The Liver Bird  

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Five Things We Learned From The Spurs League Cup Win

1. The youngsters have got talent

When the starting XI was first revealed on Tuesday night I can't have been the only fan questioning why Klopp didn't go with a slightly stronger team? I'm all for supporting the youth and giving them a chance but perhaps wrongly my faith in them was nowhere to be seen at kick off against Tottenham.

As the match progressed however my doubts were completely stemmed. The likes of Trent A-A, Ejaria and Stewart put in a great performance, particularly Stewart and Ejaria. The latter of whom appeared to be getting flattened left, right and centre meaning he must have been causing grief for the opposition.

2. Migs proved his worth?

It's a controversial one but for me, based on the last few games I am close to wanting to see Migs back in goal. My only issue is I worry how big an impact dropping Karius would have on the goalkeeper himself.

Mignolet proved last night for me that he's got conviction. His decisions to come for the ball and deal with the situation were on the whole good solid calls and at the moment Karius for me just isn't commanding enough in that sense. I thought Mignolet played very well but I doubt he'll start against Palace.

3. The curious case of Lucas Leiva

Ah, Lucas, what a servant to Liverpool FC, yes with age he's faltered but for me he's still an absolute diamond. Some of the last ditch tackles he was putting in last night reminded me of Jamie Carragher. He definitely prevented a few dangerous situations turning into goals.

The flip side is of course that alongside his determination and desire he sometimes makes silly mistakes. I personally do not feel it was a penalty but after a few air kicks from Lucas you can sort of see why the ref made the call. He just doesn't help himself sometimes does he? Overall though I thought he played very well. I hope he reaches his testimonial at the club.

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4. Daniel Sturridge on fire

You can say all you like about Daniel Sturridge but on his day he is a brilliant striker. For me too, it is no coincidence that Danny was on form whilst being utilised alongside Divock Origi. I'm sick to the back teeth of saying play him in a two but I fully realise that isn't Klopp's style.

It's frustrating though because used properly I honestly feel there is still a role for Daniel Sturridge with Divock by his side. For instance in games such as he United one or tight fixtures like the one with Swansea, when the likes of Coutinho, Firmino and Lallana aren't working (Plan A) we should chuck on Sturridge and Origi (Plan B). Both of them know exactly where the other is, they spark off each other perfectly and it gives the opposition a brand new problem to deal with.

Tuesday night's game showed the confidence oozing back from Sturridge. He was extremely unlucky not to get a hat trick and the two goals he did score were classic efforts from a striker. Just like Mignolet though, I very much doubt he will feature against Palace.

5. Vorm is a quality keeper

Why is it that goalkeepers seem to have an absolute stormer whenever they play Liverpool?! Vorm was like a man possessed for Tottenham making some superb fingertip saves to deny Liverpool solidly on at least three occasions. The Divock Origi strike being saved and Sturridge's effort being tipped over the bar stand out in particular. Superb performance from the opposition keeper I'm just glad it didn't result in us failing to progress.

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Sunday, 23 October 2016

Five Things We Learned From The West Brom Win

1. Team goals

Liverpool's first goal against West Brom on Saturday evening was absolutely brilliant. The team effort to break for that goal, the pace of the interlocking passes followed by the simply sublime cross from Roberto Firmino to set up Sadio Mane's strong finish was just superb.

The Reds have displayed some strong team efforts during their start to the Premier League season but this particular goal highlighted a real positive that has been created under Jurgen Klopp. It's been years since I've felt like a goal could come from any player on the pitch but at the moment each break makes it look like anybody's name could be on the scoresheet.

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2. Defence still struggling aerially

Despite the brilliant result as always there were a few negatives for Liverpool, none more so than that age old problem of set pieces and corners. West Brom's goal should have been dealt with both defensively and for me, Karius should have done better.

On the whole, it looks like the partnership of Lovren and Matip is a good one but aerially they are both struggling just like all of our recent centre back partnerships. The last time I can remember a solid aerial pairing was way back when we had Carragher and Hyypia in the side. If a ball was whipped in they would clear it with a header, everytime, without fail. I just don't have that confidence in our defenders at the moment and I'm not willing to just brush this under the carpet. It needs work because at some stage it will come back and bite us.

3. No room for Sturridge?

Klopp went with his favoured starting XI on Saturday evening meaning there was no place for Daniel Sturridge. As time goes on it is clear that Sturridge doesn't necessarily fit into the German's plans and I worry that there is no longer a place for the striker.

