Worth every penny. That’s kind of my mantra for the season every time someone wants to ask a question like this one:
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! [deep breath] HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
(ahem) Sorry about that. We now return you to our regularly scheduled analysis. Oh, look!
Look, football is a team game. I was just saying after the ManU game that no one player can transform a team by him- or herself and I even cited Virg as a guy whom you couldn’t point to and say: “That’s the only reason we’re successful.” because no one is “that guy.” However, can you point to Virg and say: “That’s why we’re successful.”? Yes. Because even though he’s one of 11 on the field, 18 at the match, and 33 on the first team, his influence has been so remarkable that you can’t escape pointing at him (and Alisson and Salah and Firmino and Mané and Henderson and Milner and…) and citing the influence that he’s had on both ends of the pitch and in the locker room. Put simply: He’s the best defender in the Premier League and that’s (part of) why we’re in first place halfway through the season. Oh, and because VVD can run down one of the fastest guys in the league and dispossess him without a foul. As you do.
But you have to give Wolves credit. They came to play and they came to play their game. They didn’t sit back and soak up pressure. They played a back 3 against our front line and tried to move the ball forward at every opportunity. The key thing is that, barring a few slow passes and unusual mistakes, they didn’t get that many opportunities. When people mentioned earlier in the season that Liverpool had learned how to grind out wins, they were mostly talking about that mythical sports mentality known as “toughness.” But the actual execution of those wins has been done in a very Guardiola-like possession style in that, even if we’re not immediately attacking with the ball, the object is to regain possession as often and as quickly as possible. If that means sitting on it while we look for opportunities, fine. If that means immediately striking at the final third, fine. Regardless of technique or approach, the objective is to control the ball and, thus, control the game. That is what LFC does now and that is why we’re on top of the league.
One can’t really argue that Wolves played well in the first half. One could argue about Liverpool’s level of play, as said unusual mistakes left most of us with the feeling that LFC weren’t playing that well, despite carrying a 1-0 lead into halftime. But, yes, in the second half, Liverpool just kept the ball and kept exploiting opportunities presented by Wolves’ desire to move forward and a 3-man back line. If they’re going to present openings, there is no more likely team in the league than the Reds to exploit them.
Two sixes are better than one. There’s been ongoing discussion about Fabinho’s role and/or presence in the squad, especially in regards to Henderson. Most have suggested that Fabinho was the natural replacement for Hendo, since the former is just as sharp a passer, just as steady a presence in front of the back line, and better in the air. And that would be true, if we were utterly tied to the 4-3-3 as a formation which, of course, we’re not. Hendo usually comes in for sustained criticism about his lack of offensive production (usually identified as a lack of forward passing, which really isn’t true) when the scoring gears aren’t turning the way everyone would like. But that’s often been because Hendo has been playing the DM role in the middle of a 3-man midfield. If we stick to the 4-2-3-1, which Fabinho prefers, then we can, as we did tonight, play BOTH Fab and Hendo and use a double, rather than a single, pivot. What that does is enhance both of their attributes, since either can still play the midfield sweeper role to protect the back line but can also trust the other to fill that slot while they charge forward and distribute to the front four. Henderson had one of his best games of the season tonight because of the freedom granted by Fabinho playing alongside him, rather than replacing him. Now it’s a question of how we fit in all of our other midfielders…
Curiouser and curiouser. Speaking of which, Milner played right back tonight. Following on the heels of Clyne’s excellent game against ManU last weekend, I kind of figured that the latter was back to stay (and about which I failed to follow up on after that game; mea culpa.) Milner and Robertson didn’t drastically change their roles from how our fullbacks normally play, although it’s evident that teams are still shading toward Salah’s preferred side of the field (our right), even when he’s playing centrally, and giving the Robbo-Mané combo much more freedom to charge up their channel. But Clyne can play that role just as well as Milner can, so I’m not entirely sure of Klopp’s choice in this case. Is it because ManU was Clyney’s first game back since the League Cup loss to Chelsea? Does that means we see him at RB against Newcastle? Is this just Klopp’s way of spreading the fatigue of the next two weeks?
Silly Season, part deux. We are, of course, on the verge of the January window, where all kinds of ridiculous ideas get thrown around about players coming and going. One of the hottest is Dominic Solanke heading off to somewhere like Crystal Palace, which is desperate for someone- anyone! -to take some of the pressure off Wilfried Zaha. But there’s no sense in loaning him out if all he’s going to do is sit on the bench behind Zaha. I’d rather send him to somewhere in the Championship or Bundesliga where he’s going to be The Man or at least one of The Men. The other latest rumor is about Liverpool competing with Atleti and Bayern for the services of Timo Werner, former teammate of one Naby Keita at RB Leipzig. We could always use more rotation of the front line as the season drags on… but we already have the Cube and Sturridge and even Origi for that. Given how long it takes players to adapt to Klopp’s style of play, I’m not sure it makes any sense to pick up someone that’s not exactly in an area of need and for whom Leipzig would certainly demand a steep price. Hilariously, the other story of the last couple days was L’Equipe reporting that PSG has made inquiries for a loan of Fabinho. That’s ridiculous on its face and one Redditor had the appropriate response to it, even if it were true:
With that, I leave you with the Virgil Van Dijk song, which definitely needs to start finding itself in the air at Magee’s: