Iron out the Wrinkles
A frustrating draw with Chelsea followed two cruises to victory and left Liverpool seeing that while the clothes in the wardrobe appear to fit, and there is no need for a trip to the mall, someone still needs to get out the ironing board and even everything out.
Everything went well against a resilient Burnley side, following on from the relative stroll against Norwich. Fitness concerns aside which just need a little more time the Reds looked solid enough. The one concern from the Norwich game was Tsimikas’s endurance and focus and he put that to bed with a
blinder against Burnley.
The visit of Chelsea to Anfield however would provide Liverpool’s first opportunity to see where their team stood against Grade A opposition! The answer was that they could have been beaten, although most of those reasons are correctable.
Some players were showing the lingering effects of injuries, lack of sufficient training camp , and in one case, bereavement. Clearly, the club still lacks 3 key midfielders at 100% (Fabinho, Henderson, Thiago) while Robertson lacked the ability to take it outside of the Chelsea defense in his trademark way.
The team has also revamped a little with its formational change made to include the presence of Harvey Elliott. The teen rising star tends to hug the right byline which changes how Alexander-Arnold, Henderson , and Salah attack the box.
All in all, it should be a positive development if Elliott can nail down regular minutes in the side. However, the fluidity developed over the years between established players is disrupted and it takes time for new passing lanes to become instinctive. Klopp will have to decide if now is the time for Elliott to be considered a regular on the team sheet and adjust tactics accordingly.
“Elliott plays really well, he could be Liverpool’s best player. (but) You end up with (him) and Salah who both want to cut inside” – Neil Atkinson, The Anfield Wrap
One adjustment that will need to be made in September is that Bobby Firmino will be missing. The Brazilian exited late in the first half against Chelsea and had his hamstring scanned to determine the extent of an injury he sustained. Diogo Jota will be an able replacement (indeed he’s continually making the case to be a regular starter), but Liverpool will lose an attacking option off the bench.
I suspect that the fitness of the Reds that have struggled a little so far will show a marked improvement against Leeds United leaving the Yorkshire team with their hands full. Jurgen Klopp has little problem fielding a solid starting XI even without Firmino, but will have concerns about other capable players who are failing to break into the side.
That Klopp preferred Elliott to Naby Keita in a game as massive as Chelsea speaks much to how highly he rates his young prodigy but maybe more to how little Keita is impressing anyone. The Guinean is obviously talented but just lacks the ability to put his foot on the game. Against Burnley and Norwich, he exhibited the sort of touch and control his Manager wants in midfield but his removal against Chelsea suggests that Klopp thought Keita would be unable to exert himself against real quality like Jorginho and Kante.
Then there is Oxlade-Chamberlain who has made 1 appearance this season. It’s hard to see him, at age 28, having a big future at the club with the players that are now in front of him. He’s obviously a useful part of the squad and can be used in a variety of roles, but his own objectives will probably decide if he stays long(er) term or if a move is sought more immediately.
Curtis Jones meanwhile has failed to advance his standing, being overtaken by Elliott at Liverpool, and now faces the possibility of the same thing happening to him on the England U21 squad. Top English performers in the Premier League rarely stay put on the England U21’s! They either quickly transition to the senior squad or end up playing in the Championship.
Jones appears stuck in the England U21’s and will have to improve his focus in his own half of the field if he is to continue to challenge for Liverpool minutes, and subsequently to transition to the England senior squad. If not rumors of a move to somewhere like Aston Villa may become reality.
There’s a long time to go, the season is young, and some of these players will have the opportunity to step-up once again. Liverpool has a challenging Champions League group and right now are one of five high-quality sides in the Premier League (Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur.)
Ah yes, Tottenham! Exhibit A that resurrection is always possible in professional football!
In Star Trek III “The Search for Spock”, after Kirk has blown up the Enterprise for the millionth time he exclaims “My God Bones, what have I done?” The ship’s doctor replies “what you always do, turn death into a fighting chance to live”.
Daniel Levy is as good as it gets with football executives. Spurs looked doomed this season but they told Manchester City to ”f___ off”, convinced Harry Kane to stay , and are now top of the table. Curtis Jones and Naby Keita should take note that there is always a way to come back to prominence.