Welcome back to the EPL, Canary fans! Maybe what you were expecting? I’m sure some Norwich supporters still have flashbacks to That Game:
Good thing for them, Suarez is no longer playing in the Premier League. Or maybe it’s That Other Game, early in the Klopp era:
But that one was alternately thrilling and disastrous, until Adam Lallana finally closed the door. That was the last time Norwich were present in the top division, so this was their first game back in three seasons. And it ended up being pretty routine:
In short, Championship side with Championship-level players meets defending European champions. It was never going to be any different and, all things told, this should be a pretty common result for many of the sides in the bottom half of the league this year. This is not just the squad from last year (which is why we didn’t do any significant business in the transfer window.) It’s the squad from last year with another year of experience under their collective belt and that first half showed every inch of it. Passing was precise, chances were created, and the better team dominated. To Norwich’s credit, they played really well and they stuck to their style, which is a wide-open, high-flying attacking scheme that puts people on their heels and then vivisects them with Teemu Pukki’s precise finishing. Of course, that’s exactly the type of opponent we love to play because that’s our game, too. We just have a stellar defense to go with it. Norwich, OTOH, doesn’t. Something to aspire to, if you stay up, Canary fans (And I think they will.)
OK. The slightly disastrous part. Alisson went down with a self-inflicted injury. The early word is that it’s something in the calf (not the ankle or knee, thankfully) but we won’t know for sure until tomorrow. All we do know for sure is that Adrian will have to be between the sticks for us in Istanbul on Wednesday, so the back line and he have to talk about tendencies and comfort zones right quick. It was very apparent that Adrian wasn’t quite sure about positioning when we were holding the ball, since he was setting up much deeper in the box than Alisson likes to. He has a booming leg, though, and his couple of long kicks were on target. That might mean the return of Matip for the Supercup game, since he’s better at shielding the goal than Gomez. However, the latter is better at recovery and Chelsea now has the speedy Pulisic.
Speaking of that tactical stuff. A couple of the wrinkles from preseason made their appearance; the most notable being Fabinho dropping deep while both centerbacks moved up the field. In the past, VVD or Robertson was always the rear “point guy”. It was most frequently seen on corner kicks, since at least one of the CBs would be up in the mixer trying to get to the ball, so one guy would be stationed at or near the midfield line to pick up any breaks and give time for the rest of the backline to set up defensively. The couple times I’ve seen this (first time was in South Bend), we’re instead doing that in a normal possession mode. Both CBs flood the midfield and/or move up sharply and Fabinho shifts back from the #6 spot and basically plays CB. Obviously, it’s a move to press the attack. However, what it also does is occasionally disrupt the defensive rhythm we seemed to have last year, which results in a lot of good chances for opponents. When I first saw this, Dortmund largely buried those chances. Norwich did not. That right there was the story of the game, since there was basically no hope that Norwich’s defense would be able to resist Liverpool’s attack. They had to try to envision another 5-4, but with them on the 5 end.
I think Gomez was given the start as a vote of confidence in his return from a season marred by injury and because his speed is an asset against a team as fleet-footed as the Canaries. I think Gini was present to try to break up Norwich’s buildup play, which proved deadly in the second tier last year. Gini performed this role with aplomb. That’s not to say that Keita (whom I expected/hoped to start) couldn’t have done the same thing, as most of his time spent at Leipzig was in the role of a center mid. But I don’t blame Klopp one bit for going with the more reliable presence and the steadier head. The whole midfield played well, but Norwich was still able to pursue their game plan of carrying the ball quickly through the center against our 4-3-3 and it was semi-reminiscent of what other teams accomplished in the preseason. That probably needs to be sorted soon.
In the meantime, the standout performers for me were Bob with some excellent deliveries in the box and recoveries in our end; Mo, disrupting and terrifying like usual and then finishing with the left foot to the far corner; Fabinho keeping the midfield working, calmly and assuredly; and Hendo, still charging forward to get every loose ball and even take a couple of good shots. Trent was his usual brilliant self on the offensive end, placing the ball for the fourth goal precisely on Origi’s head (Trent to Origi for a fourth goal… I feel like I’ve heard this before…), but ended up costing us a couple times on defense. Norwich’s fullbacks, Lewis and Aarons, showed a lot of talent and skill for being as young as they are. Similarly, Buendia was a presence all over the pitch, something like Hendo.
Joining the Rushmore ranks. Good to see the boss given his place alongside the legends. Here’s to making him even more legendary, this season and beyond. Oh, and:
Everyone can do this now, per the boss. They’ve all won something and they’re going to be winning more. Next time: A trophy!