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Football News: Liverpool v West Bromwich Albion - A Liverpool Perspective

Liverpool v West Bromwich Albion - A Liverpool Perspective
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Liverpool v West Bromwich Albion A Liverpool Perspective

 



It is amazing how often games like this, following on from a huge win, are so anti-climactic and result in bore draws or even surprising defeats. I have no doubt that this result will be lauded in the English media as a Samuele Allardici masterclass, completely ignoring the fact that Slaven Bilic had managed a draw against Manchester City in his final game. And he did it without resorting to a 6-4-0 formation for the first half.

The game was so easy for Liverpool in the first half, it seemed to have lulled some of the players into a false sense of security and you could see the play getting more and more sloppy as the first half went on. To me it looked similar to so many of the other surprise results of this match day, players finally got a couple of days off and lost focus with it being Christmas.

This season is such a difficult balancing act between wanting players to have a rest every chance you get to give them one and needing to keep them focused on football that this weekend's set of results was always very likely. The teams have been non-stop, sometimes not even getting any time to train properly between games, then they get a couple of days off, followed by a couple of proper day's training. It was bound to see a large percentage of the players mentally relax.

The hope is that the relaxation was something they needed to get them through the rest of the campaign. A constant focus can drain a player mentally and lead to more errors. What did not help Liverpool in the slightest is that the lucky few who were able to go offered very little in the way of support. You would think that being one of such a privileged few you would want to make the most of it by singing your head off the way the fans did last time out. Instead they were too busy groaning and moaning.

Last season the Anfield crowd were such a huge help to the team in the quest to regain the league title, it has often been said that it has been a bigger handicap to us than most not having a full ground each week. This game showed just how much the opposite can be true. The atmosphere was almost toxic and did nothing but hinder the players. It is almost like they set out to make sure it was not an advantage to the Reds to be the only team at the weekend able to have a crowd! I hate to criticise them, as they have spent a lot of money to be there, but they should be part of the team and they were far from it.

 


West Bromwich Albion

 

You know what is coming as soon as Allardyce gets his brown envelope, the tactics will be a low block with long-ball, route 1 football. While his buddies in the media point out that he once had Jay-Jay Okocha in his team, so he must play exciting, attractive, tiki-taka. Honest. To be fair, in the first half his team did show a great tactical flexibility in being able to move constantly between two formations. From 6-4-0 to 5-5-0 without a noticeable gap appearing at the back is good going. It was all about shutting down the full-backs from being able to get forward and it did it well.

In the second half they gradually took more and more risks, right up until they equalised and went back into their shell. It does make you wonder if they actually had a chance at all 3 points, as they caught Liverpool on a bad day, if they had gone for it from the start and taken the game to the Reds? We will never know, but I do think Slaven Bilic will have watched it and thought he could have stood a chance of getting a shock win on the day.

One thing that was noticeable in their defensive play was how hands-on they were, literally. Particularly Furlong, who could have (maybe even should have?) given away a penalty every time the ball went into the box as he wrapped his arms around Mane like the Senegalese was a close relative he had not seen for a while. It was not just in the box he did it, but only once was a foul given, of course it was when he was outside of the box so the ref did not have to give a penalty.

It is bizarre how Allardyce teams do seem to be able to get away with these kind of actions. As long ago as his Bolton days his team were able to get away with committing fouls that would have seen anyone else's team down to ten men. It was astonishing that Furlong got away with so many clear fouls and that it was not picked up on VAR when they were clear and obvious. Who knows whether an early decision on one of them would have changed the result, but it is telling that the one time Mane was not being wrestled by Furlong he scored Liverpool's goal.

Though that also has to be said to be a poor piece of defending by Ajayi, possibly his only mistake of the game, when he tried to intercept the ball and just ended up being wrong side of Mane. Other than that he had a very good game. The one that disappointed me for them was Gallagher, who seems to think he is Jack Grealish or Wilfried Zaha. He is definitely in the wrong job, he is destined for the theatre with his over elaborate dives under little to no contact.

 


Liverpool

 

Klopp - it is difficult to know what to think about Klopp's role in this match. His team were comfortable and by far the better team, right up until Matip's injury. The arrival of Williams gave them fresh hope and William's nervy play gave them chances. Is that down to Klopp? Could he have taken a different option to replace Matip? His options were certainly limited but he should surely have seen enough by now to know Williams is not and never will be the answer, unless the question is: who should never be anywhere near the first team?

