Sanjay Nair recounts a blitzing opening week of the 2017/18 campaign for Liverpool Football Club and runs through where improvements are needed.
For all the uncertainty surrounding the Coutinho situation and hitherto botched attempts at signing identified targets, Liverpool have actually come out of the first 8 days of competition proper without too much damage.
The season opener at Watford saw Liverpool go behind twice, take their own sweet time to get into gear, take the lead midway through the second half and then have a defensive brain freeze right at the death to concede an injury-time equaliser from yet another set-piece. Whether it was an offside or not, the shaky defence was there for all to see.
On the positive side, although it took close to an hour, it was comforting to see the frontline click into gear and run Watford ragged. Debutant Mo Salah, after an insipid first half, came into his own and also scored to cap off a fine display. Firmino and Mané too got into the act and Liverpool were rampant for majority of the second half.
A Champions League playoff game mid-week, away at a Hoffenheim team who hadn’t lost at home for ages, was next on the cards and Liverpool could be forgiven for thinking a draw or defeat by a narrow margin would have been an acceptable result to bring back for the return leg at home.
After weathering the initial storm including a penalty save by the excellent-on-that-day Simon Mignolet, Liverpool imposed themselves on the game considerably enough to take a 2-0 lead.
Trent Alexander-Arnold curled in an absolute stunner to set Liverpool up for the win and despite conceding another late goal to reduce the margin, we have done just about enough to hold all the cards in this tie. Barring a major calamity at the back in the return leg at Anfield, Liverpool should find themselves in the main draw on Thursday.
Rounding off the first 3 competitive games of the season was our home opener against recent nemesis Crystal Palace. An alert Sadio Mané reacted first to a rebound in the Palace box to pave the way for a narrow 1-0 win.
The makeshift back four put up a strong showing, shackling Benteke & co. effectively, resulting in Mignolet having only one major save to make the entire game. Debutant Andy Robertson was a revelation at left-back, time and again delivering a number of dangerous crosses into the Eagles’ 18-yard box, and in general linked up brilliantly with the frontline.
Daniel Sturridge too made a rare start for Liverpool and it was good to see him in a confident display before being substituted at the hour mark.
Overall, it has been a more-than-decent 8 days of football by Liverpool Football Club.
The positives have been the fearless performances of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson operating from the back. One problem area, that of a good left-back, seems to have been solved for the time being with Moreno also performing far better than ever before. Of course, there is always James Milner to turn to in times of desperate need.
The reliable Firmino & Mané up front have continued from where they left off last season and the link-up play with new recruit Mo Salah has been really good during most times.
Defensive frailties at centre-back might be a phenomenon we have to get used to and perhaps our defensive midfielders need to contribute more in this area, especially while defending set pieces. However, if the team as a unit can concentrate hard until the final whistle while defending, rest assured the next run of games should bring out more positivity amongst the players and fans alike.
There is absolutely no hiding the fact that we need a few reinforcements across the pitch to be able to compete on all four fronts. Hopefully, once the whole Coutinho saga is sorted out, we should be in good shape to bring in our targets or at least good enough alternatives to challenge English and European elite alike right up until May next year.