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Football News: Newcastle United v Liverpool - A Liverpool Perspective

Newcastle United v Liverpool - A Liverpool Perspective
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Newcastle United v Liverpool A Liverpool Perspective

 



Before I start on the actual review, I think I need to address the constant whining on the site about Liverpool not winning every game and performances not being perfect. It was not like I did not warn people before the season that it would be like this, for the same reason that every Christmas period always throws up freak results all over the place. It is not about tiredness, otherwise the weaker teams would still struggle just the same as they do the rest of the season, by virtue of having teams that are simply not as good as their opponents.

No, the freak results mainly come from a lack of match preparation. Normally the coaching staff will work on tactics between each game, but this season it is just about recovery work and throwing the fittest XI together for the next match. The staff are not even able to look at players and see who have understood the instructions given to them the best. It leads to inconsistent performances and results. This is just the way it is. The Christmas period has always been about grinding results out, rather than playing well.

This game showed how much of a struggle it is for the team to come together properly, the link up was really poor at times, good at others. There were plenty of chances to score, but the team either missed them or even just spurned the chance to take a shot on. With the referee being utterly incompetent (again) and the loose passes, the game was far too bitty. Why he never once did anything about Newcastle's time-wasting, which started almost from kick-off, is beyond me.

I also wondered what happened to VAR, was it even switched on? Schar twice jumped in two-footed in dangerous fashion, forcing players to jump out of the way quickly to avoid serious injury. How did he escape even getting a warning, let alone a card? Then there was the chance that got away from Mane when Darlow had hold of his leg to stop him getting to the loose ball right on the goal line. Not that any of that should have mattered anyway, as Liverpool had more than enough chances to win two games outright.

It was another case of a match that Liverpool dominated possession, got themselves in positions to score more than enough goals, but just failed to put the ball in the back of the net. That smoothness that comes from training together regularly is not there, without that fluidity moves break down as players take a split second longer over decisions. We may as well all get used to it, as there is not going to be much time for anyone at the club to work on fixing the issues this season.

One thing that did disappoint me though was the way the midfield and forwards, until Thiago came on, failed to show when the centre-backs got the ball. No one was offering movement or options to them, which made it very difficult to build anything. It reminded me of the bad old days, when people used to be on Lucas Leiva's back for not passing the ball forward, when he had literally zero options to pass to other than the defence behind him. The lack of training is possibly also the cause of this, as players revert to natural thinking, which is just to get forward immediately. It needs the intelligent play of a Thiago, who naturally plays by just moving into space to receive the ball, rather than the hard running of a Milner, Wijnaldum or Henderson. It also showed how much Fabinho's creativeness in midfield is being missed.

 


Newcastle United

 

I am sure Bruce will have been delighted with that result, and their improved performance, as they had a clear plan and followed it. They allowed Liverpool the ball, unless it went to Phillips, which triggered their press and it put real pressure on the centre-half. It very nearly paid dividends a few times as the ball was forced back to Alisson. I do wonder if time-wasting from the kick-off is what a Newcastle fan wants to see his team doing though?

The Newcastle highlight from the first half, other than one run and shot from an extremely tight angle by Wilson, was probably when Bruce celebrated what he thought was going to be a goal and nearly wiped out the assistant referee, who was moving past him at the time. It was like the return of Bruce in his prime leaping into an opponent to ensure they could not get a clean header in.

The one thing I did notice about their play was the way they got back far too deep, far too quickly against the counter. While Bruce would have been happy how hard his players worked to get back when Liverpool countered, he would have been wondering why the entire team dropped back into defensive positions and emptied the midfield to deal with a break of just three or four players. That put them under pressure, as there was no one in midfield and ensured the ball was picked up by a Liverpool player with time and space.

They only needed the defence to drop in, with it being a five-man defence, and the midfield should have been following up. Instead the whole team was back and it enabled Liverpool to control possession for most of the game. It is a very passive system and will struggle in a game where their opponents have had sessions to drill their attack to fluidity. I can understand why Newcastle fans are unhappy, right now they are getting away with it, but long term this is exactly what went wrong with the other teams he managed. They just hand control of the game to the opposition and sit and wait.

It lacks the aggressiveness that bus parkers like Mourinho and Allardyce demand of their players. Those two want their teams to sit deep and then try to regain the ball when they have their shape sorted, Bruce's team just seem to be happy to sit back for 75 minutes and clear the ball hoping to hang on to a clean sheet, then come out of their shell right at the end. It seems more about avoiding a hammering than setting out to win.