I love Sturridge and on his day, in the correct formation he can still be up there with the best in my opinion. The problem is, I don't see a stage now where Klopp is going to be willing to change his formation drastically enough to fit Daniel in. It will be interesting to see where we go from here, I'm waiting to see whether he's selected in the cup game against Spurs in the week.

4. Firmino factor

Firmino had an absolutely fantastic game against the Baggies and for me he's a player at present that we cannot do without. He's stronger when his compatriot Philippe Coutinho is on the field with him but even solo efforts highlight the level of skill he obtains and the level of fear he can strike into an opposition defence.

Valuable as a goalscorer he is also cementing his place as a key producer of assists. The ball for our first goal was drool worthy.

5. What's with the dancing?

And finally, what's with the dancing? Haha! Top marks for Coutinho and Firmino on the timing, Mane seemed to have a bit of the delayed reaction but yeah, I'm yet to be convinced by their dancefloor efforts...


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Friday, 21 October 2016

Liverpool V West Brom Preview

After a frustrating 0-0 draw with Manchester United on Monday night, Liverpool travel to the Midlands on Saturday evening in search of a win. The Baggies are currently 12th in the league with the Reds sitting in 4th just two points off leaders Manchester City who face Southampton on Sunday after their Champions League game at the Nou Camp.

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Positively for Liverpool, Gini Wijnaldum has returned to training quicker than initially expected and Joe Gomez is also back in action though he's not expected to feature for a while. James Milner will also need to be assessed according to some news outlets after he picked up a head injury against Manchester United.

The last time the Reds met West Brom was back in May of this year. The game ended 1-1 at the Hawthorns with a goal from Jordon Ibe for Liverpool. The meeting at Anfield in December 2015 also ended in a draw, this time a 2-2 result. Jordan Henderson was the first man to score in that game and it ended with a 90th minute equaliser from Divock Origi.

In the last six meetings between the two sides Liverpool have won on two occasions, the remaining four results have all been draws. For a West Brom win we have to go back to February 2013.

After playing against Jose Mourinho's defensive tactics on Monday evening and failing to break through, Jurgen Klopp will be hoping he won't have to set up for that again against Tony Pulis. The ex Stoke boss is famous for those sort of performances and if the Baggies recent results are anything to go by it will be a cautious display from Pulis' side (v Spurs 1-1, v Sunderland 1-1, v Stoke 1-1).

Daniel Sturridge made the start against United but I'm not so sure we'll see him on Saturday. There are rumours Danny Ings is also back in the frame but I think Klopp will favour a strikerless set up for this fixture. We appear to perform very strongly away from home, even more so when the likes of Mane, Coutinho, Firmino and Lallana are all deployed together.

Enjoy the match folks, wherever you are watching!

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Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Five Things We Learned From The 0-0 With United

1. Mourinho loves his bus

Mourinho instructed his team to strangle the life out of a football match on Monday night, it's a simple as that. Frustratingly, his plan once again worked perfectly. As a fan of Italian football I am happy to stand back and appreciate a good defensive performance, however I can't accept it when it's from a Jose Mourinho side.

If Tony Pulis set up like that against his United boys he'd be in the post match interview complaining of 19th century tactics and "anti-football". If United are happy playing like that then that's their prerogative but I certainly wouldn't be happy with it. I suppose in a way we must take a positive from this tactical set up, the fact that Mourinho has to resort to this now to try and get the better of Liverpool shows how much of a threat we are.

He can keep his bus for all I care, I can't see it getting him far this season.

2. Karius not that convincing

I discussed in a recent match round up post here on The Liver Bird how Karius looked shaky but I tried to pin most of my worries down to the fact it was first match nerves. While any fixture against United for any goalkeeper is a daunting one, Karius must accept that he was very indecisive on Monday evening.

I still feel with time he'll settle in but at the moment he isn't filling me with much confidence. As a keeper you need to have some conviction, if you make the decision to come out for the ball you need to nail it and for me, he's not quite there yet. Despite all this he did of course keep a clean sheet, so there is something to build from.

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3. De Gea's save top class

After a terrible first half Liverpool finally got into the game in the second half with a string of decent and pacey attacks. It was Coutinho though who popped up with the best effort. One of his famous stinging shots looked destined to smash the back of the net only for De Gea to pull off a stunning save to keep his side in the game. Bloody annoying! 

