The title is motivation even if it wasn’t obvious (and a quote from Klopp after the game.) Generally, when someone says they’re going to kill you, you have the snap decision: Fight or flight? Thankfully, Liverpool chose the former while doing the latter today at Selhurst Park, beating Crystal Palace 2-0.
Palace has often been a kind of dichotomy in recent years, especially for Liverpool. Although they have a fair amount of speed on the team, most notably condemned-to-south-London-for-his-career(?) Wilifried Zaha, they insist on focusing their attack through a narrow 4-4-2 to emphasize the hold-up play of former Red, Christian Benteke. The Hodgson gonna Hodgson, so I understand that more modern forms of attack might be beyond his grasp at this point, but for a club that was dancing with relegation last season, you’d think that they might attempt to emphasize the talent of their other like-a-new-signing-! in Zaha. Specifically to LFC, Palace has been kind of a nervous game for Reds fans, despite the fact that Liverpool has now won five straight at Selhurst. But that’s probably because most of them have been slugfests like this one, no matter whom was in charge at the time.
That said, it was a slugfest with a lot of punches thrown by Liverpool.
Those large red squares are Salah uncharacteristically missing a couple excellent chances. A couple of the smaller ones in the box are other attempts off beautiful feeds from Keita that weren’t exploited. Overall, I think Klopp’s assessment that “we weren’t brilliant” is accurate. There were a number of mistimed passes, even when Palace was down to 10 men, and there was a general malaise at the start of the second half, where Liverpool handed the initiative to the Eagles and basically refused to take it back for a good 10 minutes; similar to last week’s outing against West Ham but without the effort to keep up. It wasn’t for lack of support, either, since the traveling Kopites easily outshouted the CP fans for most of the match. But the end result was the same: 3 points, clean sheet, continued presence at/near the top of the very young table (1 goal behind in GD!!! #Panicinthestreets)
Worth every penny. Virgil Van Dijk had a dominant game and with Joe Gomez’s almost equally excellent assistance, preserved the clean sheet and kept Liverpool as the only club in the EPL not to concede after two games. VVD’s stats:
That’s dominance, yo. And without committing a foul(!) Also, one of the things I didn’t consider about Gomez returning to his natural CB position is his speed. He was fast enough to play at RB for several games over the past couple seasons. He’s faster than Van Dijk so that when there is a breakdown, Gomez can recover to help fill the gap, as he amply demonstrated around the 30 minute mark when Zaha got in behind the defense and Gomez ran him down and slid through the box to clear the ball. At the moment, I’m perfectly content with Gomez as VVD’s regular partner; Best Defenders in the World™ and all that.
And more. Similarly, Alisson, who’s also responsible for those clean sheets, proved his worth a couple times against a header from a corner, a screened shot through Alexander-Arnold’s legs, and a great free kick by Milivojevic that was heading for the top right corner. His calm assurance back there, with no hint of concern or urgency, is a marked contrast to most of the keepers we’ve had in recent years. Plus, just as expected, his uncanny accuracy with balls kicked 2/3 the distance of the pitch is an enormous threat. Every time he punted, the ball landed at the feet of Robertson or Mané or Firmino or Keita and the attack began anew, which was key to this result and hopefully will be so on a regular basis. Liverpool’s attack is still deadly and every opponent has to be aware of it. But the fact is that we now have an excellent defense, as well, which only makes the attack that much more able to rain shots upon the enemy. We doubled Palace in shots today, 16-8, with 6 of those on target, and dominated possession, like usual.
Michael Oliver and the Very Necessary No-Good Cards. Much to The Hodgson’s chagrin, EPL officials are still prone to calling contact in the box, two weeks in, before they become numbed to the constant battering and just start shrugging at the occasional capital murder. So, yes, it was a penalty and, yes, we deserved the shot. Even though the red card shown to Aaron Wan-Bissaka was even more obvious, I did feel bad for the Eagles’ back, as he’d played a great game up to that point. But just as happened so often to opponents last season, having their whole side in our end is just begging for a rebound or a header to spring Salah loose. Wan-Bissaka caught him, but at the cost of putting Palace down a man for the last 15 minutes.
Stranger Things. Gini Wijnaldum is doing really well at the 6. Let me say that again: Gini Wijnaldum is doing really well at the 6. I’m’a just test that out one more time: Gini Wijnaldum is doing really well at the 6. [Checks head. Still in one piece. Does vision test. No drugs obvious. Hmmmm…] It’s strange because if you had lined up all of our midfielders and suggested who could be the pivot guy, Gini would have near the bottom of the list. As it is, he’s playing more of a holding role than a true DM, since Klopp has joined all of us in the chorus of believing in the everlasting Van Dijk. But it still seems really strange, in addition to the fact that he’s somehow moving enough to play more of a potential scoring role, as well. Is this a further effect of Keita’s excellent play or has Gini finally turned the corner in Klopp’s master plan?
Elsewhere around the Premier League:
- The Mourinho clock is ticking faster. When the team starts talking about how their attitude is poor in the second game of the season, the locker room is close to being lost.
- Everton kinda sorta looks like an actual team. It’ll fade.
- Speaking of actual teams, yes, City looks good. They looked good last year. I remain unconcerned. I did enjoy the All or Nothing series, though, just to have a close-up on Pep and his outlook on the season. (And, of course, to relive our three wins over them…)
- Weirdly, Watford looks like an actual team AFTER losing Richarlisson. The ridiculous amount of money flowing through the league is finally having the long-awaited impact.