Everything looks good at the end of the day
Despite the play on the field, defensive miscues and the slight panic we saw in Liverpool especially in the first half, the bottom line looked great. A decisive score in a 4-1 win, rest for some players by keeping them in lower minutes than normal or not playing at all(Bobby, Hendo, Trent, Robo, Keita), Gomez back on the field, and the team reaching the semi-final in the Champions League for the second year in a row.
A lot can be taken away from the game in terms of our play but at the end of the day, there was a lot to be happy about. I don’t think any Reds fan was happy with what they were watching but it is the results that matter especially this time of year. Looking at this game and trying to use it to predict our performance in the next round is misguided as each round has different challenges and matchups that will change the course of play. In the league, all that matters is the three points. In the Champions League, all that matters is advancing to the next round.
Firmino is the glue
When I saw the starting lineups, I was happy to see Firmino get some rest and Origi get an opportunity to start a game. Origi looked average at best going forward but the main issue was no one being able to replace what Firmino does defensively. Klopp was supportive of Origi after the game but he even admitted that we did not have our defending starting from the front mentality without Bobby on the field. His movement, work rate, tracking back to midfield were all sorely missed.
What Bobby does in a game does not always show up in the final stats but is extremely important in how we attack but even more importantly in how we defend. This is one area that Liverpool will have to look at in the offseason. Do we have anyone who can fill in for him in the roster? Could Origi, Brewster or even Ox be that player or is this something we should be in the market for?
Salah keeps scoring
Salah did not have his best game (same can be said for most) but he is getting hot at the perfect time. Another goal for Mo will only continue to improve his confidence and as Mane continues to score, the Reds are back to having their dynamic front three in full effect again. Perfect timing for it as we might not have a lot of games left, but they are all extremely important. Salah was also instrumental in the first goal even though it might not have been a pass, it ultimately ended up being an assist. I could not even celebrate the goal initially as it looked like clear offsides and leave it to VAR to save the day but produce the most anticlimactic goal in a while.
Even my wife was worried when she did not hear anything from me during the game and came to check up on me. (Now that is true love) She usually knows the score by keeping track of the yelling and screaming that goes on as I watch games. The VAR awarded goal came so late and slow that I could not even celebrate as usual. A simple fist pump and a resounding “Yes!” . Leave it to the Spanish broadcasting though to act like it came out of nowhere and let out the “GOAL GOAL GOAL” screams. VAR is not slowing them down
Henderson redemption tour’s next stop was in Portugal
The captain has allegedly had a talk with Klopp after the international break about being able to feature in a more attacking role. Perhaps it is Southgate who put that thought in his mind, or maybe Hendo was sick of hearing from the Hendo Haters Club, criticizing him for his play even though it was not his natural position. Either way, he was convincing enough for Klopp to give it a try and the results have been extremely rewarding.
Another appearance and another assist from the captain and he has become the first player to be penciled in the midfield starting lineup at the moment. Extremely happy for a player who got so much unfair criticism over the past few seasons.
If we have a must-win game, who starts in midfield?
At the end of the day, this is a great problem to have. We have a lot of options in midfield and Klopp has the challenge of picking the three that suit the game the most. A year ago, we never had discussions about the lineup as it pretty much picked itself with lack of options off the bench.
The front three still pick themselves and there can’t be a lot of debate there. The return of Gomez will bring the question of how fast he will get his starting spot over Matip who has performed well while Gomez was out. Rest of the three spots are pretty well settled in defense.
The midfield is the mystery. Fabinho and Henderson seem to be the first two guaranteed based on performance as well as need to have a physical dominance in midfield. Henderson’s performance helps Fabinho as well. This was the second game where Fabinho started with Gini in midfield. Milner was the third this time while Keita was the third last time out against Southampton. In both games, the midfield seemed to be overrun, constantly in chasing mode but never in control. Fabinho needs Henderson to help control the midfield and in most cases, Keita seems to be the best choice in terms of being able to play both sides of the ball. This is the trio I expect to start against Cardiff and in most games unless we have an injury to address.
Since from this point on, every game is a must-win game, I think this is the trio we will see a lot of and hopefully with great success!!!
Who is in your starting midfield if we have a must-win game… like when we take on Ajax in the CL final?