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Liverpool Article 05 Dec 2023
Liverpool v Fulham

I feel like I should start off by apologising to my neighbours for the noise during this game. It was just an insane game. How do you even review a game like that? It made no sense. One thing it did show up is just how much of a miss Alisson is going to be while out injured. Also how much less exciting the game would have been with him in goal, as he would have saved all three goals and it would have been a stroll! Instead it was a rollercoaster ride of epic proportions, despite Liverpool not actually playing that well. They should have had more than enough to win comfortably over this Fulham side anyway, but the gaps due to the system that is being used gave Fulham chances that they took. Against teams that use the wide areas less, it works well, as soon as you come up against a team like Fulham, who focus on the flanks anyway, it becomes a liability defensively. But I am fed up of pointing out its deficiencies and we all also know how it aids Liverpool in maintaining possession by putting an extra body in midfield, so it is time to talk about something else.

Though, before I do that, I feel I have to point out how much better the team looked in the final minutes going forward when Endo and Trent played in midfield and Gomez stayed out wide. It just provides so much better balance and attacking threat. What has to be talked about is the quality of those four goals Liverpool scored. Yes, Liverpool should not need to score four goals just to squeak a win, but it was so exciting and what goals! I mean if you are going to need to score four, you would struggle to ask for four better ones in one game. Such a shame it looks like the first one is going to go down as an own goal, which seems harsh to say the least. The team looked so much better going forward, the biggest issue being the three forwards could not have finished a fish supper last night. That made it much more difficult than it needed to be.

Fair play to Fulham, they came in and gave it a go, rather than just sitting back and looking to keep the score down in the hope of snatching something. They did struggle to get the ball, but when they did they were positive and always looked to drive forward and attack. It will be interesting to see how that result affects them. It could be the catalyst to boost their confidence and help them move up the table or losing in that way can hit their morale hard and be the beginning of a run of poor form. Marco Silva has a job on his hands making sure the players see the positives from the defeat and feel energised from pushing Liverpool so hard and coming so close to a victory. One thing is for sure, they look to have more than enough to be safe this season.

Quick notes on the players:

Kelleher - this is the problem with having Kelleher on the bench. It is adversely affecting his career because he simply is not getting enough games to keep him from getting rusty and lacks the experience to deal with being on the sidelines for such long periods. Yes, he had a disaster, all three goals would have been saved by Alisson, but it is difficult for him to be at his best. He needs more regular football to get going. I am sure he will improve but he will still be finding his feet when Alisson returns. Then he will be back to barely playing. This is the issue for back up keepers, they are on a hiding to nothing because each error is so costly and they are going to make errors as they are not playing enough to be at their best.

Alexander-Arnold - another excellent performance from Alexander-Arnold, particularly when given the chance to play as a midfielder (at last). After years of conjecture about whether he would eventually end up playing in midfield, this might actually be the time for him to prove whether it is for him. The half-way house of the inverted full-back role has shown that he has the ability on the ball to play there, but it has not left him able to showcase whether he is capable off the ball of being in midfield. He is far too busy having to get back across to the right-back position to actually show an understanding of a midfield role. This game finally gave him a decent amount of time to play in there and he looked very good. Even better when Endo came on to give him a proper partner in the centre, rather than Gomez just drifting in. And, to top it off, he scores a late winner of such quality from that position to enhance his claim. I would certainly be interested to see more of him in there.

Matip - while he was very good in the main in this game, it did showcase his two huge weaknesses. Firstly, his lack of awareness was once again on show as he had no idea what was going on and just raced out to close down at a setpiece, leaving 2 or 3 players free deep in the box. Matip had no need to rush out, there were other players charging down the ball, but he did not notice that and, even worse, had no idea that there were players right next to him that he should have been looking to mark. It is hopelessly bad schoolboy stuff, something that he does in every game. He never looks around and gets caught out time and time again. Secondly, he once again gets injured. The only thing you can rely on with Matip is to get injured if he plays a run of games. It is telling that this was just his 150th appearance despite being Klopp's favoured choice at centre-back since he arrived in 2016. That is 3 seasons' worth of games that he has managed in his 7 years at Liverpool. It is a shame as he is very good on the ball and, if just given one man to worry about, he is very good at shutting them down.

van Dijk - he is still ticking along at his imperious best, once more he was the rock in that defence. Added to that, his passing was mostly good and caused Fulham no end of problems with the long passes out from the back. That ability made it impossible for Fulham to press. There is no point when it just opens gaps for a long, raking pass to Salah.

Tsimikas - he is improving with every game, no longer is he playing safe and just passing back or sideways the moment he gets it. At times he is even driving forward and attempted to take on his opponent. Tsimikas is starting to once more look like the player that originally joined, the one that seemed capable of actually pushing Andy Robertson for his place in the team. He is not there yet but he is improving with every game.

Mac Allister - he is much better defensively now, but still getting forward when possible, as evidenced by that beautiful goal he scored. Also showed a good turn of speed to chase Iwobi down the flank, giving a lie to all who have said he is too slow to play the role. I still think he would be much better with a proper midfield partner next to him, but Mac Allister is beginning to look like he can do this role after all. Admittedly it was only Fulham, who are not the strongest team LFC have faced, but each performance like that will only improve his confidence ready for the more difficult teams to come.

Szoboszlai - plays with so much more maturity and responsibility than most players of his age. He covers almost every blade of grass and drags the opposition all over the pitch trying to keep him quiet, allowing the others to do the damage when he is not able to. Despite not getting on the scoresheet, he was one of the better players on the pitch.

Gravenberch - I have to admit he worries me. A couple of times he pulled out of challenges, though he did get stuck in afterwards, it is a worry for me that he did not immediately go out to put a foot in and show he would not be bullied. I do love the way he drifts past players with ease, but his passing is poor. Yes the stats will not show it, because the passes are often hitting the target, but far too often it is the back of the legs of the target, when they need it played in front of them. Or they have to check back or stop their run to pick up the ball that should have gone into their path. Cruyff said that a good pass is not one that reaches its target, but one that reaches the correct foot of the receiver with the right weight to enable them to use it immediately. Gravenberch rarely, if ever, plays a pass like that. He is also very suspect positionally. All are things that can be worked on for the future, but it does explain why he is so much better when coming on as a substitute with more time and space against tired legs. I was very surprised he was not the first player to be brought off to be honest.

Salah - not his best game. He seemed to be trying too hard at times not to think about his 200th goal and passed when he should have shot. Other times he was snatching at things. But he is still always a threat and his passing and playmaking is visibly improving.

