Will Liverpool only keep their Premier League crown by splashing the cash this summer? Jurgen Klopp’s kings are in danger of standing still if no new faces are brought in
- Liverpool’s performance against Leeds didn’t show the lethal intensity we know
- Leeds’ second equaliser was a metaphor for Liverpool’s casualness at Anfield
- The value of adding one new face adds up, especially if that proves to be Thiago
- Salah’s showing suggested the debate about behind him is purely academic
The world is a more complicated place than it was when Liverpool’s progress was mapped by a group of coaches who sat around on upturned beer crates in a windowless former kit store called the Boot Room.
But having brought the title home at last, the more curious minds around Anfield will surely ask what kept it coming? How did they win it six times in eight years?
A lack of pomp, certainly. Medals were ritually dished out from a cardboard box. But a relentless process of renewal, too. Not a year went by in those great years without the club paying out substantially for a new arrival — and it was generally only one.
Liverpool’s performance against Leeds didn’t show the lethal intensity we have come to know
Mo Salah’s contribution suggested the debate about what goes on behind him is academic
Phil Neal, David Johnson, Alan Hansen, Alan Kennedy, Frank McGarvey, Ian Rush, Mark Lawrenson all marked the changing of the seasons.
The club did not always need these improvements. Rush waited two years to break through. Kennedy was initially unconvincing. McGarvey did not play once. But the thinking was that a little more competitive tension was good.
There are risks attached to drawing conclusions from the first instalment in the current squad’s title defence. These are early days and extraordinary times. But this was certainly not the lethal intensity we have come to know.
‘They kill you in a football way. They just don’t stop.’ That’s what managers usually say about Liverpool. It was actually Jurgen Klopp’s description of Leeds.
The promoted side’s second equaliser was a metaphor for Liverpool’s casualness.
Jurgen Klopp unconvincingly suggested that Van Dijk’s blunder was a ‘misunderstanding’
The high ball Virgil van Dijk tried to ease around the corner for Andy Robertson, presenting Patrick Bamford with his goal on a plate, screamed complacency — for all his manager’s attempts to dress it up as a something else. ‘A misunderstanding between Virgil and Alisson — one of those things that can happen,’ Klopp suggested, unconvincingly.
But Van Dijk’s mind had also drifted somewhere else moments earlier, when he failed to clock Bamford loitering freely in space behind him. The striker might have capitalised had Pablo Hernandez found a better ball from the left.
Klopp either did not hear, or did not want to, when asked if Leeds’ intensity was why Liverpool had struggled defensively or whether there was ‘more to it than that?’ So the question was put again.
Jack Robinson scored Leeds’ first, he said, because both Trent Alexander-Arnold and Robertson were both higher than the centre halves. ‘That should never happen in football,’ said Klopp.
Mateusz Klich scored Leeds’ third, he said, because no one closed him down and the centre halves were perhaps too far apart. ‘Our formation was moving and it didn’t close one gap. We let him run, that’s true.’ And there was fatigue, of course. An international break and minimal preparation time. ‘Defending is not like riding a bike,’ Klopp observed. ‘You have to work on it constantly.’
The value of adding a new face adds up, especially if that incomer was Thiago Alcantara
MARK CLATTENBURG AGREES MO SALAH’S FIRST PENALTY WAS THE RIGHT DECISION
‘Michael Oliver was 100 per cent correct to award Liverpool’s first penalty when Mo Salah’s shot deflected off the thigh of Leeds defender Robin Koch and up onto his arm.
‘Let us get one thing straight – and I can’t believe people are still talking about this two years later – but the word ‘deliberate’ has been removed from the Laws of the Game.
‘It does not matter that Koch did not deliberately handle the ball, his arm was outstretched and in an unnatural position, it made his body bigger.
‘It also does not matter that the ball was deflected before hitting his arm. Koch had thrown his body at the shot and took that risk.
‘That is why you now see a lot of defenders approaching such situations with their hands behind their back.’
These conversations cropped up at the start of last season, when analysis showed Liverpool’s high defensive positions had accounted for them facing 40 shots on their goal in their first three games, compared to 19 for the same period a year earlier.
Again, Van Dijk had just returned from international duty, where his defensive focus had been man-marking — not Liverpool’s way of playing against the ball, in which the formation moves in sync with every inch the ball travels.
Liverpool’s defence turned out to be the best in last season’s Premier League. But the value of adding one to the ranks still adds up, especially if that incomer was Thiago Alcantara.
The Bayern Munich player could actually help more against less ambitious sides than Leeds. He doesn’t press opponents to death as all of Liverpool’s midfielders do, instead bringing the control and vision to find the pass which cuts through teams that sit deep.
Yet his presence would relieve some of the pressure on Alexander-Arnold and Robertson to attack and defend — a workload which contributed to Saturday’s chaos. Klopp barely seems to see these two as defenders. ‘You need both wingers 100 per cent involved in defending,’ he said.
Mo Salah’s electrifying contribution suggested that the debate about what goes on behind him is purely academic.
Liverpool have now won each of the last 35 Premier League games in which Salah has scored — a sequence surpassing Wayne Rooney’s Premier League record of 34 consecutive wins when scoring from September 2008 to February 2011.
But Klopp has never been in the habit of standing still. ‘We know we have to improve,’ he reflected, which sounded ominous for the rest of the league.
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