Talking Points: LFC show character during wins over Everton and Burnley

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james milner

Jack Hallows runs over the main talking points from a dramatic few days for Liverpool Football Club in the Premier League. 

It’s been a crazy week for fans of Liverpool Football Club.

First, Sadio Mané 90+4 was bettered by forgotten man Divock Origi in the first Merseyside derby of the season when the Belgian teamed up with Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford of all people to net a 96th minute goal.

Then, on Wednesday, a midweek trip to Burnley went almost exactly how you’d expect from Liverpool.

1-0 down at the hour mark with Klopp’s rotations looking as if they’d blown up in his face, to 3-1 winners with the German’s substitutions contributing wholeheartedly at full time!

A dramatic pair of endings to say the least.

Let’s wind the clock back a few days and start at Everton.

Front three fire blanks but Origi returns

The usual front three of Firmino, Salah and Mané were all started in the Merseyside derby with Xherdan Shaqiri also fielded for further support but it was another off day in truth for the quartet.

Mané and Shaqiri both could – and perhaps should – have found the net in the first half with good chances but those aside, it was a fairly dry afternoon in terms of clear cut chances created.

Despite this, it was still a surprise to see the forgotten man Divock Origi take to the field with just minutes to spare as Klopp’s final throw of the dice.

It looked as if it was going to be another day, another frustration for Origi as he hit the bar from five yards out after a set piece but boy did he make up for it.

Virgil van Dijk lobbed a horrendous volley high in the air and it looked to be harmlessly sailing out of play until Jordan ‘short arms’ Pickford took a safety first approach. Not a bad idea if you can actually reach the ball!

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Pickford, however, couldn’t and Origi was on hand to watch the ball bounce off the cross bar and nod into an empty net. He may never score another Anfield goal for all we know but that one will almost definitely go down in Liverpool folklore – not least for his manager’s celebrations!

Alisson ‘the wall’ Becker

Liverpool’s defence has been superb this season and so much so that our shiny new £65m goalkeeper has been a little forgotten about.

The Brazilian has spent much of the campaign so far as a spectator but it’s safe to say that in the last fortnight, he’s shown exactly why Klopp opted to spend the money.

The Brazilian was immense against Paris Saint Germain last week, keeping the scoreline from reaching embarrassing lows and he kept it up once again when the Ev visited, making a superb stop off Theo Walcott who looked clean through for all money to kick it off.

It was his combined effort with Joe Gomez to prevent former Barcelona midfielder Andre Gomez from netting however that really caught the eye.

The Portuguese international looked to have an open net to head the ball into in the first half but Alisson made himself big, spread his arms and got enough contact to take all of the sting off the ball.

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It wasn’t enough to stop it heading goal-wards but an alert Joe Gomez was on hand to sweep it off the line and keep the clean sheet intact. Without Alisson’s intervention however, it was a certain goal for the visitors.

Fantastic Fabinho

The last thing I want to touch on from the derby is Fabinho’s performance.

The Brazilian has endured a tough start to life on Merseyside, having to adapt to new surroundings, a new style of play and a new system but Klopp didn’t spend £40m+ on the midfielder for nothing.

Despite bizarre rumours already linking him with a move away from the club, Fabinho started the derby and was immense in midfield, earning my pick for man of the match.

The former Monaco man flew into tackles, broke up play perfectly and showed the perfect blend of game intelligence and tenacity to not only thwart Everton attacks but do so in a way that allowed Liverpool to break on the counter.

One superb tackle in the first half primed Mohamed Salah to slide a pinpoint through ball into the path of Xherdan Shaqiri who on another day, buries the chance.

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He may not yet have adapted fully to life on Merseyside but the signs so far are encouraging and for me, Fabinho is a must have in our starting XI.

Now, onto Burnley.

The re-emergence of Naby Keïta

Now that is what we bought this man for! What a performance.

I know, it was against Burnley who are all but bottom of the league currently but Turf Moor has never been an easy place to go, regardless of the home side’s form.

Liverpool’s midfield was always going to have a major role to play against Burnley, with Daniel Sturridge, Divock Origi and Xherdan Shaqiri requiring someone with skill, pinpoint passing and the ability to carry the ball forward to knit it all together.

It’s fair to say that while they weren’t terrible, neither Milner (despite his goal) or Henderson offered that at all. Keïta on the other hand, did in abundance.

The Guinean slalomed his way across the pitch with ease at times, taking on opposition players at will and not only demanding the ball into his feet throughout but constantly looking to keep it moving.

There were some neat interplays between himself and Daniel Sturridge, slick long range passes and the occasional through balls that if placed just a fraction better would’ve seen our forwards in one-on-one with the goalkeeper on more than one occasion.

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Let’s not forget the belter of a 25-yard effort that if not for Joe Hart’s fingertips would’ve nestled in the top corner or a clever back-heel that was cleared frantically off the line!

Keïta was also relentless defensively.

The former Leipzig man almost strolls casually around the park before setting his sights on a target and darting in with perfect timing to either make a block, interception or if needs be, a tackle.

This was a superb outing from Liverpool’s marquee midfielder and hopefully, this is only just the beginning.

Reds’ rotation kicks in

It’s a very busy period for Liverpool coming up over the next few weeks and if the Reds are to successfully navigate the festive season, then rotation is going to be needed in abundance.

Klopp made seven changes against Burnley from the derby on the weekend with Sadio Mané and Andrew Robertson forced to miss out, while others were rested.

Safe to say that while some worked, some didn’t.

Origi was rewarded for his winner at Everton with a start and really, failed to impress while Alberto Moreno is a shadow of the player that Andy Robertson is at left back.

In the midfield Keïta was superb while James Milner was on the scoresheet, worked tirelessly and to be fair to him was involved in most of Liverpool’s best moments throughout the game.

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There were some welcome glimpses of what Liverpool’s squad has to offer, while 90 minute outings for the likes of Keïta and Sturridge are always welcome to help them find fitness and rhythm but I can’t help but feel that despite the win, Klopp made one or two too many alterations on this occasion.

Keeping pace with the Guardiola juggernaut

That’s twice in the space of five days that Pep Guardiola and his men might have sat back watching the Liverpool game/following the score and thought “beautiful, they’ve dropped points,” only for the Reds to surge late on and wind up with six from six.

That’s all the Reds can do at this stage, continue to win games in whatever means necessary be it playing beautiful football or equally, grinding it out and taking scrappy 1-0 victories.

All wins end in 3 points and that is the only thing that matters right now.

Too many fans have become obsessed with Manchester City and the scorelines they produce but what they forget is, this City side is undoubtedly fantastic.

They have an embarrassment of attacking riches, their midfield is incredibly well disciplined and trained in ball retention and their defence, while frail under pressure is rarely tested due to those in front of them.

It’s okay to admit that and respect that side, just as long as you remember that this Liverpool side is also very, very good.

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The Reds don’t have to be winning 5 or 6-0 every single week just to keep pace with City, all they have to do is win games and they’re doing exactly that.

Conceding goals is a rarity – 6 goals conceded and 9 clean sheets kept in 15 games is a ludicrous defensive record – and while they’re not scoring five every game, they’re not exactly firing blanks either!

This is a very good Liverpool side who after 15 matches are unbeaten and just two points off Manchester City.

Up Jürgen’s Mighty Reds!!!!

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