Nunez - Klopp has to keep picking him because he causes so many problems for the opposition and does so much work for the team that he is very much a positive in the team, but I do wish he could just sort out his finishing. I am sure it will come, he is just so busy trying to place it in the corners that it comes with the risk of missing at the pace he moves. But when he does start hitting the target more regularly, putting them into the corners will make most unsaveable, so I would not want to ask him to change. The most impressive thing about Nunez is his work for the team and his attitude. Yes he can be fiery, but when he loses the ball or makes a mistake, there is never any hands thrown in the air or complaining, standing around expecting others to rectify it. No, the minute he makes a loose touch or pass he is chasing after the ball trying to put it right. When others are caught forward, he is always there chasing back to provide cover as well.

Diaz - he was trying too hard and had a poor game. He kept trying to do too much on the ball and lost it. His finishing was worse than Nunez's and Salah's as well. It feels like he just needs to settle back down and stop overdoing it. I wonder if having his dad there at the games is actually putting pressure on him to show his dad just what he can do?

Gakpo - replaced Szoboszlai in the 64th minute. Played in the midfield at first, then moved out to the right wing when there was a reshuffle which moved Salah central and saw Liverpool go to what was basically a 4-2-4 after Endo came on. He did some good things, always looks strong and controlled on the ball, but struggled to make any meaningful impact. The game was so end to end and messy that it really did not give him much chance to get involved in midfield.

Gomez - also came on in the 64th minute but in place of Mac Allister, to allow Alexander-Arnold to move into midfield. Gomez is having a really good season and it is such a shame that he has been so in and out of the side, but it is understandable that he is unable to displace Alexander-Arnold.

Konate - was brought on in the 69th minute when Matip once again picked up an injury. His greater pace allows him to cover across in the full-back area much better than Matip, but he is just not as good on the ball, so it is a swings and roundabouts issue. What you lose in one area, you gain in another. For me, his big problem is a tendency to grab and pull needlessly. He needs to learn to keep his hands to himself.

Endo - he took the place of Gravenberch and the team switched to a flat back four and looked so much better for it. And his goal! The composure to come on and do that so late on is not expected from a defensive midfielder. Hard to tell whether his arrival changed the game, if it was the switch to a back with two proper central midfielders, or if Fulham just dropped in to try and hold their lead, but the game did change when he came on. I would think it is probably a combination of the three, but his play makes such a difference in midfield. Mac Allister is much better than he was, but he is still nowhere near as competent as Endo is at shutting the opposition down and at providing forward momentum the moment he gets the ball.


Liverpool Article 28 Nov 2023
Manchester City v Liverpool

A typical early Saturday kick-off - lacking in intensity and atmosphere, though to be fair the lack of atmosphere is something that is usually levelled at the Etihad anyway, so probably not the fault of an early kick-off. It was not aided by the way both managers approach these matches, with far too much respect for each other. They mostly set their teams out to nullify the other, with their priority being not to lose first and foremost. Understandable to a degree, but it would be nice to see a bit more risk taking and excitement. One thing that is clear, after facing each others' teams so often over the years, both Klopp and Guardiola have become very good at nullifying each other. In fact far better than they are at exploiting their opponent's weaknesses.

From the Liverpool perspective, or any other team for that matter, going to the Etihad and holding them to a draw has to be seen as a good result. However, it was frustrating to see how rarely Liverpool really went for it and pressed Citeh high. Especially as the times they did press high Citeh invariably lost the ball. What makes it even more frustrating is that Klopp and his backroom staff initially developed the 'gegenpressing' system specifically to deal with teams that play the way City do, so why has he stopped using it against them? When a team fully commits to a full high pressing game against them, Pep Guardiola's teams have always been prone to conceding goals, yet so few even try to do it. They take so many chances in possession that, even as good as they are, mistakes will be made and they tend to be in very dangerous areas. They try to bait you in, but they do it by taking big risks and that can often backfire on them. Unfortunately most teams go there, cede possession, drop deep and let City play around them easily and just look to keep the score down rather than try and take the game to them.

The worry was the way the team chose to play it about the back, with little real ambition to get it forward quickly. Van Dijk got one long diagonal out to Salah wrong and then never tried it again, despite it being on all the time. Instead the defence constantly messed about with it deep, which led to Alisson's mistakes on the ball, as he was under pressure and tried to stick with that plan of continuing to play it out. I am also concerned by the lack of movement in the team when it gets the ball, they were far too static with little in the way of the pass and move that Liverpool's success has always been built on. If you are going to try and play a short passing game, which seems to be the way LFC are going for the long term, you have to have movement to pick out with the pass, to move the opposition around and to create space. Without that, you are simply asking to be closed down and put under pressure.

This season's City team are not looking anywhere near their best again, but they are still the team to beat in the Premier League. In fact, I have to say there is not one team in the Prem this season that stands out as firing on all cylinders. There are flashes from a lot of teams, moments of good play, the odd good game, but mostly teams seem to be stumbling to results. It is a very odd season this one so far. Teams seem to be much more reliant on the individual quality of players to get a goal when it matters, rather than outplaying their opponents on a consistent basis. City were a bit like that last season as well, but when you have Haaland up front you can usually rely on him to score enough to win most games.

City's attacking plan against Liverpool was very clear, use the wingers to get in behind. Mostly Doku on their left looking to exploit the space left when Alexander-Arnold drifted inside in his inverted full-back role. They did look at Foden against Tsimikas early, but Foden was found wanting and easily dealt with as he wanted to cut inside into traffic. It was mostly left to Doku to carry the threat for the team, but he was very well dealt with, despite his blistering pace. Alexander-Arnold simply made sure to keep him on his outside and gave him space to ensure he could not just push it past and cut inside. That left Doku able to 'dribble past' for the stats, but unable to actually effectively beat the full-back, instead he was just being held up until he was facing two or three players. What surprised me is that Guardiola never looked to try something else, he just continued with it even though it was not working. That is a big reason for the game fizzling out as an attacking showpiece.

Quick notes on the players:

Alisson - that could possibly have been his worst game in a Liverpool shirt and yet he still came up with some good saves. It just shows the level of performance he has reached that this game will be seen as so bad. If it was almost any other keeper in the Prem we would hear about the saves a lot more, but Alisson makes those kind of saves look so routine that nobody even notices.

Alexander-Arnold - even putting aside the goal, which was very nice, that he scored, Alexander-Arnold had a very good game. Almost every attack was aimed at him, yet he constantly did his defensive job and dealt with the pressure he was under very well. It was nice to see him showing that he can defend one-on-one as well, despite so many claiming he is hopeless at it.

Matip - overall a very good game from Matip, covering when needed and dealing with most threats. However, his lack of awareness at City's goal is still a worry. He never noticed Haaland was right next to him, in fact he never even took a look around him at all, which is unforgivable for any player in any position. He did make up for it, but it is something that he really does need to work on, it is not asking much for him to glance around him regularly rather than getting caught ball watching constantly.

van Dijk - it seems like teams are once again trying to avoid attacking where he is, certainly City looked to avoid him when possible. Understandable when is in this kind of form.