 


Liverpool

 

Klopp - difficult to really pick holes in anything done right now. Player choice is forced upon him by who is fit to play 90 minutes and the subs are restricted by who can play how many minutes as well. With the need to be cautious due to the amount of injuries we have suffered, he is being stuck with a third substitution he would clearly like to make earlier but not daring to in case of yet another injury. There is nothing that can be done on the training ground either, so all Klopp can do is make sure they put in effort.

 

Alisson - had far more touches than he should have done, due to the lack of people giving Phillips options, which is always a risk. It is one thing for him to be able to get the ball to launch quick counters, but playing out from the back while being pressed is not good for my blood pressure! It only takes a slip or an opponent to read the pass and intercept it to put you in serious trouble. Luckily he is very good with the ball at his feet, but games like that he should be lying in a hammock relaxing, not being involved all the time. He did make one very good save but that was the only time he was really called into action by a Newcastle player.

 

Alexander-Arnold - played some lovely balls, one particular crossfield pass to Mane stands out and Mane really should have shot. Really should have been adding to his assist stats but was let down by the finishing. Could do with getting back on the training ground and practising his free kicks again though.

 

Phillips - he is clearly not the top class defender that the club needs in the long term, but he does look to be capable of filling the gap against most teams. However Phillips needs to do better when up against pace in a foot race, he tried to lean on Wilson, forcing him physically to head away from goal in their one chase and Wilson just outpaced him and got round him. What he should have done is cut the angle and just got back towards goal and kept between Wilson and the goal itself. There was no need to commit himself as Fabinho was covering and Newcastle had no support in the middle to worry about.

He does talk well, but he needs to get more on the case of the midfield to offer him options when on the ball. The number of times he was forced to turn back and play it to Alisson simply because no one showed for him was ridiculous. Phillips needs to be brave enough to shout and scream at those senior players until they recognise that he needs a bit of help when on the ball.

 

Fabinho - his creativity was sorely missed in midfield in this match. Playing in defence is a waste of his talents. Yes he can do the job, but he is not ideal and it only allows him to play to 50% of his level. Having him in the centre of midfield transforms that game, as he would have provided defensive protection and freed up the other midfielders to get forward more and has the quality to pick them out in dangerous areas.

 

Robertson - Robertson did what he does, got forward and kept getting forward until the final whistle blew. He did not link up as well as usual with Mane or provide as many good final balls as normal, but he kept Newcastle pegged back on his side.

 

Jones - he does some lovely stuff, particularly one turn, but the killer ball, the moment that would make everyone remember him as doing well, is just not coming off for him right now. So instead of being remembered for the nice turn, he is being remembered for not being able to create a goal. He just needs to relax a bit and stop trying too hard to force things to happen.

 

Milner - he was everywhere breaking up play but he offered nothing going forward. Against most teams his consistent covering of the full-backs would have been invaluable, but it was a waste of time againt Newcastle, who showed little inclination to attack the spaces left.

 

Henderson - an off day for Henderson, whose passing was off its usual level and his link up and movement was lacking. Playing the sitting role with little defending to actually do meant that it was not really a day for him to shine.

 

Mane - started off well, showed some good movement throughout the match, but when chances came he either looked for a pass or the ball just would not go in for him. He did seem to tire as the game wore on though.

 

Firmino - he had two good chances with headers that he should have done better with. Overall he was unable to assert himself on the game as there was no space to use and dropping off was not bringing anyone out of defence to create space for others.

 

Salah - really should have scored at least once. Looked a bit jaded to me, it especially showed in his touch which was quite often loose, unusually for him.

 

Wijnaldum - replaced Jones in the 68th minute. Brought a bit of energy and drive to midfield but not what was actually really missing sadly.

 

Thiago - took Milner's place in the 73rd minute. Shame he has been out for so long, every moment he plays is just a joy to watch. Though we have now all learnt that he is not just supremely talented on the ball, but he is also good in the air as well. The sooner he is fit to be starting matches the better. Thiago is just a class apart from anyone else I have seen play in any team, in any league, this season.

 

Shaqiri - came on for Salah in the 92nd minute. Barely had time to be unbalanced by his hair implants, let alone get involved.

Written by Tris Burke December 31 2020 15:57:32

 

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