Football News: Stoke City v Liverpool - A Liverpool Perspective

 

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Stoke City v Liverpool - A Liverpool Perspective
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Stoke City v Liverpool


Odd how a game that looks to have been so easy, that could have been 5 or 6 nil very easily, that Liverpool mostly had complete charge of, was actually extremely uncomfortable and ended with a very different result. The game is very much about small margins, with a couple of very easy missed chances keeping Stoke in the match until Salah came on and added a second, the defence were always on the verge of a silly individual error to gift them a chance. One such as the rush of blood by Mignolet that should have seen him given a red card. If only Liverpool could appeal and get him the ban he deserves, they would be in a much better place without him inbetween the sticks!

This was a very professional, dominant performance without a number of players who were able to rest for most of the game, including key man Salah. Being able to give him a bit of a break and still pick up a win could turn out to be a crucial moment in the season, as the confidence gained throughout the squad will be huge. It also helped show that the Egyptian can be a threat whether he starts on the pitch or comes off the bench, which means opposing managers will have to be prepared for that in future.

As for Stoke, well they were the same as they always are under Hughes - dreadful. They have no real style of playing, caught inbetween the two stools of Pulis' hoofball tactics and a bit of passing it around, but never managing to do either well. Everything they do is based around hoping Shaqiri does something special, which means when he is not producing they are not and he does nothing to help them defensively. Only thing he did of note last night was realise Moreno was man marking him so ran him away into the centre to create space for Allen to run into.

They did create a few chances, hoofing it to Crouch is always going to lead to the possibility of picking up a few loose balls and creating something, as he is a clever player and makes it impossible for anyone else to win a clean header and deal with those hoofs in his direction. They were also able to break well and find the gaps that exist in midfield to exploit, though there was a bit more protection for the defence than normal as Wijnaldum and Can did sit a little more than the usual 3 in midfield do. Usually that ends seeing all 3 caught out pushing on.


Klopp - his starting formation did well, dominated and forced Stoke into altering their tactics and formation a number of times to try and counter it. He brought on Salah at what turned out to be just the right time with the game still in balance and saw the sub net 2. For once there is little to criticise tactically, though his continual loyalty to the utterly useless Mignolet, who gave the opposition hope and caused the defence to get all jittery. Did well to get Oxlade-Chamberlain off quickly when he lost his head.


Mignolet - he must own a lot of rabbit foots to get the luck he has in life. To be such a poor keeper yet end up in goal for a Champions League team is incredible, but to continue on long after better options have shown themselves in the ranks is almost getting to the point when you think there must be some kind of witchcraft involved! Certainly seemed that way when Martin Atkinson decided his hack on Diouf on the edge of the box was only worthy of a yellow, when it was a clear red. Sadly though, it seems the luckier he gets, the less lucky LFC are, as that red would have guaranteed he missed 3 games and a decent keeper could have had a chance!

There is absolutely nothing about his game that leaves you saying 'well he does that well so maybe that is why he is picked'. Nothing. He does not control his box. He does not fill the defenders with confidence or organise them. He still cannot kick a ball properly, especially from a goal kick where his kicking is terrible. His shot stopping is abysmal. The basics of positioning and covering his angles he fails miserably at. Actually I take it back, he does one thing well, saves penalties, so clearly he is good at guessing or reading body language. Which perhaps explains why he keeps getting the place, maybe the keepers play a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors to decide and he uses his skills at guessing to win everytime?


Gomez - kept Choupo-Moting out of the game and was able to get forward to pull the ball back for the first goal. He did struggle to get to grips with Jese after his arrival but overall a good game.


Matip - he still worries me, he is sluggish and weak, fails to spot danger and, despite Can's urging, he was reluctant to take his chances to bring the ball out, even with Can dropping in to give him the opportunity to do so. He looks short of confidence.


Lovren - had the physical battle he relishes and did ok. He was never going to beat Crouch in the air, but he made sure to make it difficult and never gave him an easy header. It was the kind of match that brings out the best in him.


Moreno - mainly did well, kept Shaqiri mostly out of the game and got forward when it was the right time. It was noticeable that he is putting more thought into his forward runs and really waiting for what seems like the best moment to go. Did allow himself to get dragged out of position by Shaqiri while marking him, leaving a huge gaping hole down the left. However it was clear he had been instructed to shadow the Swiss player, so why was no one from the midfield covering?


Can - started well, did some good work breaking up play, but he was not always alert to the break, which is a big issue when playing where he was. It looked like he gave up trying to wake up Matip after early on trying to get him to make the most of the space he was getting by bringing the ball out of defence. He was constantly gesturing to the centre back to bring the ball out but Matip looked for a pass instead. In the end he dropped into the position forcing Matip to move forward, but the run was half hearted. Can seemed to give up on that afterwards, even though it was a very sensible thing for him to do as they were leaving space in front of Matip.

Needs to work on his anticipation of danger and pick his passes better, but he did not do too bad at all. Had a couple of chances to hit a shot which he did not take as well, which he really should have done. Not like him to pass up opportunities like that, which is a shame because hitting one well, even if it does not end up in the back of the net, draws the defence out to close him down next time, creating space behind.


Wijnaldum - once again he was a bit anonymous, never broke up play, never really offered much but a few breaks forward. I just do not see what he offered there other than a body in the way. I am not sure he knows either, that is the worrying thing. Was it supposed to be him or Can tracking back to stop Allen breaking forward? Neither of them were doing it.


Oxlade-Chamberlain - starting to look a very good option. Ok he is not Salah, he does not create the chances or take the chances that the Egyptian would, but he does mean Salah and Mane can have a rest without the opposition getting an easy game. The Ox ensured Pieters was non-existent as an attacking threat, up until he lost his head and had to be subbed.


Firmino - once again his performance was key, he presses the ball so well it creates havoc and usually results in the ball being turned over by a defender launching an aimless ball forward just to get it away from him. Surprising he did not take the opportunity to put the ball in the back of the net and steal a goal though! Most forwards would, however I think that shows why he is so useful for Liverpool, he is a team player, the ball was going in anyway so he just followed it to make sure and be there if needed to finish it.


Solanke - linked well with Firmino and showed good movement and touch. Just needed to score that good chance to really set him off for the season. Good game though, looked a huge step up from Sturridge, which has to be worrying for Sturridge.


Mane - despite not having one of his better nights he got an assist and a goal. Even on an off night he can destroy opposing defences. The big worry for me was that he was clearly struggling when he went off. That looked like a groin problem he came off with, hopefully nothing too serious.


Subs:

Salah - you just know Mark Hughes and his players all groaned the moment he started to strip off ready to come on. When he replaced Solanke in the 67th minute you could see the mental cries of anguish coming from the defence having to face him. Two goals and a performance of real quality, as he caused panic in their defence, to the point that Pieters just lost all focus on a simple bouncing ball as he was just waiting for Salah to nip in. There is little you can really say about a player like that, you just have to applaud him.

Milner - replaced Oxlade-Chamberlain as Klopp made a double sub with Ox losing his head in a clash on the touchline. He was playing on the left sided channel in midfield, mainly, but provided no cover at all defensively, allowing Allen to break down that side in total freedom. I know he has a great attitude but I still would prefer not to see him playing, he gets too caught up running around in the opposing third.

Henderson - only came on for Mane in the 89th minute so never really had time to affect the game.

Written by Tris Burke



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