Tsimikas - improving game by game and looking very much a part of the team, rather than a weak link now. Handled Foden very well, shutting him mostly out of the game.

Mac Allister - his best game so far for Liverpool. A difficult game but he managed to get fully involved both offensively and defensively. It is hard to tell whether he is getting the hang of the position now or if the game just played into his hands, as City rarely attacked down the centre.

Szoboszlai - while he was not as visibly good as he was in the early weeks, he was still all over the pitch and provided a lot of protection to the defence. He seems to be playing a bit more responsibly, which is limiting his attacking threat but helping make the team more solid. He was dropping in and covering when Mac Allister got forward. In fact the midfield three almost played like a flat three with Alexander-Arnold dropping in behind when he inverted.

Jones - looked rusty and played like a player who has been missing for a while. To be fair to him, this is not the game to try and find your feet as you get so little time and so little of the ball.

Salah - could possibly have done more to help Alexander-Arnold defensively, but then him holding further forward stops them being able to commit more bodies forward, so it is a double-edged sword. Looks a step slower than usual and is no longer able to just attack full-backs the same way in this role. He is getting them more isolated than he used to, but now tends to end up having to stop and then often just knocks it against the defender in front of him. Salah is so much better when he is receiving the ball on the burst and that needs to be looked at to make sure that when a pass comes in to him it is when he is making a run.

Nunez - I am tempted to give him man of the match simply for his ability to make Guardiola blow his top at the end of the game. It seems Guardiola is happy to give out stick and celebrate in Tsimikas's face when his team scores but is not so happy when the boot is on the other foot. That is even though Nunez just asked him the same question he asked Tsimikas, without jumping into his face with his arms wide and screaming it at him. On the pitch he is always a menace and his pace frightens defenders into dropping off, which gave Liverpool a little more space to play in when they did get the ball - once they got it out of the defensive third that is.

Jota - this is not the game for Jota, he struggled to get involved as he is always reacting rather than anticipating. He just does not have the football intelligence to understand where he should be going until too late and so often ends up just running about like a headless chicken. Against a team like City, who are mercilessly drilled to play their passes by instinct, you are always going to struggle if you are not able to understand what they are trying to do and move to anticipate it.

Diaz - came on in the 54th minute for the ineffective Jota. He was not much more effective than Jota, but he did worry their defence more, though that could have been just as much about him having fresh legs as his ability.

Gravenberch - another unsurprising substitution as the Dutchman replaced Jones, who was struggling badly, also in the 54th minute. Provided a burst of energy and pace in the middle going forward, something that had been missing until his arrival. Always seems to affect the game positively as a substitute with his ability to carry the ball forward at pace and pick a pass at the end of it.

Gakpo - replaced Szoboszlai in the 73rd minute. Came on at the right time as the Hungarian was just showing signs of flagging. It was surprising that Elliott's arrival did not see him moved forward into the attack though. Instead Salah moved inside and Elliott went wide right, while he continued to play in midfield.

Elliott - brought on in place of Nunez in the 85th minute. It was more about shoring up the team to hold onto the point than anything else. Though he did attempt to have an impact.

Endo - took the spot of Mac Allister in front of the defence in the 85th minute. Showed the pragmatism that Guardiola always likes from his midfield when he picked up a yellow card for taking out a runner. It is the kind of thing that you hate when an opponent does to your team but you appreciate when one of yours does it.


Liverpool Article 14 Nov 2023
Liverpool v Brentford

That was so much better! Against a team that regularly plays with high intensity, Liverpool not just matched them for it, they bettered them. And, make no mistake about it, Liverpool completely bettered Brentford in every aspect of that game. Once Liverpool opened the scoring, that game was very comfortable as Brentford never really looked like creating anything against a Liverpool defence that was fired up. Van Dijk is approaching his best once more and Matip, after a poor performance mid-week, got the bit between his teeth after a horrible decision by the referee to give a foul against him for, well I am not sure actually what it was given for. It was clear the Brentford player just smashed into him and the foul was the other way round, if there was any foul there, and then to compound it, Matip's incredulous reaction got him booked. All that did was fire up the amiable defender to play at his best level.

It was not just the defending that was good, and the goalkeeping (as always), but the general play was much better. The press was there to put them under pressure and the passing was much crisper, especially when put under pressure by Brentford's attempt to press mistakes at the back. There were risks taken, but they paid off and it put Brentford's players out of position to open up spaces to attack them. It was only really after Liverpool were three up and dropping off into cruise mode that Brentford were able to get at Liverpool. Up until that third goal went in, they were completely outmatched. That was the kind of performance Klopp's teams used to produce almost every week and it must be hoped that it will be the blueprint moving forward.

For all Thomas Frank's fingerwagging every time he disagreed with a decision, his team were completely outmatched and he did not seem to have any answer to that. It does get tedious watching Frank on the sidelines whining about every physical challenge on his players when his team are among the worst teams in the Premier League for skating on the edge of legality. They are the ones you know will be pulling, pushing, arriving late with challenges and anything else which will give them an edge over an opponent, regardless of whether it is within or without of the rules. Instead of moaning about the referee, who if anything favoured them as Tierney is wont to do with anyone who is playing against Liverpool, Frank should be thanking his lucky stars that a clear penalty was not given against his team for holding. Though this weekend has proven that holding and wrestling in the penalty box is only going to result in a penalty if you are Manchester City.

Brentford's problem is that they rely heavily on pace and Mbuemo cutting in from the right to attack defences. Against Liverpool that is playing into their hands and it left the Bees seeming a bit toothless. It does feel a bit like teams have worked out Brentford's approach now and that if they match them for fight, then they stand a good chance of beating them quite easily. Lacking the quality of Toney up front and any real creativity in the side, even their so-called creative midfielder is very poor at actually creating anything other than having a long throw, Brentford are a very average side. If their physicality is matched, then they have little left to offer against Premier League sides.

Quick notes on the players:

Alisson - his problem is that he makes even great saves look so easy that he does not get the recognition he deserves. Head and shoulders above the rest of the goalkeepers around right now and he was once again there when called upon. His ability with the ball at his feet is also excellent, even if it does make me at times catch my breath as an opponent chases him down.

Alexander-Arnold - I am still not convinced by the role he is playing as a normal way to play it, but there are games when it works and this was one of them. He has such great ability on the ball that getting him on it as much as possible is definitely a good thing.

Matip - after his performance in midweek, I have to admit that seeing his name on the teamsheet up against the pace of Brentford had me extremely worried. He was excellent, especially after the ridiculous booking when he was clearly the one fouled. Even his reaction after the decision went against him was performance art.

van Dijk - he is back to prime Virgil right now. I am not sure anything more need be said! He is looking almost unbeatable once more.