4. Lallana is key

I've been known to criticise Lallana quite often, I'm not sure why but I just don't appear to have a lot of patience with him compared to other fans but I will hold my hands up as last night it was evident we were missing him almost immediately.

For me Lallana is definitely a player I feel we can do without, it's only when he's not there that I truly realise how much we need him. His injection of pace in the second half along with his ability to spot killer passes and link up with the likes of Coutinho and Firmino was invaluable. It's a real shame he wasn't on the pitch in the first half.

5. Draw not so bad 

After getting over the majority of the frustration that Monday night's game brought, overall a draw really isn't that bad. Games against United are always tough and whilst on paper it looked as though the Reds were ready to batter United, in all seriousness you cannot battle against those kind of tactics without something really special. 

That special moment didn't occur last night but it's fair to say that Liverpool can take some strong positives from the game, namely keeping a clean sheet and fighting in tough conditions to hold on to a draw against United, in seasons gone by I'm not so sure we'd have managed that.

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Sunday, 16 October 2016

Seven Times Liverpool Got The Better Of United 2006-2016

1. Liverpool 2 Manchester United 0 / 10th March 2016
Goalscorers: Daniel Sturridge (penalty), Roberto Firmino

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Whenever Liverpool face Manchester United, it is always set to be a massive game but throw in the added element of the first ever meeting between the sides in Europe? Well you have all the right ingredients for an historic fixture. Liverpool just had to win this one, if there's one thing the Reds still hold over their rivals it's European prowess.

Thankfully Daniel Sturridge and Roberto Firmino ensured kopites could continue to boast about their glorious history as Manchester United put on an extremely poor performance at Anfield.

2. Manchester United 0 Liverpool 3 / 16th March 2014
Goalscorers: Steven Gerrard (penalties x2), Luis Suarez

What's a match against Manchester United without a Steven Gerrard penalty? The captain was notorious for winding up the opposition in this fixture and on several occasions Gerrard turned this in his favour.

The two penalties in 2014 set the tone for the game with Luis Suarez sealing the deal. A 3-0 win at Old Trafford isn't something you see everyday and despite two of the goals coming from spot kicks, this remains a favourite result of mine.

3. Liverpool 2 Manchester United 1 / 28th January 2012
Goalscorers: Daniel Agger and Dirk Kuyt

This game goes down as one of the great highlights for the return of Kenny Dalglish. The King took his place on the touchline opposite his old pal Fergie for this one. A Daniel Agger header opened up the scoring just after 20 minutes but Ji-Sung Park found an equaliser shortly before the end of the first half. 

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From there on out United seemed dominant and it looked as though Dalglish would have a bitter pill to swallow, however Dirk Kuyt saved the day with a great strike at 87 minutes giving Liverpool the win.

4. Liverpool 3 Manchester United 1 / 6th March 2011
Goalscorers: Dirk Kuyt hat-trick

Dirk Kuyt will forever go down in Anfield history, a true fan favourite, the Dutchman had several iconic moments in his time as a Liverpool player. For me, top of the list is definitely his hat trick against Manchester United.

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I remember it vividly as I was at work on the day, (I take bets in the corporate areas of Molineux stadium for those who don't know) I was having to watch the match via multiple screens and angles as I travelled between rooms. When Kuyt scored his third  I could no longer hide the excitement and was dancing around with my clipboard in the air haha! That was the day the customers became fully aware of my football allegiance I think. Absolutely brilliant game.

5. Liverpool 2 Manchester United 0 / 25th October 2009
Goalscorers: Fernando Torres, David N'Gog

The year 2009 became a special one for kopites, especially when it came to facing Manchester United. For me, I will always remember this emphatic victory thanks to our goalkeeper Pepe Reina.

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I will never understand just how exactly he managed to be the first player on the pitch to dive on his team mate David N'Gog who was at the other end?! He must have ran like an absolute mad man. The image above for me is one of the most iconic from our recent clashes with United. 

6. Manchester United 1 Liverpool 4 / 14th March 2009
Goalscorers: Fernando Torres, Steven Gerrard (penalty), Fabio Aurelio, Andrea Dossena

It was a sunny afternoon in March, the Reds had travelled to Old Trafford and settled in for what feasibly could have been a very long day, but for whatever reason, the team that day had something special planned. For too long we had failed to get the better of United on their own turf, well this time it was going to be different.

