Here’s five things we learnt following Liverpool’s 2-0 victory against Fulham.
The delivery from our fullbacks when they’re on their A game is absolutely world class. Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson have together assisted over a third of our 19 officially assisted goals this season. In slightly controversial circumstances, Trent’s first time ball in for Salah was beautifully timed, with the Egyptian slotting the ball past Sergio Rico with ease. Robertson also got in on the act with a fantastic ball looping over the Fulham defence, picking out an unmarked Shaqiri who cooly volleyed the ball into the back of the net. With a midfield so starved of inspiration, the influence from the two fullbacks is hugely under appreciated. The fact the two are competing for assists this season can only be a good thing, driving one to outperform the other and vice versa.
Mané and Firmino off the pace
Mané’s touch needs some real work. He’s always had pretty erratic control, but always managed to catch up with it. At the minute, it’s really stunting our attack. He seems to lose the ball every other time he gets it. It’s probably just form related as he is far from his best football right now. He doesn’t seem to be nearly as direct as when we first signed him, which is what he’s clearly best at. Firmino was poor as well today, he didn’t seem to offer much other than his monstrous work rate. We need to bring in another forward in January, we need competition for these two. If they play badly they still play week in week out, there’s no one there to push them on. Shaqiri isn’t fighting for either role, he’s merely being used to supplement the attack in an attacking midfield role.
Gini Missing in Midfield
Wijnaldum had another irrelevant game, to add to a long list of games where he simply hasn’t offered enough. He has all the tools to be a fantastic holding midfielder he just really lacks any form of consistency. When Henderson entered the fray, he offered everything that Gini didn’t. He was progressive with the ball, moved it quickly, displayed his passing range and looked to create. If we are to stick with the double pivot for the foreseeable future, I’d like to see Fabinho and Henderson given a run of games. It may not be a popular opinion. But, his play is exactly what we’ve missed in recent weeks. We need players that can find our flying forwards early, it’s essential to playing quick, aggressive and expansive football. I’d happily see Keita drop into the 10 as he’s reintegrated to the team, he’s the sort of player you want further up the pitch, threading passes through to the forwards and displaying his immaculate control. It would give us more opportunities in terms of rotating, allowing one of the three star forwards a rest every now and then.
It seems that every time Shaqiri plays, we play much, much better. Possibly simply because we need one more attack minded player in order to operate dangerously. He’s the link between the midfield, playing deeper than the rest. It’s what we expect from Firmino and Mané, it’s just they aren’t playing quite as we would hope. The Swiss was always going to be a useful addition with very little risk considering the fee. He’s worked his socks off and has really earned his place in the team. Shaqiri is one of our most popular players right now and who knows, if we’d taken him to Belgrade, we might have had a much better result and week.
Still Not up to Scratch… Yet
For all the positives, of which there were quite a few, we still aren’t quite clicking as a team. Our midfield severely lacks creativity and when it’s compared to City’s, Chelsea’s and the rest of the teams in and around us, there is a gulf in attacking inspiration. It’s obvious Klopp is in no rush to add to the team. He intends to wait until the perfect player is available. So, I think the chances of us adding another attacking midfielder in January is unlikely. Or at least of the calibre of player we might hope for. January is a notoriously hard time to finalise deals as no one wants to loose a top talent mid season.