Jack Hallows explains three ways in which Liverpool can take their Premier League season to another level.
With the Reds having been on an impressive run of results and good form lately, you’d think that Jurgen Klopp would be somewhat satisfied. That is not the case , however. The German has claimed that thus far “nothing we’ve done is close to 100%” such is his perfectionist nature. So, with a good run of fixtures coming up for the Reds, Jack Hallows looks at three ways in which the Reds can still improve their game.
The most obvious way we can improve is at the back. The Reds may have taken an impressive 20 points from 27 on offer thus far but clean sheets seem to still be evading us on a regular basis. The Reds have only kept one shut out all season – in the stalemate against United – and while our firepower has been enough to see us outscore our opponents, there is a feeling that games really should be a lot less close in the scorelines than they have been of late.
Admittedly, our defence has improved tenfold this season – especially since the introduction of Joel Matip. The Reds shipped a frustrating five goals in our first two Premier League fixtures but since then, while only keeping one clean sheet, Liverpool has conceded just six times in seven fixtures, with all of those goals – bar one away at Spurs – proving to be nothing but consolations to our opponents. It would be nice, however, to see that number reduced even further over the next nine or so fixtures.
The Reds will come up against sides who’ve struggled so far for goals such as Sunderland, Middlesbrough and Stoke City in our next run of games and it would be nice to continue their frustrations in front of goal and start to improve our clean sheet record. Even if more for peace of mind than anything. Klopp has spoken of starting to “lose respect” for people who question his defence but being realistic, clean sheets are the goal for any team at the back and ours should be no different.
This is a given and they’re still an Achilles heel for the Reds and, frustratingly, it’s at both ends of the pitch. The Reds have only managed to score from a set piece (penalties are excluded) on two occasions so far this season in the Premier League. These were Dejan Lovren’s volleyed tap in against Chelsea following a clever routine and Philippe Coutinho’s scorcher of a goal on the opening day at Arsenal.
While it’s admittedly not a huge worry due to our ability to find the net so freely from open play and when awarded penalties, it would be nice to see the height of players like Joel Matip, Dejan Lovren and Daniel Sturridge used more often.
At the back, though, is where the issues are more glaring. Of the Reds 11 league goals conceded this season, four have been as a result of set pieces and there has been a general air of indecisiveness from the defence and goalkeeper whenever teams have a corner or free kick in a crossing position.
Klopp has spoken of doing his best to iron out these issues and there have been positive fixtures where the Reds have looked much improved but mistakes against minnows like Hull, West Brom and Swansea have given them a sniff and these issues need to be ironed out very soon.
The Reds have fixtures against the likes of Watford, Stoke, Crystal Palace, West Ham and Everton coming up and all of these sides will look to use their physicality and height to their advantage to exploit this weakness.
Putting games to bed
It sounds bizarre that my last point is about scoring more goals when we’ve already managed to bang in 20 goals – the joint most in the league – in just nine games but there has been a feeling at times that the Reds haven’t killed games off well enough.
Against Chelsea, Diego Costa’s goal proved only to be a consolation but allowed the home side real hope that they could steal a point while West Brom was almost allowed back into the game as the Reds conceded a soft goal from a set piece.
It’s positive that there has been evidence that the Reds have improved here – they hammered Leicester and Hull’s chances out the park after both had clawed one back and at Arsenal on the opening day managed to give themselves enough of a buffer to hold on – but for me they need to do it more consistently.
A 1-0 or a 2-1 win is fine at the end of the day but if the Reds are going to be a real team to be feared and become true challengers for a top four spot or even in the title race and maintain our strong form for the course of the season, then we have to start killing games off in a more convincing manner week in week out.
Teams like West Brom can’t have a sniff that a point is there to be stolen when we play them and it’s time to start taking our chances whenever we get them – and we do get them, our ability to create goalscoring opportunities this season has been ridiculously impressive – as well as putting teams to the sword. Let’s press on you Redmen!
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