The Season’s Peak
This is the best part of the season. No more international breaks until March. The games come thick and fast from now on. December is rammed with matches. The fate of the campaign may not be decided before the new year but we’ll have a pretty good idea about where we’re heading in January.
The home games against Arsenal, Manchester United and Newcastle obviously catch the eye but Fulham, Sheffield United, Crystal Palace and Burnley are all awkward, especially with the latter three being away. They are, of course, winnable, but the lessons learnt from the draw at Luton need to be absorbed.
The best sides in the Jurgen Klopp era have excelled when they got themselves into a groove and found their tempo. Individual players, too, need to find their rhythm. The relentless nature of December gives them a chance to do this.
Curtis Jones will benefit from paying more often after returning from injury. Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai have locked up two of the three midfield roles and Jones and Ryan Gravenberch appear to be jousting for the third slot.
Gravenberch is exciting. Whenever he gets on the ball, he looks to get forward. Jones is more suited to when the team need to exert control on the game. The 22-year-old might have made a difference at Kenilworth Road. When the game gets frenetic, Jones has the ability to slow it down. That might come in handy at Bramall Lane and Selhurst Park. That he wasn’t used against LASK suggests he will be in the side against Fulham.
Fighting for the Third Spot
The Dutchman is a more eyecatching option. The entire nature of the midfield has changed from being a unit that provided cover for the defence and pressed hard into a much more creative group. But getting the right balance is crucial and, almost counterintuitively, taking a less aggressive approach to teams who defend deep can produce results. Rather than attack them head on – which they are expecting – keeping the ball and running them into the ground frequently produces results. Jones has the craft to make the opposition chase; Gravenberch is more likely to go for their throat.
Either way, the pair make fine options for Klopp. Both will get plenty of playing time in the next month or so. Each has an important role to perform.
I’m fairly neutral on Everton’s point deduction. I’m not inclined to take the piss out of them. However, Andy Burnham’s letter to the Premier League did make me chuckle.
Burnham made it clear that the missive was written in his personal capacity as a Goodison season-ticket holder rather than from his position as mayor of Greater Manchester.
That gave it classic “do-you-know-who-I-am?” energy. Most amusing.
Best Player This Season?
It’s hard to single out an individual as the most important player in this team. Once you start thinking about it, you start to understand the multitude of riches Klopp has at his fingertips.
Mo Salah will be off to the Africa Cup of Nations in the new year. He’s the one man you don’t want to be without. Then you think, ‘what about Trent?’ And losing Virgil van Dyke for an extended spell would be grim, too.
But top of the list – even above Salah – must be Alisson. I’m not going to attempt to work out how many points he’s saved the team, nor how many cup ties he has kept Liverpool in.
Over my football watching lifetime, Ray Clemence was the best No 1 at Anfield. Alisson has superseded Clem. You feel absolutely secure when he’s in goal.
The injury doesn’t seem too bad and, hopefully, he’ll return for the United game. The sooner the better.
Having said that, Caoimhin Kelleher is about as fine a backup as you could wish for. The 25-year-old has one of the most difficult jobs in football.
He hasn’t looked at his best in the Europa League and the EFL Cup but, like outfield players, goalkeepers need to find a rhythm. Kelleher looked good against LASK and he’ll grow into the games from here.
At some point the Irishman will move on and have an impressive career as a first-choice top-flight goalie. Let’s be grateful he’s here. It wasn’t so long ago that Liverpool goalkeepers were a liability. Now we have two very fine exponents of the art.
Huge Potential Final?
It looks like United will be knocked out of the Champions League. If they drop into the Europa League, imagine the possibilities.
A Liverpool-United final in Dublin would cause panic at Uefa. European football’s ruling body are very scared of our fans and if you added the Mancs to the equation, there’d be some soiled underwear in Nyon.
The worst thing from our point of view? Tickets would be almost impossible to come by. It would be worth it, though, to see Uefa’s terror.