Tsimikas - much improved game from the Greek Scouser, even getting assists too. It does seem like his confidence is starting to come back, there were a couple of occasions he drove forward and attacked instead of just passing back or sideways. Hopefully his confidence continues to grow and we can see the lad that refused to give up the ball even when on the floor and surrounded by 3 opponents.

Endo - I am surprised at some of the reactions to his performance. I am not sure what people wanted from him, because to me he seemed to do his job well. Far from perfect, but he was good. It is was a good platform to build from and a much better level of performance than that which Mac Allister has been giving. Not that I blame Mac Allister for that, as he is simply not the right fit for the role. Endo was combative, took the fight to them and always looked to try and make a progressive pass when possible. The Brentford midfield knew they had been in a game after that, he made it a very hard day for them to get anything going and that is what he was there to do. As for the VAR red card check, I have no idea why it took so long. In my opinion it was definitely not a red, you could see he won the ball then pulled his knees up to try and avoid contact. But, more to the point, the referee was right on the spot and looking at it and also felt the same way, and it is only meant to be clear and obvious errors, so why did it take so long? It should have needed only a quick replay or two at most to realise that it was not a clear and obvious error so go with the on field official, unless the official had been looking the other way or on the other side of the pitch. When he is right there looking at it, then all they are doing is undermining his authority by spending so much time checking it over and over. Anyway, back to Endo's performance, and yes I know the stats are not good, he did not win many duels, but all he needed to do most of the time was hold up the attack to give time for the defence to recover their positions - particularly with the inverted full-back needing to get across the field. That is what he did, that is more important than stat padding. Sometimes it is not what your individual stats show that matter, it is what you do to help the team keep the most important stats in the team's favour - the goals scored and conceded.

Gakpo - decent game in midfield for the Dutchman. I think it helped a lot that he had Endo there behind him, as that extra defensive quality that the Japanese midfielder possesses over Mac Allister gave Gakpo a bit more freedom. Like Gravenberch in that position, he always wants to be going forward and that can leave Liverpool exposed when the move breaks down. This time out he was well covered for and so was able to just play his game.

Szoboszlai - his problem is that he has set the bar so high this season that it is going to be near impossible for him to reach that level consistently. He had a good game, but it was not quite at that bar.

Jota - I can only imagine the frustration he must cause to play alongside, because one minute he is tripping over his own feet, the next the ball is bouncing off him to an opponent and then he performs a piece of brilliance to put the ball in the back of the net. My opinion is that Jota's football brain is not the quickest, because he is often just a step off, particularly defensively at set pieces but also on the press. That is probably the cause of his inconsistency. If he ever figures out how to get more consistency in his game, then he will be as certain a starter as Salah. But, so long as he keeps scoring (and that stat about Liverpool not losing when he scores stays intact) then he will deserve his place.

Salah - even when not at his brilliant best he comes away with two goals. That is despite mostly playing wider this season than usual. You really cannot argue with a record like his, it stands comparison with the best the Premier League has ever seen.

Nunez - he makes such a huge difference to the team as he gives the opposition defence no rest. Two goals chalked off (rightly) for offside was bad luck for him but Nunez never lets it faze him and just keeps going and usually ends up having a hand in a Salah goal at some point.

Elliott - came on in place of Gakpo, in the 83rd minute. Always such a willing runner and worker, also looks to get out wide and create something whenever the opportunity arises. Hopefully he will learn to play as well when he starts matches in time.

Diaz - came on in the 83rd minute to take Jota's place. He was probably the last thing the Brentford defence wanted to see come on late in the game as their legs were tiring. It does feel like he is trying a bit too hard right now, maybe just a bit too fired up, but who can blame him?

Quansah - perhaps a surprise choice to replace Alexander-Arnold in the 90th minute. It was a bit like the old days, when the young centre-backs would come in at full-back to get minutes in the first team. He certainly has the ability on the ball to play the position, especially the inverted role where he can slot in so easily if the ball is lost.

McConnell - brought on for his Premier League debut in the 90th+4 minute in place of Szboszlai. Ran around a bit but struggled to get involved in the short time he was on the pitch. I have to say I would have liked to see him make a bit more effort defensively, as he was only on the pitch for a few minutes there was nothing to stop him sprinting back to help out when the ball was lost. Instead he did the standard loping run back while the Brentford attack left him in their wake. That would be a disappointment for me. If he is starting it is understandable, but when you come on for your debut as a sub in the last few minutes you should really be busting a gut to prove yourself. It is moments like that which can cement yourself in the mind of coaches and fans, even if they are actually meaningless in the dying seconds of a game that is already won. Yes, I am being harsh, but this is no ordinary team he is fighting to get a place in and you have to do the extraordinary if you want to make it.


Liverpool Article 06 Nov 2023
Luton Town v Liverpool

A really poor performance which was made even worse by the tactical approach. Against a team which stays compact and defends in numbers, you have to utilise the space out wide to try and draw them out of their positions. Liverpool play with almost no width with this inverted full-back set up, which was then added to by playing Gomez on the left instead of Tsimikas. It just meant that the central areas were congested and it looked like one of those abysmal Man Utd performances in recent years when the approach seemed to be to hope that one of the better players creates something out of nothing. There was little quick passing and movement around the edge of the box, instead it was left to players to try and crash through a packed defence or hit and hope from distance. The quality of players in the team meant that there were still a number of very good chances created, but it was still a poor performance and would have been so even if the team had managed to pull a win out of the bag.

Luton worked extremely hard, held their shape well and defended well but barely created anything of note other than their goal. They had to ride their luck at times, not least when Salah somehow ended up putting the ball on a plate for Nunez rather than in the back of the net, only for Nunez to then miss. While Luton can take a lot of credit for their battling qualities, they will need to improve the other aspects of their game if they are to have any hopes of survival.

Quick notes on the players:

Alisson - had almost nothing to do at all until about 60 minutes in and then just the goal to deal with other than a couple of corners he punched clear. When a keeper has so little to do all match and his team still does not win, then something is wrong.

Alexander-Arnold - early on he provided a great delivery from wide which saw Nunez hit the bar, but the more we needed width, the more central he played. No idea why the coaching staff were not instructing him to get out wide and deliver the ball. Instead he ended up being totally nullified and offered little to the play.

Konate - made one good forward run early on, where he drove from his own box right up to the edge of the Luton box, but the rest of the game was fairly simple as Luton were not offering much threat. When they did he and Van Dijk were able to shut it down quickly in the main.

van Dijk - due to our lack of width, he was rarely able to use his long pass out to the flank to create an attack, something which could have been very useful in this game. Could well have had a penalty when he was brought down in the box, but those kind of fouls never seem to be given, so not really a surprise no penalty was awarded.

