The captains save the ship
When Henderson and Milner were getting ready to come into the game, many were shocked to see them to be the chosen saviors. (We will get to the Hendo haters who were predicting a loss only due to him coming in later on)Against Tottenham, Klopp pushed all his chips in by putting in Origi and Fabinho and made moves that would be considered attack minded substitutions. This week was perhaps Klopp’s best subs of the year. It was exactly what the team on the field needed. Some composure, control, and aggression.
“Verbally Aggressive” is the phrase Klopp used to explain what the two captains would bring to the table. It is what is expected of a captain. To keep the crew calm and focused on the task at hand. They lead by example with their tackles and set a totally different tone to the game by helping Liverpool regain the control in midfield. I have seen it all year on social media, fans asking for VVD to be the captain and not understanding why Klopp has chosen Henderson and Milner as captains for this team. Let’s hope this game opened their eyes a bit to see what a role of the captain is on a team of this level and how it can make a difference on the field. A captain is not only the best player, the oldest one, or the most important. It is more than that and leadership is a quality that might not come up in stats but it definitely shows its impact in the final result.
Some fans think goals only come through adding more attacking players and do not understand the importance of what players like Henderson and Milner bring to a team. Pressure on opposing teams come through controlling the midfield, winning the second balls and dictating the pace of the game. This is exactly what the captains did and a game that was about to be lost, came back in balance enabling our quality on the ball to shine more and Salah’s great pace on the counter brought the much needed goal. Henderson’s goal was icing on the cake and was well deserved.
Mo gets his goal and it is a huge one
Salah’s scoring issues and the lack of goals is one of my talking points for the third week in a row. 2 weeks ago, I had mentioned the need for Salah to get his goal out of the way so he can regain his confidence and form. Last week, I talked about how the half-goal he had against Tottenham could be a turning point. Well this week finished the drought. Salah took the ball in his own half and dribbled with pace and finished with a perfectly placed shot. You could see the relief in his face after the goal and what a great time to end the streak of games with no goals. This was a huge goal that could potentially bring the title to his team. The pace, control and the quality of the final shot was a great way to showcase all his strengths. Here is to hoping that one of next week’s talking points is Salah’s goals again, this time covering his brace or hattrick.
In the great words of Oprah…You get a goal! You get a goal… and you get a goal!!!
If you made a list of players who desperately needed a goal before the game, the scorers of this week would have definitely been on top of your list. Keita got his first ever goal for the club, Salah as we mentioned ended the goalless games, and Henderson got his goal after 65 appearances. You could see in their faces what these goals mean. Keita showed pure relief as Mane carried him on his shoulders. Salah took his jersey off and showed that determination that has made him the deadly goal scorer we are used to.
Henderson’s goal and his celebration says it all. I have watched the goal and his celebration at least a dozen times now and I cannot help but smile every time I watch it. His relief and release of frustration was a sight. More important was seeing his teammates reaction as they very well know the abuse Henderson gets on social media. Henderson does not deserve any of this abuse as a player who gives his 100% every game and has done nothing but what is asked of him by Klopp. Even Graeme Le Saux mentioned in the broadcast the tension you could sense being released during that celebration. Arlo made a reference to his red card against City during the last title chase but I personally think he was reaching on that one. The tension is sadly brought on by Reds fans, fans who do not appreciate the player they have, their captain!
I have addressed the issue of Henderson haters before. As we talked about it in the podcast last week, these people do not deserve the attention they get. They clearly do not understand the game of football, role of the CDM especially in Klopp’s system this year, and intangible qualities a player like Henderson brings to a team. Henderson has been called anything from garbage to average and everything in between. Is he the best midfielder in the Premier League? Of course, not..but he is definitely a quality player that is key to this team as he is to his national team. His lack of scoring and assists is not due to his quality but the position he has played over the last two seasons. He does what is asked for him tactically and has been wrongfully been criticized for it.
Did we underestimate Southampton?
The starting three in midfield were applauded by many. All Liverpool fans want to see Keita become the player we were hoping to get in the beginning of the season, Fabinho has played well, Gini is perhaps the first to get pencilled in when it comes to midfield starters. Klopp had put together a midfield that was more designed to attack a defending side as opposed to focusing on stopping the opposition first.
The first half brought perhaps the most disjointed midfield performance of the season. Despite his physical abilities, Fabinho is still a liability as a CDM especially with no Henderson or Milner on the field. He over commits to tackles leaving spaces behind at times. Reminds me of a CB in football who goes for the interception every time. Sometimes you have to admit that the catch will be made and make the tackle instead of trying to jump the route. Gini simply looked tired as this duo kept letting Southampton midfield make runs behind them with noone picking these runs which cost us their goal. Keita was caught on the ball several times and lost it, clearly not up to the pace of the Premier League yet. His dribbles and ability on the ball definitely promises a bright future but he does not look the part yet despite the goal.
Toughest games ahead
Always good to have the points as opposed to the game in hand especially this time of year. City made easy work of Cardiff which was expected but both title chasing teams face tough games especially since they are coming right after the Champions League games. On paper, City has the tougher and more physical matchup in the Champions League as they face Tottenham. Coming back from CL games is never easy . While City go away to Crystal Palace, the Reds will be hosting a Chelsea team desperate for points to be able to secure a top 4 spot. Manchester City have 4 games where it is possible to see them losing points. Tough away games at Palace and Burnley, playing Tottenham right after their CL matchup and of course the Manchester derby. The chase for the top four is extremely tight and both Tottenham and United will have a lot to play for.
If Liverpool is going to win the title they will have to take care of their business and hope that City loses points in their next four games. Hard to see them lose points in their last two fixtures at least on paper so we are entering a very important string of games in the next 2-3 weeks.
You can see how this team plays with heart and that should be enough to make any fan love and respect the players on this team as well as the coaching staff. Any year, we would have had the title in hand and would be focusing on a possible double with the Champions League title. City and Liverpool are definitely setting an extremely high standard in their own ways. Might not be easy to enjoy at times with the amount of mouth in the heart moments, but it is definitely easy to appreciate and root for. This team deserves it and here is to hoping they will get the title they deserve.