Liverpool beat Lincoln City in the Carabao Cup last night following a resounding 7-2 victory to book the Reds’ passage into the fourth round of the competition.
The result maintained Jurgen Klopp’s 100 per cent start to the new season following recent Premier League victories against Leeds United and Chelsea.
Klopp made 10 changes to the team that triumphed at Stamford Bridge on Sunday and handed a number of first-team debuts to the likes of Rhys Williams, Kostas Tsimikas and Diogo Jota.
To a man, every Liverpool stepped up to the plate and there were a number of performances that will give Klopp food for thought in terms of his selection process in the coming games.
There were four players involved, either as starters or substitutes, who vindicated the remarkable squad depth currently at the manager’s disposal.
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Of course, we are not trying to say that Kostas Tsimikas should replace Andy Robertson in the team after just one game as that would just be highly illogical given the Greek left-back is competing with one of the most accomplished full-backs in world football.
However, it does vindicate Liverpool’s need for a naturally suited left-footed player at full-back when Robertson isn’t available. Last season there were worries in the drop-off in quality when the Scotsman is unavailable. The £11.75 million addition of Tsimikas has all but solved that.
The former Olympiacos defender had one shot, completed one dribble, made two clearances and his delivery from the left-flank was pin-point all night.
Tsimikas was full of energy from start-to-finish and was always a threat on the overlap which saw Liverpool run riot – particularly in the first half.
This was the game he needed to get up to speed and he will now be a certain starter for the Arsenal clash next week in the League Cup.
Liverpool were three central defenders short by the time kick-off was looming around at Sincil Bank on Thursday evening.
Klopp was without the likes of Joe Gomez, Joel Matip and Billy Koumetio which left the Liverpool boss forced to look at potential options from the academy.
He took a leap of faith with the inclusion of Rhys Williams and it proved to be a stroke of genius from the German manager.
It was such a dominant and accomplished performance from the 19-year-old centre back it could open the door to another potential start against Arsenal in the fourth round of the competition next week.
Williams, 19, was utterly imperious alongside Virgil van Dijk in the first half and was just as effective with Fabinho in the second.
He was key in Liverpool’s patient build-up play which saw Williams clock up an extremely impressive passing accuracy of 96.5% – which was only bettered by Van Dijk who played 45 minutes less than the teenager.
Williams also completed 85 passes which according to WhoScored, was only beaten by Marko Grujic (96).
If there was one player who needed an injection of confidence to reignite his Liverpool career it was Xherdan Shaqiri.
Shaqiri, 28, was yet to start for Liverpool since December prior to yesterday’s game and it was a timely reminder of just what the Switzerland international can produce when given the platform to deliver.
He was left out of the squad for the Community Shield defeat to Arsenal due to injury and so far has been overlooked in Jurgen Klopp’s selection process in the Premier League.
Shaqiri was utilised in a much deeper position in midfield than the 28-year-old is accustomed to, yet it didn’t show as alongside Marko Grujic, Liverpool dominated possession and were exceptional at retaining the ball.
While Shaqiri is more naturally suited in the wide positions, he showcased his versatility and ability to drop in deep and offer the midfield an extra layer of protection. He worked tirelessly all night and made the best usage of the possession he had.
Shaqiri made three key passes – more than any player on the pitch and it was the Switzerland international’s pile-driver from a free-kick that opened the scoring for Liverpool.
It was a much-needed confidence boost for the former Bayern Munich prodigy who would have felt surplus to requirements following Liverpool’s recent £41 million signing of Diogo Jota.
The question now is whether this bright display leads to kickstarting his Liverpool career, or a move elsewhere.
The Telegraph recently reported that Shaqiri was amongst a number of Liverpool stars who could be sold to raise additional funds at the club.
We will only find out the answer after the October 5 deadline, as right now Shaqiri’s future probably depends on whether a good offer comes in.
One of Liverpool’s most eye-catching players who also got on the scoresheet was Marko Grujic.
The Serbian international was making his first competitive start for the Reds in three years and it was good to have him back amongst the first-team.
Grujic, 24, was deployed as Liverpool’s layer of protection as the deep-lying midfield pivot. He was absolutely outstanding and completed more passes (90) than anyone on the pitch.
He also got his first Liverpool goal after his right-footed effort on the edge of the box was too hot to handle for Lincoln goalkeeper Alex Palmer.
He had more touches on the ball (108) than any player on the pitch and even produced two key passes – bettered only by Xherdan Shaqiri.
It was evidence of why a number of teams are looking to chase a deal for the Liverpool man who recently spent the last two seasons on loan in the Bundesliga with Hertha Berlin.
According to reports from The Mirror, Liverpool are holding out for a fee in the region of £20 million.
Grujic oozed quality and was able to control the tempo of the match and meticulously dictate how and when Liverpool would begin their attacks. If an offer doesn’t come in for Grujic then there is no reason that he cannot continue to help Klopp in the domestic cup competitions this season.
He has certainly given Klopp a lot to think about following such an assured and accomplished performance.
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