Fernando Torres opened up the scoring after absolutely humiliating Nemanja Vidic and leaving him in a massive heap, ending with a beautiful finish to put the Reds in front. Vidic was one of several big United boys to boast about their chances prior to the match, so it was hilarious to see him brushed aside so quickly. He of course was sent off in that game too.

Steven Gerrard's penalty came next followed by his famous kissing the camera celebration. I couldn't believe what I was seeing, Liverpool just cruising at Old Trafford.

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Another poor decision by Vidic led to a free kick for Liverpool and Fabio Aurelio scored with a stunning effort. The game of course was completely put to bed when Andrea Dossena decided to have a mad fortnight scoring a looping shot over Van der Sar then scoring against Real Madrid, bloody crazy, the whole thing was absolutely crazy. This remains one of my favourite matches as a Liverpool supporter.

7. Liverpool 1 Manchester United 0 / 18th February 2006
Goalcorer: Peter Crouch

This match is often more of a forgotten win over Manchester United but it's worth noting that this was Liverpool's first victory over the Devils in the FA Cup in 85 years. A single headed goal from Peter Crouch after 19 minutes was enough to seal the deal for Rafa Benitez's side who then went through to the quarter final. 

I'm feeling confident for Monday night, with the way we are playing at the moment and the fact that a win could take us joint top? I seriously think we're on for three points. Enjoy the match folks, wherever you are watching!

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Saturday, 1 October 2016

Five Things We Learned From The Swansea Game

1) The grey area between a penalty or simulation

The decision to give Daniel Sturridge a yellow card for simulation was an absolute joke in my opinion. After logging on to Twitter at half time it appears some people felt he got what he deserved. For me, he was clearly impeded via the action of a push and while this action obviously didn't warrant a penalty it isn't to say the alternative was to book him for simulation.

It seems at the moment within the penalty box there is no option for the referee to just continue play when something like that happens, either he has to award a penalty or he has to punish the player, despite the fact they clearly didn't dive.

2) James Milner = vital

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His penalty kick that followed up Roberto Firmino's earlier goal was obviously pivotal but Milner's whole game in general is something to praise at the moment. I still feel as though he's being caught off guard defensively on the odd occasion but then it's not his natural position. In terms of attacks though he's brilliant, fearless even. Particularly against Swansea on Saturday his ability to win the ball back and create something out of a nothing situation was on show. The Reds would  be far worse off without him in the side at the moment.

3) Karius not quite perfect

After all the uproar about the state of Simon Mignolet it was interesting for me watching Karius a bit more closely against Swansea. I was unable to watch the Hull game so didn't fully analyse his performance but after watching on Saturday it appears he certainly isn't perfect. When coming to collect the ball from corners he displays some of the same faults Mignolet was slated for the only bonus of course is at the moment we can put this down to nerves or settling into the side.

Whatever happens he definitely needs to work on his performance, the Swansea goal was a mess overall including the actions of the defence but I still feel Karius could have reacted slightly better, perhaps with a low dive. Maybe I'm being a bit harsh but lets just say I'll be keeping an eye on him.

4) The Reds have stamina

The main thing I took from this game was the Reds ability to continue on in the face of adversity. After the Swansea goal and even before it Liverpool looked very downbeat, there was no "swarming" to the ball or power pressing that we're used to seeing under Klopp. It was almost like they were expecting to find a goal early on and for the game to be a walk in the park. The Swansea goal sent a real message to the lads and although it did take the half time team talk to spark up a bit of action, the Reds did fantastically well to get back into a difficult game.

In seasons gone by this is exactly the kind of fixture Liverpool would have messed up, to get three points from a game like this is invaluable.

5) The no striker option isn't always perfect

Finally, I'm personally not sure playing with no striker is always the best option. The set up with the likes of Lallana, Coutinho, Firmino and Mane is a cracking one how could it not be? However I feel it works a lot better against the bigger sides who have more of a want to get forward. When playing teams like Burnley or Swansea it doesn't work as well in my opinion. I feel we have the options now and Klopp should have the confidence to change things and play a striker, maybe even two strikers when required.

Sturridge and Origi did eventually enter play but the former was only introduced due to an unfortunate injury to Lallana. Even though neither striker scored I just feel it brought greater balance to the game. Again, this could be a bit of bias on my part as I am quite traditional and do like a good 4-4-2 but I just feel we should utilise Sturridge and Origi more often.

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