 2-1 at Anfield yesterday. It was just what the doctor ordered in what was a potentially very tricky fixture. Two second half goals by the man of the hour Mo Salah powered Liverpool to victory after falling behind to an early Jamie Vardy strike. What did we learn though from this highly stress inducing game?
Liverpool FC Displaying Character
Brendan Rodgers would have been proud of some of his former players yesterday. After all Liverpool displayed all sorts of character to win a match which easily could have slipped by the wayside. There’s been two major concerns in the team’s general play this season. The first of which was letting late leads go to waste, and the other was not taking control of games in the second half. Neither problem reared it’s ugly head yesterday. Instead, we were treated to a rock solid demonstration of winning ugly. Jurgen Klopp alluded to it in his post match interview when he stated that aside from Joel Matip’s bizarrely wayward early pass, the team was rarely troubled defensively against a talented Leicester group.
It could be a huge turning point for this squad.
Mané Showing Signs of Life
I am still firmly of the belief that Sadio Mané is a more devastating player on top form than Mo Salah but even I can admit that he has been a long way off that form of late. However, I was surprised that so many seemed to think that he had another poor game yesterday. He wasn’t his brilliantly menacing self but his impact on the game cannot be understated. Not only did he provide a wonderful moment of ingenuity to unlock the Leicester defensive backline for the equalizer but he easily could have had another assist in the first half but for a wasteful effort from Salah.
Mané also had two goals correctly ruled out for offside but we are talking split second timing here. Mané is still lacking the confidence to take on all comers at the moment but to be honest he may also just be feeling that he doesn’t need to right now. The attack is no longer solely dependent on Mané magic to win games which is a great thing.
It also completely plausible that Jurgen Klopp is still wary of the hamstring injury Mané picked up while on Senegal duty. Perhaps he is under instructions to simplify his game until the sports scientists give him the green light to play in his natural manner again. This option seems completely plausible when considering how much rest Mané has been given compared to the other members of the Fab Four. I am not worried about Sadio Mané and I think yesterday was a great sign of things to come for the player.
Virgil’s Partner Not Yet Obvious
Take away all the fairly irrelevant stats such as “Aerial Duels Percentage”, or “Errors Leading to Goals” and you are left with the simple fact that sometimes just watching players can help provide a better evaluation. Many supporters seem to feel strongly that Joel Matip should partner Virgil van Dijk most frequently but I am most certainly not convinced. Matip’s loose pass early on yesterday was pounced on clinically by the former champions as Jamie Vardy gave the visitors the early lead.
I can only imagine the scenes if Lovren had played the same pass, or even Mignolet and Karius from the back. I simply just don’t trust Matip. To the contrary Lovren had another rock solid performance while Ragnar Klavan off the bench arguably had the most important defensive intervention of the match late on winning a crucial header in his own box.
We have spent a massive sum on van Dijk so we can only assume that once he has settled in, he will start. Maybe it’ll be Joe Gomez eventually partnering the Dutchman but for the next 5 months the answer isn’t as obvious. As it stands though in my eyes the answer is categorically not Joel Matip, at least not in his current form.
Can He Karius To Victory?
This may seem like an obvious question based on the result yesterday but looking at the bigger picture did the German do enough to prove he may be the man moving forward? Not quite just yet for me. Loris Karius has often been unfairly criticized by supporters (that’s nothing new) but genuinely we have to wonder if there a top class keeper in there somewhere. For a keeper supposedly renowned for his distribution he was comfortably outperformed in this regard by his opposite number Kaspar Schmeichel yesterday. There were some great moments yes but still not enough to change the fact that Simon Mignolet still appears to be a much better pure goalkeeper.
Even so it seems now they both know the score. Neither keeper is guaranteed playing time and both need to prove that a goalie is not top of Jurgen’s summer shopping list. Karius and Mignolet both seem like good guys so I am happy to keep on pledging my support to one and/or both of them but it is now or never time for our duo, let’s see what happens.
So overall it was a fantastic way to end 2017. Not only did we have a hard fought victory but our rivals again dropped points. With the arrival of Virgil van Dijk and the full time return of Adam Lallana still to come, our prospects look good for the New Year. A tough start in Burnley tomorrow but of course there’s no such thing as easy games at this time of year.
Happy New Year Reds!