Gomez - got forward well down the left, but as soon as he received the ball he cut inside or turned back, leaving absolutely nothing on the left as Jota constantly drifted inside.

Mac Allister - had a terrible game once more. He looked so sluggish, on the break for the goal he was left trailing when he should have been able to get back and help out. It is a worry that he was caught out in the first place, as he should have been reading the play and dropping in the role he is meant to be performing. With a one-match ban to serve following his fifth yellow card of the season in this game, it will be interesting to see how Klopp and Lijnders deal with it and whether they finally accept this experiment is failing miserably.

Gravenberch - showed some good flashes of ability running with the ball, but lacked the final touch or ball that was needed. Just needed to do a bit more.

Szoboszlai - very quiet game and really struggled to have an effect on it.

Jota - the best I can say about him is his performance made sure the team missed Diaz all the more. When width was required he was constantly central and offered little. He did work hard, but it was a poor performance which lacked any thought about what was needed. In fact he was barely involved in the first half until late on when he had a shot saved and was sparked into life for a bit, but reverted to type in the second. Unusually for Jota he did not pop up with a goal either to make up for having a bad day.

Salah - had a poor game, his touch was loose and his finishing was worse.

Nunez - I really do not understand how a player can be so brilliant one second and then a second later so terrible or the other way around. He could have racked up the goals in this game, instead he came away with nothing.

Gakpo - brought on in the 66th minute for Jota. Failed to offer much more than Jota, even making the same mistake of playing central rather than getting out wide and using the space.

Elliott - came on in place of Szoboszlai, also in the 66th minute. At least he offered width from the moment he took the field and it made a difference as Liverpool looked a lot more dangerous with him attacking from the flank.

Tsimikas - was the third man to come on in the 66th minute, as he replaced Gomez on the left. Gave a bit of width on the left but failed to deliver anything of quality in open play at all.

Diaz - came on in the 83rd minute to take Gravenberch's place. Probably the only player to have any credit from that match. Great header from an Elliott cross to equalise late on and he was a real threat and also provided genuine threat from the left to stretch Luton a bit defensively along with Elliott. It is no coincidence that the goal was created and scored by the pair of them.


Liverpool Article 03 Nov 2023
Partnerships 2: Alan Hansen & Mark Lawrenson

When you look back at the Hansen-Lawrenson partnership it is easy to assume that they played together for most of the six and a half years that the pair played in the same Liverpool team. They are just such a perfect duo together in defence that I think most of us forget that most of his Liverpool career saw Lawrenson playing in a number of other roles for large portions of his time on Merseyside.

It could all have been so different for a number of reasons. Firstly Hansen very nearly quit football altogether at the age of 15, when he gave up the sport in order to concentrate on golf with the intention of becoming a professional in that instead. His brother John (who was a professional footballer himself) and dad convinced him to go back to football but he still rejected a first professional contract offered to him by Hibernian as it would have put a stop to his golf dreams.

Lawrenson nearly never ended up at Liverpool, after missing his first choice to join when Brighton & Hove Albion outbid them to get him from Preston North End for £112,000 and Graham Cross going the other way in part-exchange. Though that move nearly fell through as he had been away in Spain on a 'jolly' with some teammates only for BHA chairman Mike Bamber and director Dudley Sizen to turn up and tell him he was sold in a Benidorm beachside bar. He then failed his medical due to high blood sugar levels but it was traced back to drinking too many blackcurrant-flavoured Guinesses on the holiday. He was 20 at the time and PNE's player of the year under then manager Bobby Charlton. He would later play under Bobby's brother with the Republic of Ireland.

It was also never certain he would even make it in football, certainly it was not the vocation his mother had in mind for him as she wanted him to become a priest. But he joined Preston as a youngster but even then, at least according to former teammate at PNE, BHA, Liverpool and Republic of Ireland, Michael Robinson:

"Yeah, we were also at Preston, Brighton, and Liverpool at the same time and we both represented the Republic of Ireland during the same time too. When we were both playing in the youth leagues in Blackpool, Mark played for our main rivals called Bispham Juniors. You would think that any player of Mark's stature would have excelled in these youth leagues and stood out by a mile. However, that wasn't the case for Mark, as he struggled to even get a game for Bispham, simply because he was not good enough. His break into football also came about in a slightly bizarre way too. His stepfather was one of the directors at Preston at the time I was playing for them. Mark would come and help out in the training sessions, get out the cones, collect the bibs and then would get to join in at the match at the end. To be honest he wasn't that good. I remember we travelled away to Aston Villa for a reserve team game. Nobby Stiles was the player-manager at the time and he got injured just before the game. On the bus the only other player available was Mark, so he was put on the bench. And what happened? Ten minutes into the game our full-back comes off injured and is replaced by young Mark Lawrenson. The manager tucked him in to start with in order to protect him, but he ends up having an absolute blinder of a game! He then played a few more games for the reserves and was rewarded with a contract at Preston and later was sold to Brighton and eventually Liverpool where he won the European Cup."

According to Lawrenson it was the late, great, Nobby Stiles who turned him into a top player: "I was a winger when I joined Preston, while he was coach, and he was the one who converted me to my present position - in the middle of the back four. Nobby was very good with the youngsters. He was almost like a father figure. He commanded respect not only because of what he'd achieved himself but because of the way he'd help iron out your faults."

Meanwhile Hansen had become ensconced as a first team regular with Partick Thistle, even taking on the mantle of the club's regular penalty taker. On 5th May 1977 Bob Paisley, following a recommendation from Jock Stein, swooped in to sign Hansen for £110,000, where he changed from being known as 'Stretch' to being 'Jocky'. It took him until the 1978/79 season before he solidified a first team place in a team which conceded just 4 goals at home all season and won the league.

It was a few years later when Lawrenson finally made the move to the Reds to join Hansen in the summer of 1981 for a fee of around £900,000, a club record transfer fee. Again though it was a deal that almost never took place. Brighton had hit financial difficulties and so had to sell their star man, despite manager Alan Mullery wishing to keep him. There was interest in him from Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool: "I didn't want to sell Mark but was told the club needed the money to pay an overdraft. I'd had four or five first division clubs on the phone most Fridays wanting to know if he was available and when I was told about our money situation I phoned Ron Atkinson and sold him to Manchester United. The only trouble was Mike [Bamber, Brighton's chairman] sold him to Liverpool which is where he eventually went."

