Sanjay Nair discusses some talking points from the New Year with particular attention being paid to Trent Alexander Arnold, Liverpool’s attackers and the need to learn to hold onto a lead.
The New Year is well and truly off and running and with it the hopes and expectations of everyone associated with Liverpool once again veer towards to a title hilt thanks to a fantastic first half of the season. Although we do seem to have lost a bit of momentum of late, all it needs is a couple of good wins and the swagger and confidence will be back. While the New Year has brought out some positives, it has also shown us areas that need more focus for Liverpool to end the season in a strong fashion.
A terrific find at right back
A while ago there would have been considerable worry as to what would happen if Nathaniel Clyne, arguably the best right-back in England at present, got injured at some time during the season. His reliability and consistency at both ends of the pitch have been one of the reasons Liverpool are where they are at this stage and the ill-timed rib injury picked up just prior to the crucial Manchester United game would have given most fans the jitters.
That being said, however, the emergence of Trent Alexander Arnold has put those fears to rest in the most calming fashion.
A Premier League debut against our biggest rival might be the best definition of the term ‘baptism by fire’ and Trent would have been excused and probably even sympathised with if he committed a few errors. Far from it, and this speaks volumes of the kind of talent available at the Academy and Klopp’s confidence in them.
The youngster seemed perfectly at ease with the task at hand. A near flawless, and more importantly composed, performance in such an important fixture will give the young man tons of confidence. More of the same was replicated in the replay against Plymouth Argyle where a crucial intervention, right after Liverpool had taken the lead, was a key moment in the context of the game. There may be moments in the future where he might fail resulting in his confidence taking a beating, but there is no doubting the talent at this disposal and this can only augur well for Liverpool and potentially England in the long run.
Liverpool’s attacking mix
The thing about the perfect cocktail mix is that when and only when the right ingredients in perfect quantities are mixed together, will it be enjoyed to the maximum.
The current Liverpool attack, from what has been on view so far, seems to be pretty much the same. When Klopp has Henderson, Lallana, Coutinho, Mane and Firmino operating together and in their preferred positions, the world over can sit back, relax and be witness to an unparalleled footballing treat.
But without any one of these components, more often than not, the side tends to struggle breaking down teams that sit deep and defend. No disrespect to the wonderful bucket-loads of attacking options on the bench, but we are yet to prove that this is not the case. Lots of possession without incisive penetration is what usually sums up matches where one or other of the players mentioned earlier are missing. Hopefully, this is an aspect constantly being worked upon at training and Klopp and his coaching team will come up with effective solutions for different combinations.
The need to shut out games
We are well and truly into the second half of the season and while we have only lost three games in 22 played so far, it is the remaining 30% of the games where we shared points that see us seven points behind the leaders Chelsea.
It is a credit to our attacking football that teams look to defend in numbers against us, home and away, and not a lot can be done about that other than to try and come up with newer methods to unlock them. What is in our hands and we must do, is pick up the habit of shutting out games more often. Nine points have been dropped when in the lead, with seven out of those nine points being lost with just about five minutes of normal time left. For all the hard work put in by our players, these lapses in concentration in ‘crunch time’ have had a detrimental effect on our position in the table.
Having said that, the good news is that there is still ample time to rectify all of these and continue the excellent work put in so far. A string of clinical wins on the trot starting with Swansea at home should get the Liverpool bandwagon back on track in full earnest and have Anfield buzzing as they have been all season long.
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