Intriguing Battle at Anfield
This was a very intriguing contest that showed that the Liverpool 2.0 squad is still learning how to emulate the group which came before them. There are now too many games that are being undertaken, which are being navigated with a lack of cohesive play and control. Certain games must be taken on and won comfortably, if this next Jürgen Klopp team is to reach the heights of its illustrious predecessor. I had my pre match prediction as a solid 3-0 home victory, yet as I watched with a nervous demeanour, it was about as flaky as you could imagine a game could be. Four spectacular goals were needed to overcome a rather limited visiting team, which eventually secured three very vital Premier League points.
Below is how the team lined up, with match details to follow.
The Starting Eleven
Trent Alexander Arnold
Virgil van Dijk (c)
Alexis Mac Allister
Cody Gakpo – Dominik Szoboszlai (65 mins)
Joe Gomez – Alexis Mac Allister (65 mins)
Ibrahima Konaté – Joël Matip (69 mins)
Wataru Endō – Ryan Gravenberch (83 mins)
Liverpool 1 – 0 Fulham
Trent Alexander Arnold (Freekick) 20 mins
Liverpool 1 – 1 Fulham
Harry Wilson (Antonee Robinson) 24 mins
Liverpool 2 – 1 Fulham
Alexis Mac Allister 38 mins
Liverpool 2 – 2 Fulham
Kenny Tete (Antonee Robinson) 45+2 mins
Liverpool 2 – 3 Fulham
Bobby Decordova-Reid (Alex Iwobi) 75 mins
Liverpool 3 – 3 Fulham
Wataru Endō (Mohamed Salah) 87 mins
Liverpool 4 – 3 Fulham
Trent Alexander Arnold (Kostas Tsimikas) 88 mins
Important Match Stats
Liverpool 63% – 37% Fulham
Liverpool 26 – 9 Fulham
Liverpool 21 – 13 Fulham
Liverpool 5 – 2 Fulham
The First Half
The opening period of this game saw Liverpool attempt to take the game to their west London adversary, with some neat interplay and a clear desire to get the first goal. Some neat footwork of the Hungarian skipper, Dominik Szoboszlai, saw him fouled some way from the opposition goal. After some deliberation between himself, Mohamed Salah, and Trent Alexander Arnold, it was the vice-captain who stepped up and delivered an excellent free kick into the net, by way of the cross bar. From this moment onwards, the Anfield giants should have taken the game away from their goal shy guests, yet somehow managed to allow them every opportunity to get back into the game.
As the hybrid initiative saw Matip dragged wide, it pushed Trent to drop into the central defender’s place, in transition. Both players struggled to deliver in unfamiliar zones of the pitch, whereas the stand in keeper, Caoimhin Kelleher, was surpassed with a close-range effort off the cross. If that goal was a painful watch, the second equaliser was a horror show from the Irishman. Prior to Fulham’s second goal, the Argentina World Cup winner, Alexis Mac Allister, had driven a first-time screamer into the far corner, his first for his new club. That long distance strike (like the first) should have seen the game taken away from Marco Silvia’s resilient side, however, calamity in goalkeeping made that impossible. The game went from 2-1 to 2-2, courtesy of a horribly fumbled goal from a standard goal bound header. The defending was poor, yet the goal line attempts at retrieving the ball were worse.
With that, the half ended as it began, with both sides level.
🗣️ @HendrickD82: "I didn't like the midfield"
Dave Hendrick describes #LFC's midfield balance and hopes we don't see the Szoboszlai, Mac Allister & Gravenberch trio starting again.
— AnfieldIndex (@AnfieldIndex) December 3, 2023
The Second Half
On resumption of the second half, it was a melee of uncoordinated efforts from the Liverpool midfield, a ragtag defensive showing, behind a forward line that looked very unlikely to score. With a strategy that seems so inept at times, it really is the individual moments of brilliance which are papering over some viable cracks right now. Fulham deservedly took the lead on 75 minutes, as the disappointed groan from the Kop reminded us all the horrendous results that unfolded last season.
Only through character and a never day die attitude, did the men in red galvanise to produce a final ten minutes of power and overwhelming force. As the Japan captain, Wataru Endō, entered the field for Ryan Gravenberch, there was a collective sense of mystery at the substitution. That mystique was answered m moments later, as the 30-year-old enforcer passed the ball into the top corner from distance, to create the most fantastical of finales. The man of the moment, Trent Alexander Arnold, once again reiterated his demand to become an attacking midfield asset, as the homegrown product fired the ball into the bottom corner, to cement yet another wondrous comeback under the Anfield lights.
The energy and enthusiasm were spectacular and the game was won, though only just.
What Are My Final Thoughts…?
This is a roller coaster of a ride, which seems like something that will continue as Liverpool 2.0 grows into what is expected. Once again, individual magnificence was needed to ensure victory, which is something that cannot be relied upon throughout this frenetic Christmas schedule. The group needs protection from themselves, as so many continue to offer lacklustre performances against so called lesser teams.
Joel Matip out, step up Jarell Quansah. Breakthrough season. Great timing. pic.twitter.com/BjdlR27v4m
— Moby (@Mobyhaque1) December 3, 2023
The signing of a first team ready defensive midfielder and another right back, would allow a more structured 4-3-3 to avail itself, thereby permitting our two-goal hero to move away from the problematic hybrid idea. To be two points off Arsenal and one point ahead of Manchester City (in second) is a superb return for 14 games, especially given what occurred last season. My hope is that quality (and control) will start to override the confrontational approach of our opponents, as slowly but surely, I am beginning to think that season may come to something special.
Liverpool 3 – 0 Fulham