Lawrenson's tale of the move is more colourful: "I don't know if there was a financial crisis and they were looking for a big transfer fee from my sale to sort themselves out, but the uncertainty did unsettle me. On our return flight, there was a message that Terry Neill of Arsenal was waiting to meet the chairman at Gatwick. Somehow they missed each other and the next day there was talk of me going to Manchester United.....Arsenal offered me less money than I was on at Brighton but said they had the bust of Herbert Chapman and underfloor heating in the dressing room. Big Ron at United was trying to sign Frank Stapleton first. I was really close to going there...But while I waited I met Bob Paisley and Peter Robinson at Liverpool and it was done in ten minutes....I was nervous as a kitten. I had on my best suit, shirt and tie, my best bib and tucker. I went down to reception and the doorman spotted me and said 'Mr Paisley is waiting for you in his car outside'. When I got in the car I saw that Bob was wearing slippers and a cardigan. I couldn't believe it. That was my first meeting with Bob Paisley and I knew I'd come to the right place. They'd just won the European Cup and there was this fellow, who everyone in football thought was an absolute god, driving me to the ground in his slippers and cardigan! I thought, 'You'll do for me!'."

"We nearly bought him from Preston in 1977, but it was playing at the heart of the Brighton defence against Kenny Dalglish in March 1980 that he really caught my eye. Kenny is notoriously difficult to tackle. He is so clever and deceptive and uses his body to shield the ball from opposing defenders. And yet here was a 22-year-old, fresh out of the Second Division, winning the ball from him with sharp, clean challenges." - Bob Paisley.

Lawrenson continued: "I travelled north and had a medical at 11:30 at night. I even took the registration forms to the league offices myself, because they were only a few doors down from my mother's home at St Annes. It was midnight on a summer's night in 1981. There was no game, but it was the night I signed for Liverpool and I went out on the pitch just to soak up the surroundings. It was incredible, every player's dream come true. That was what changed my career, a turning point in my life and I will never forget it. Then, on my first day of training, there was a fight, between Alan Kennedy and Graeme Souness. I thought: 'What kind of club is this?'"

You would think that the Hansen-Lawrenson partnership would have been immediately put in place after such a large fee, for the time, but Hansen was playing so well alongside Phil Thompson that Lawrenson initially played at left-back in place of Alan Kennedy. When he finally did play at centre-back, it was to replace Hansen when the Scot had got injured. When Hansen returned to fitness, Lawrenson even played in midfield. In fact it was not until 28th December 1982 that they were paired up in defence.

With Thompson out injured for the second half of the season, Paisley finally put Hansen alongside Lawrenson in central defence. It was Paisley's final season in charge and that summer of 1983 he handed over to Joe Fagan, who decided to stick with Hansen next to Lawrenson as his first choice central defence. Though he also prepared for the future by signing Gary Gillespie as a long-term central defensive replacement.

Liverpool became synonymous with Hansen-Lawrenson at the back, as they cleaned up winning almost every trophy available, but it was over, pretty much completely, in the run-in at the tail end of the 1985-86 season. Lawrenson had picked up an injury and Gillespie stepped in so effectively that, on his return to fitness Lawrenson could not get into the side until the FA Cup final. That morning Gillespie woke up with a stomach bug and Lawrenson took his place for the final, though the pair struggled initially to get their partnership together. The following season Gillespie was back in situ and Lawrenson was used as full-back cover, playing both left and right-back during the season until in March 1987 he ruptured his Achilles tendon, ruling him out for 6 months.

Lawrenson did not get back into the team again until September, when an injury to Craig Johnston saw Kenny Dalglish move Steve Nicol to right midfield and Lawrenson slotted in at right-back. But it was only a short-term fix as Ray Houghton arrived the following month and Lawrenson was then in and out at left-back. But Lawrenson was struggling: "None of the other Liverpool players in the Liverpool side had any idea how badly I was struggling. They were playing so well and winning that their performances masked my weaknesses. When I got back into the team, I found I couldn't turn and run like I used to be able to do. I was just getting by on my positional play and my experience. I found I was a yard slower than everyone else and I couldn't get away with it against top class teams."

Worse was to come for Lawrenson as he played his third game in a week in January 1988 and thought he had been taken out: "I was certain that I'd been brought down, even though I couldn't see anybody near enough to have done it. I remember standing up to test my right foot and felt as though I was standing on a ramp. On reflection, I should have known I hadn't been fouled. There wasn't even a murmur from the crowd." In the 51st minute on the 16th January 1988 Lawrenson booted the ball into the stands to allow him to be substituted off with a recurrence of the Achilles injury. He would never play for Liverpool again and within weeks had hung up his boots and taken charge of Oxford United.

For all that we look back and remember them as the pairing at the heart of Liverpool's defensive solidity as they hoovered up trophies in the 1980s, they only actually played together between the end of December 1982 and the tail end of the 1985-86 season. Just about 2 and a half seasons was all they had in reality. I think it is telling that we remember them as the rock at the back together because they were that good it feels like it should have been the duo that brought so much success.

To read the previous entry in the Partnerships series on Steve Bruce and Gary Pallister click here.


Liverpool Article 30 Oct 2023
Liverpool v Nottingham Forest

It is not often a game is so one-sided, but that is now the third game in a row that Liverpool have been by far the better side and it has just been a case of how many they win by. I really do not like the tactics as a general way of playing, but in games like these, where the opponent has just turned up to try not to get beat by too many goals, they do work really well. Though it is of course perfectly possible that playing a standard back four would have worked just as well, or maybe even better, it is just that matches like this are worth taking the risk of leaving a gap at the back. Mainly because the opposition do not really attack that space at all. Actually, they pretty much failed to attack at all due to the set up they went with in this game.

With just one up front, Forest found exactly the same problem as West Ham had done earlier in the season. They had no out ball and just got smothered every time they tried to break forward. It was the cause of the first goal, Murillo breaking forward out of defence was left with no options to pass to and just had to keep going and going until he lost the ball. Liverpool could only beat what was in front of them and they beat them well and look to be riding high on a wave of confidence right now. Most importantly, the whole team are playing with real purpose, even when they are not playing well they are not letting their heads drop and continuing to work hard.

This season is beginning to look reminiscent of a couple of seasons ago, where the team was not playing the best, most exciting brand of football, but just finding ways to win. What is most exciting about this season's team is that they seem to have finally added that long sought after ability to control games once they get their nose in front. Thiago was bought to provide that quality, but this team is doing it without the oft-injured Spanish midfielder and it is difficult to see where he can fit in to the starting eleven. What he does provide, as does Endo and others, are options for Klopp to choose between. He has a midfield that can be altered to suit the situation posed by the game ahead. A forward line that has dangerous options to bring in to change a game. It is only really the defence that looks to be short of a solid, durable, central defensive alternative to the first choice pairing. Even that has Gomez and Matip as back up options and the youngster Quansah to be developed for the future.

Right now, this Liverpool team looks capable of pushing all the way to the end of the season, hopefully even win a trophy (or more) this season, with the potential to be even better in the future. All this with the togetherness they show could make this Klopp's best team yet. A long way to go yet, but it is looking like the start of something special. In fact it has for a while, but I have been trying to temper my excitement!

