Ajax 0 - 3 Liverpool - The Post-mortem
The end result was spectacular, some moments were brilliant, the score line (especially away to Ajax) emphatic, and Liverpool qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions League. The reds opening game saw them humbled by a terrifying Napoli outfit, so to meet them next week (with both sides now qualified) is nothing short of relieving.
The reds started against Ajax with a diamond formation, though you could see the guys in the midfield corridors (Hendo & Harvey), were positionally unsure in and out of possession. With a back four pretty well drilled and unambitious in the opening stages, Virgil was able to control most situations. Obviously Ajax started the brighter of the two and caused some issues, but this was to be expected within such a wonderful sporting arena. Ajax are a domestic team that usually takes their opponents apart, so this was a period that simply had to be overcome.
The system was okay for the most part, but the corridor midfielders were often too high, and often too wide. Bobby was able to drop in, and in a sense this created room for Salah to venture. The starting strikers looked completely unfamiliar at times, with Darwin’s juggernaut style not quite meshing with the elegance of Salah. The unpredictable nature and power of Darwin, allowed us to stretch a talented Ajax centre back pair, but at times it felt we would go long too quickly. Without Thiago or Naby to drop into possession pockets, you could see we would become more direct in our play.
I was desperate to see this strike force unleashed, and I would have no issue seeing Luis Diaz used at some point in a free roaming 10. The midfield corridor spots look ideal for the likes of Thiago, Naby, Curtis and perhaps Ox, and allow fluidity in our system. I think the key is to maintain two strikers until the World Cup break, and try and force our will upon teams. With midfield options improving (and a lack of wide options with Mo up top), the diamond could be a good short term solution.
There are so many questions as to how we proceed, and how best to build a system that suits all the required parts. The up coming transfer window has to be a decisive moment, where we get that midfield (and potential right wing) option we need. Jurgen Klopp has some real decisions to make, and get Julian Ward hunting for what is now needed.
All I know is that we needed positivity in Amsterdam, and we most certainly got it. Confidence can only build from here (hopefully), and solid work on the training ground can only work out the numerous kinks. Darwin & Mo finally started as a two, and though there were some bumps along the way, it was these two that got us over the line.
The road ahead is still long and precarious, but we may just be leaving the storm.