Liverpool got off to a shaky but winning start in the Premier League with their 4-3 win over Leeds United. Here are three Reds who have to improve.
Stats tell the story here. Wijnaldum had 37 touches in the game – that’s fewer than both of his fellow starts in midfield. Jordan Henderson managed 44, while Naby Keita had 45.
No, those numbers aren’t much higher on their own but they’re quite damning when you consider Keita went off on 58 minutes and Henderson on 66. Wijnaldum played the full 90 but couldn’t match them.
The 29-year-old completed just 17 passes in that time, too. Again, that was far fewer than the others. Curtis Jones managed 15 and he only played the final 24 minutes.
Wijnaldum attempted three dribbles but only completed one. He was also dribbled past twice – no other Liverpool midfielder was dribbled past once.
On the plus side, he did win three tackles. But he did miss two – Henderson, by comparison, attempted four and made them all. Leeds also tackled Wijnaldum twice, whereas the captain wasn’t tackled at all.
So to sum up, Wijnaldum was barely involved with the ball and very hit-and-miss without it. If he wants a bumper new deal, he’s got to do more than this.
Firmino wasn’t exactly bad, he just couldn’t make anything come off. He had a couple of chances to score but passed them up, while a third attempt was simply a poor finish.
But his passing was off, too. Firmino couldn’t create anything and had a rare game without any key passes.
Now, again, it’s not like he was terrible. He wasn’t breaking moves down and, as always, his energy helped out enormously going forward. Liverpool beat Leeds 4-3, after all – they didn’t struggle in attack.
But as the season goes on, and in games where the Reds can’t break teams down, he simply must make better decisions with the ball.
Virgil van Dijk
The first time we’ve included him on a list like this but this was arguably Van Dijk’s worst performance for Liverpool. There was his error for the second Leeds goal, of course, but the Dutchman really didn’t command the defence as he usually does.
Now, we’re not worried. He’ll bounce back and almost certainly dominate the next few games. That’s what he does, after all.
But he’s a different case of ‘must improve’. Wijnaldum needs to improve for his own sake, while Firmino must improve quickly because he’s a great player that improves the side immensely. But Liverpool can cope when they’re out of form as there are other players capable of stepping up. Mohamed Salah showed that wonderfully on Saturday.
Van Dijk is different, however. Liverpool are a far worse team when he’s not at it. He was sub-par against Leeds and the defence couldn’t cope – he’s irreplaceable. If the Reds don’t have him commanding the defence and keeping attacks at bay, they will concede goals.
So for Liverpool’s sake, let’s hope this was a one-off.