Forest have come a long way over the last couple of seasons and it is going to take time for them to make the next step up to be consistent finishers in the top table. Even then, these kind of results will still come occasionally, but they will have to be less passive if they are not to become the norm, rather than occasional. Without a genuine top class goalkeeper to pull them out of the mire when the need arises, they really cannot afford to rely on defending in depth to get them through. Turner is a long way off top class, he is a decent, solid back up keeper at Premier League level but not good enough in the long term to be first choice. I am not referring to his terrible error for the third goal, I am also talking about his weak push out of Nunez's shot to allow Jota a tap in for the opening goal. That should have been knocked well clear or even out for a corner. Instead it was laid on a plate for anyone following up.

Their defence and midfield are now looking decent, though lacking in depth as Worrall and McKenna, in particular, are nowhere near the level required. It is the attacking third that they look in real trouble, and that can often be the difference between wins and losses in this league. They have three strikers in Awoniyi, Wood and Origi that suffer far too many injuries to be relied upon and they really need to look for a reliable forward. More to the point they need to find a way to get Gibbs-White to play more football and spend less time throwing himself to the floor and whining. His form right now is woeful and most of their game is built around him, so they cannot afford him to be out of sorts for long.

Finally the manager, Steve Cooper, really needs to reconsider his tactical approach. The squad he has been given is not suited to a defend deep and hang on for dear life style. The first choice players are all good technical footballers and need a platform to play on. I do realise that takes a bravery that very few managers have, to stick with a more attacking approach even when there are the inevitable bad results. The problem he has is that owner Marinakis is not known for his patience, he would have replaced Cooper last season if he had been able to get the replacement he wanted, I am not sure that he will be happy with the current slow progress forward after spending so much in the last few windows. That is Cooper's biggest issue right now, it will decide his future far more than results, it is getting that style of play that Marinakis will enjoy while getting results. Personally I think he has done well and there are clear signs of progression, but each step up gets harder to make.

Yesterday Cooper got it all wrong. Injuries did leave him with a lack of options, but to not play anyone to attack that space on Liverpool's right flank left by Alexander-Arnold inversion is criminal. It would not have taken much to move Elanga to operate from the left and ask Gibbs-White to just push further forward, without needing to change the players. I can understand him being unwilling to take the risk to press Liverpool, even if they have shown a weakness to being pressed while playing out from the back, as any mistakes in the press would leave Forest in trouble. Dropping deep and defending is also understandable, but you have to give yourself an outball and Cooper simply did not set up without one and that made it easy to dominate them.

Quick notes on the players:

Alisson - once again he had the deck chair out. If this carries on he will need to join a book club to find books to read to keep himself occupied during the 90 minutes. At this rate Liverpool can just play Alexander-Arnold as a 'rush keeper' and let Alisson have the weekends off to catch up on the household chores. After all, Alexander-Arnold is already playing in defence and midfield, so what is another position?

Alexander-Arnold - had an excellent game, I especially liked some of his forward bursts running past players. Dropping the shoulder and going past a player or two in that way opens up so many more options for him on the ball.

Konate - never really put under pressure or tested, it was a nice little stroll for him. Considering he had been talking about how this system makes him cover more ground than ever before in his career, it is strange that Forest never looked to put pressure on down his side to see how he held up.

van Dijk - looking back to his imperious best, even showing his pace is still there when needed. His return to form has been a key part in Liverpool's season.

Tsimikas - a better performance than last weekend, he is starting to settle back in to the role but he has to offer more when receiving the ball. He played it far too safe, usually just looking to pass it back when he got it.

Mac Allister - this is the kind of game made for Mac Allister at the 6. When it is not about him breaking up play, but more about him using it as a springboard for launching attacks from deep. As such, he had a very good game, showing his vision and range of passing are there when given the time and space to operate. He did look even better late in the game after Endo came on, when he moved forward and played his natural position.

Gravenberch - looked very off, I would think because of the number of games he has played in a short space of time without having had the benefit of a preseason at Liverpool to prepare him for them. His touch was heavy and he was a bit leggy, no doubt struggling with slightly heavy legs. There were still flashes of what he can do.

Szoboszlai - is there really only one of him on the pitch at a time? It really does feel like there must be more, or maybe they are just running on and off like rolling subs in ice hockey, because no one man should be able to pop up everywhere like he does constantly. He is a phenomenal talent and still young enough to have the potential to improve.

Jota - it is games like this which show why I get so annoyed with Jota on other days. He was excellent in this game, not just scoring but also linking up and pressing well, good switch of play in the build up to the second goal as well. This is the level he should be at most games, rather than the player we often see with the loose touch and inability to pass to a teammate. One thing is for sure, you can never argue he does not score enough! Great celebration too - fingers crossed for Diaz's father's safe return!

Salah - excellent again, always causing problems and linking up well with Nunez and Szoboszlai. Is it me or is he really playing even better this season than ever before? And to score for the 5th home league game in a row is incredible, only the third player in the club's history to manage that feat. So glad he was not interested in the Saudi billions in the summer!

Nunez - he really is Captain Chaos. It is hard not to love him as he works so hard and torments opposition defenders every second he is on the pitch. His link up play has improved vastly this season as well.

Gakpo - brought on in the 58th minute for Jota. Slotted straight in and looked comfortable in there. A few times this season he has been guilty of just trying a little too hard, but this time he was doing the right things and not trying to do something special, forcing it even.

Elliott - came on in place of Gravenberch, also in the 58th minute. As is usual when he comes on as a sub, Elliott provided workrate and enthusiasm in abundance, as well as a little touch of quality at times.

Endo - swapped in for Nunez in the 80th minute. Bringing him on allowed Mac Allister to move forward and freed him up. It also gave the team a lot more of a solid feel as Endo does the right things. He is not the most spectacular player, but he tends to position himself well and does the simple things without fuss. I would like to see more of him, especially against the teams that are going to actually attack Liverpool.

Gomez - replaced Alexander-Arnold in the 88th minute. Never really had time to affect the game much, but he does slot in well right now and is beginning to look a lot more comfortable when he inverts. The drop off from having Alexander-Arnold playing there has lessened significantly and Gomez is beginning to look once more like the player he was during the title season.


Liverpool Article 24 Oct 2023
Liverpool v Everton

That game was such a poor game. Everton were simply nowhere near good enough and offered nothing even with all eleven players, and Liverpool were very sloppy and did not put them to the sword as they should have. Things got even worse after the sending off as Liverpool were simply not using the width due to the tactics. This was the time to tell Alexander-Arnold and Tsimikas to hold the width and get at Everton. Against ten men you really need to make the most of that space down the flanks and use it to get deliveries into the box from dangerous areas. Instead they offered little other than hopeful shots around the edge of the box. The player you most want in the penalty area is Salah, and he was forced to hold out wide far too much due to no one else being there for long periods.

