Positives For Reds Despite Community Shield Defeat
Liverpool lost the seasonal curtain-raiser, the Community Shield, 5-4 on penalties to Manchester City at Wembley on Sunday after the game ended 1-1 in normal time.
A powerful Joel Matip header cancelled out Raheem Sterling’s opener, in a game that — despite some fans’ indifference to the value of the Community Shield — neither side, judging by the tempo and commitment exhibited by both teams, would have wanted to lose.
Despite the “loss”, there were many positives for Jurgen Klopp and his squad of players to take from their performance.
Second Half Performance
At times in the first half, the Reds looked a little bit ragged in a defensive sense. The full-backs, Trent Alexander Arnold in particular, looked susceptible to passes in behind as the rearguard as a whole looked unaccustomed to a particularly high defensive line.
The second half saw a marked improved in the European Champions’ performance, however. The counter-pressing, the tempo and the Reds’ movement were all elements that City struggled with as Liverpool peppered the English champions goals.
Liverpool had more shots, 9 to 5, than City, won more corners, 7 to 2, and last season’s treble winners committed double the amount of fouls, 8 to 4, than the Reds as they looked to stymie their counter attacks with tactical fouls.
Klopp’s team ended the game with 54% possession and more shots on targets, 8 to 3. This is the second game in succession that Liverpool have enjoyed the Lions share of possession against Pep Guardiola’s charges after they had more of the ball, 51%, in their 2-1 defeat at Etihad last January.
City’s tactical identity is rooted in possession football, so for Liverpool to have dominated the ball against them in consecutive games is an indicator of their quality on the ball. For Guardiola, a manager almost dogmatic in his tactical adherence, to alter his style of play to mitigate the Reds’ qualities is a compliment of the highest order.
Mohamed Salah was especially prominent and the Egyptian tormented Oleksandr Zinchenko at left-back, in a performance that had everything except a goal.
The back to back Premier League golden boot winner had eight shots, two of which hit the woodwork with a further three on target. Salah registered the most dribbles on the pitch, completing 5 from an attempted 7.
It took a clearance of miraculous proportions from Kyle Walker to deny Salah the winner. To play 94 quality minutes a week after returning to pre-season is a glowing indictment of the former Roma man’s natural finish and it augurs extremely well for the rest of the season.
In a similar fashion to his front three mate; Salah, Roberto Firmino looked razor-sharp despite only being back from his extended, post-Copa America break for a week.
Adding to his positive showing, where he notched a goal, against Lyon in Evian the Brazilian again looked fresh with a typically industrious performance.
The former Hoffenheim forward introduced City’s Rodri to English football, with a shoulder that knocked him off his feet early on.
Firmino’s link play showed no rustiness, as his turn and accurate through ball manufactured a decent first half chance for Salah.
A wonderful, acrobatic first touch, plucking Divock Origi’s pass from the air, and pirouette saw the number 9 create space in the box and his improvised left-footed volley was saved well from Claudio Bravo.
A key lieutenant for Klopp, the early indications are that Firmino — like Salah — can hit the ground running this season, despite their shortened pre-season window.
Keita The Key
Coming on Fabinho in the 67th minute, Naby Keita was excellent during his 23-minute cameo.
Positive and brave on the ball — including a probing run which took three City players out of the game — as well as tigerish off it, it was a display of universality from Keita.
Adam Lallana, who came on in the 79th minute, also produced an encouraging performance. The English international almost provided an assist for Keita, but the Guinean shot straight at Bravo when, arguably, he should have done better.
Nevertheless, the former RB Leipzig midfielder was positive throughout and if Liverpool are to go one better in the league this season, then Keita is sure to be a central and instrumental figure.