I do wonder why he chose Williams over Phillips, who looks a much better player. That, I think, has to go down as a mistake by Klopp. While I am not a fan of playing more players out of position than is absolutely necessary, I would rather Klopp had dropped Henderson back into defence than brought on Williams to be honest. It might seem harsh, but I just do not see Williams as having a future at the top end of the game at all.

 

Alisson - had very little to do, almost nothing in fact, until Matip went off injured. He dealt well with the one break in behind Williams and could do nothing with the goal.

 

Alexander-Arnold - not at his extraordinary best, his passing radar was off and it was difficult for him to do much when he did get the ball due to the packed defence. He did provide some decent balls though.

 

Matip - played a lovely ball to Mane for his goal, but once again he is injured. It would not matter if he is the greatest player in the world, it is pointless having him at the club as he just simply cannot stay fit. It is a real shame because at times he has shown himself to be an extremely good player.

 

Fabinho - was rarely tested, but when he was he usually passed the test. Probably could have done a little better on the goal, but that might be me just being harsh.

 

Robertson - as usual provided an attacking outlet constantly down the left, but he was putting the ball into a very packed box, so it was difficult to create anything. Again, not at his extraordinary best, but he was more let down by the forwards failing to convert than anything he actually did wrong.

 

Jones - at times he showed great feet, was constantly looking for the ball and trying to make stuff happen. The problem was that he was trying too hard and ending up forcing the play, rather than just keeping the ball moving quickly until a moment presented itself to create. It is a game he should learn a lot from though.

 

Wijnaldum - started off really well, getting into the box and really making a nuisance of himself for the Baggies' defence. Then he just gradually faded as the game went on and offered less and less. Liverpool looked so much more of a threat when Wijnaldum was charging forward on every attack.

 

Henderson - not at his best, he did not have a lot to do defensively, even when West Brom did attack it was straight to the forwards missing out midfield. Going forward he was off his game and his balls into the box were constantly overhit. As were a lot of the balls yesterday for some reason. I am not sure why, as it seemed to be affecting every Liverpool player when they crossed it.

 

Mane - did so well to get space, take the ball down and turn and shoot for his goal, but most of the rest of the time he was quiet. Normally I would like to give credit to the defenders for the way they dealt with him, but it was bear hugs and shirt pulls that stopped him constantly. Despite that, he and Salah caused real problems with their movement, though the balls into Mane were just not quite right other than the goal.

 

Firmino - started off really well, here, there and everywhere breaking up play and linking it. Sadly, like so many others, he faded as the game went on and was fairly anonymous in the second half.

 

Salah - his movement was excellent but he really should have scored at least one. At times he just looked like he was trying far too hard. Maybe the recent stories were in his head and he was trying to prove he was happy by making stuff happen? Only he will know that, but he was, similar to Jones, constantly trying to force the play. Still, could be worse, he could have been not trying at all, but he was clearly making an effort, on those very rare Baggies' breaks, he was one of the players to chase back each time. Shame it was not his day or we would be talking about how well he played if anything had come off for him.

 

R. Williams - came on in the 59th minute for the injured Matip. I would love to know what the staff see in him to make him the go to option here. I am sure Klopp must have had a reason for choosing him rather than either Phillips or just dropping Henderson back, but I am lost as to what it was. I just do not see what Williams offers. He is all at sea defensively and shows no signs of being able to read the game at all. Maybe he should sit down and watch some videos of Franco Baresi to understand that positional sense can easily make up for his complete lack of pace. It is not even just that he gets done for pace so easily, it is his all round game, he is playing the game the wrong way for his frame. He is big, tall and slow, it is about time he took that into his thinking and just gave himself a couple of yards on opposing attackers. No need to sell himself racing into the midfield to make a challenge, just keep yourself goalside and make the opposition work for their chances. Until he learns the basics, I personally would prefer to see Phillips get these chances, even though his long term future is clearly not at Liverpool, he is a much better stop-gap option. At least in my opinion.

 

Oxlade-Chamberlain - replaced Jones in the 83rd minute. Was the right change but too late in the game to make a difference. I understand why Klopp is so reluctant to make changes any earlier, as he is worried about injuries, but sometimes you have to take the chance. Oxlade-Chamberlain's driving runs in midfield, at pace, would have changed the game if he had come on earlier, I think.

 

Origi - Firmino made way for Origi in the 90th minute. Too late to have any effect at all.

Written by Tris Burke December 28 2020 12:48:44

 

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