I do think Klopp got it wrong with the starting line-up, though the team was good enough to beat Everton, it made no sense to start with Jota again. Nunez is a much better player who offers pace in behind and Everton left space for him to use. Once Everton went down to ten, that space was gone and it was no longer a game totally suited to him. He is on form and playing well, I can only think Klopp was worried he would do something silly and get sent off. Also, I still do not understand the thinking behind sticking with Mac Allister in the deeper role, his confidence is suffering and he is only going to make more errors if this continues. It was the perfect time to put Endo in and push Mac Allister forward to use him where is best.

To be perfectly honest though, I am not sure it would have mattered what team was put out as Everton gave the limpest, weakest performance I can ever remember in a Merseyside Derby match. It feels like that is all being deflected away by the ridiculous 'controversy' over a non-decision. I suppose I will have to waste my time talking about the decisions that have created such a mountain out of a molehill. Young was rightly sent off, I really do not know why it is even a discussion. He was stupid and rash and paid the price. No one to blame there but Young for not staying on his feet when he already had a yellow. The decisions that could be considered questionable were the one to not give Konate a second yellow, but I think again the Everton player cost any chance of a yellow by going down looking to get him sent off under the slightest touch. If he stays on his feet, instead of diving to the floor like John McGinn after his own teammate had flicked him, then there is a very good chance Konate grabs him and hauls him down. Then it is a definite yellow and there is no argument. Instead it was turned into a questionable decision over whether it was even actually a foul. It then is just a judgement call for the referee. When Tarkowski does a similar thing, the referee did not book him either, so clearly his judgement is those kind of challenges are not worthy of a booking.

On the opposite side, Everton should feel very fortunate not to give away a second penalty, as Diaz was clearly caught by the defender. It could very easily have been adjudged to be a penalty. It was certainly as much of a penalty as Konate's was a booking. The one thing that Everton do have every right to feel aggrieved about is Tsimikas somehow avoiding a booking. He should have been booked and got away with it. Once he is booked, he is then walking the same tightrope that Young fell off. The way I see it, there is no argument to be had over Young going off and Liverpool's penalty. Tsimikas should definitely have been booked and then is at risk of a second for persistent fouling, if nothing else. Konate not getting booked and Diaz not getting a penalty are decisions that can go either way and you just have to be glad when they go in your favour, and when they don't you just have to get on with it.

From a Liverpool perspective, I think more of an issue was just how bad they played. This was a really poor performance in a game that was bordering on being boring. Which probably explains why so much coverage is being given to such a non-story as there was nothing else to talk about from the entire 90 minutes plus that was played. It was as humdrum and lacklustre a derby as I can remember seeing. There was no fire and little passion in the match. Normally a boring 2-0 win you will take all day long, but the derby should never be boring, it should never lack passion or fire. Even the controversy is lame and just feels like Everton supporters deflecting away from just how utterly dreadful and uninspired their team was. It was not so much that they barely laid a glove on Liverpool, so to speak, it is that they barely even tried to throw anything. They just threw an early jab and then covered up on the ropes and meekly surrendered the win.

I really do not understand what happened to Everton. If you wanted to point out a performance that was as unlike anything Dyche wants from his team, you would immediately point to this game. I am not referring to the tactics, I just mean the manner of the defeat. One thing he has always done when facing Klopp teams is send his team out to get in the faces of the Liverpool players, to be physical and play with passion and desire. There was none of that from Everton. That is not to say they were not trying, clearly they were trying, throwing themselves in to make blocks defensively and working hard. It is just that they played like a team that were only interested in keeping the score down and hoping that they might just snatch a 0-0 if they can hold on.

THe half-time substitution, were he brought on Keane for Harrison and Patterson for McNeil, was symptomatic of the passiveness of Dyche's strategy for the game. It would have made more sense to bring in a midfielder instead of Keane, as he is an accident waiting to happen and it was no surprise he gave away the penalty. Bringing him on gave the initiative away, as well as being a terrible choice of player. Putting someone in the midfield would have at least given them a chance to get at Liverpool on the break. Instead they meekly rolled over and took the beating. Though, in truth it was not much of a beating as Liverpool were so poor as well.

Quick notes on the players:

Alisson - I doubt he will ever have an easier time of it in a Derby, though he did fumble one catch which can probably be attributed to having to be woken from his doze just before to deal with it.

Alexander-Arnold - moving inside constantly is not helping him to get into the game any more than he did out wide and he is not in such dangerous areas. When he does get out wide, the team looks so much better balanced and he is better areas usually to deliver the ball when he receives it.

Konate - could have picked up a soft second yellow, he was lucky the Everton player decided to throw himself to the ground before he even got a chance to do anything, as he is prone to grabbing. It is something he needs to work on, to resist the temptation to grab the forward, especially when you are so far up the field with plenty of cover behind you, so there is little danger.

van Dijk - really beginning to look like the old van Dijk once more. Though he was not exactly put under much pressure in this match at all.

Tsimikas - he had a really poor game and struggled badly. He should have been booked and was very lucky to get away with a rash challenge. Tsimikas has not been the same since he got hooked after his first run of games while Robertson was injured, it seems to have affected his confidence badly. He was playing well then and has never been able to replicate that form since.

Mac Allister - there is the odd flash, a good forward ball here and there when he is not under pressure, but overall he is really struggling in that position and it really needs to be reconsidered before it destroys his confidence.

Gravenberch - shows some nice touches and is very good going forward. Never really got going overall though, it was just a nice bit here and there.

Szoboszlai - probably his worst performance so far. He was constantly looking to hit shots all the time, even if a shot was not on. His shooting, and his passing for that matter, was not at its usual level.

Diaz - Liverpool's best player until he bizarrely got moved to full-back, when he was just starting too far back to really hurt the Toffees. He tormented Young until the Everton full-back got sent off trying, and failing, to stop him. Then he continued to cause problems for Everton until he was replaced.

Salah - his touch was awful for some reason, he looked completely out of sorts, constantly just kicking it against his opponent. But he still finished the match with two goals. Even on a bad day he comes good.

Jota - I am just going to skip over this as it feels like I just end up saying the same things about his performances when he starts.

Nunez - replaced Tsimikas in the 62nd minute. Brought so much to the game, as well as a nice assist. His pace, desire and workrate lifted Liverpool massively.

Elliott - came on for Gravenberch in the 62nd minute. Like Nunez, his desire and workrate made a huge difference and he was not prone to the sloppiness that had plagued the team throughout the match.

Matip - brought on for Konate, who was on a booking, in the 62nd minute. Never really troubled as the game was pretty much played in the Everton half.

Gomez - came on to play left-back in the place of Diaz in the 81st minute. With no winger to trouble him, it was a nice, easy run-out.



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