Liverpool picked up their first win of the new Premier League campaign on Saturday afternoon as they made a very welcome return to Anfield. Up against what can only be described as a real bogey team, Jurgen Klopp’s side silenced any pre-kick off nerves, grinding out the three points after Sadio Mané put them ahead in the second-half.
Here are the observations from the match.
Promising Debut For Robertson
Making his first competitive start for the club since joining from Hull City, Robertson impressed down the left-hand side having been drafted in to replace Alberto Moreno.
His attacking ability is well known, having shown he loves to get down the touch line in support of the attack during his Hull days, and such was the case at Anfield where a series of deadly balls into the box caused Palace all kinds of problems – whether that was via an overlap or a dangerous run through the middle from deep.
Robertson created more chances, three, and had more touches of the ball, 134, than any other Liverpool player against Palace, typifying the pivotal role he played down the left.
The Scotsman could easily have bagged a couple of assists, too, to cap off a debut full of promise if the finishing of his teammates had been on point, with Matip and Mané both missing clear cut chances after a teasing ball into the danger zone. It’s certainly an exciting sign for what lies ahead given Robertson can add a much needed creative spark down the left-hand side to provide added width and unpredictability for Klopp.
Defensively, there are a few things that still need to be worked on – primarily in a positional sense where the young defender is still getting used to his new teammates and Klopp’s style of play. However, putting in those kind of performances will only increase his chances of a starting spot in the coming games.
Gini Goes Missing Again
We may only be a few games into the 207/18 campaign, but Wijnaldum has been disappointing in all outings so far for Liverpool, failing to make an impact in the midfield both in terms of build up play and off the ball work. The ex-Newcastle man was often criticised for a lack of consistency last season, coming up with crucial goals and performances at home in the top-four race before fading rather worryingly into the background on the road.
And it’s been very much a case of the latter so far. You can’t fault Wijnaldum’s work rate and attitude, but the Dutchman needs to bring more to the table by way of creativity and attacking impetus. Henderson and Can can do the athletic side of the game in the same manner he can and if he can’t improve upon recent performances, his place in the side could well come under scrutiny.
Salah & Solanke Make Impact Off The Bench
Often criticised for a lack of substitutions, or bringing players into the fray when the dye has already been cast, Jurgen Klopp got his tactical switch bang on against Palace.
Liverpool dominated possession for the majority of the game but struggled to really break down a resolute and very crowded Palace defence, but the German’s decision to introduce both Mohamed Salah and Dominic Solanke breathed new life into his side.
Firmino was subsequently freed up in the middle to attack the heart of the defence; a position he is far more suited to. Meanwhile, Salah provided pace and ingenuity down the flank.
Solanke for Wijnaldum was the most bold substitution of them all, with the midfielder proving to be very ineffective all afternoon despite his best efforts. Solanke came on and changed the game for The Reds, holding the ball up well to bring others into the game while pressing off the ball as Klopp demands from his players. That’s what led to the winning goal in the end as Solanke continues to impress during the early stages of his Liverpool career.
Questions would have been raised about the effect of not having Philippe Coutinho in the side would do to Liverpool’s all round performance and while the Brazilian is no doubt a big miss in the heart of the pitch, Mané has started the new season in red hot form.
He’s quickly becoming Liverpool’s most important player – scoring a goal against Watford before producing a thoroughly impressive and threatening performance against Hoffenheim and sealing the man of the match award at Anfield at the weekend.
There’s a real buzz when he gets on the ball; defenders don’t know what to do with him and no matter whether they back off or dive in and close off the space, Mané always seems to find a way through. His blistering pace and flair are what makes Liverpool so hard to contend with going forward.
Time for an improved contract, I think. Preferably one with no release clause!