Liverpool 4-3 Leeds | Liver Bird's match review

Well, oh well, the 2020/21 Premier League season is back and don’t we know it. Our opening game against Leeds United brought so many flash backs I had to double check who our coach was and who the players on the field were. For a moment I thought I was stuck in a time warp with Rodgers at the helm, Agger and Skrtel our CB pairing and Suarez and Sturridge banging goals in for fun up front. 

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During the pre-season we were all harping on “where’s our attacking flair” “are we going to score enough goals this season” and “we need a natural goal scorer” (actually that last statement is still true but I will come back to that).

With four goals in our opener and three of those coming via the Egyptian King, I think those attacking questions may have been answered.

However the three goals conceded brought up some new questions that need to be answered and in all honestly the signs have been there for some time. What the hell has happened to our defence?

Let’s first have a look at some of the statistics from tonight’s game, at half time Leeds had the majority (slender) share of the ball with 50.9% and boasted a 58.5% of duels won compared to Liverpool’s piddley 41.5%. LFC’s passing was at a decent 80.5% and Leeds weren't all that far behind with 78.8%.  Those numbers altered by the end but we didn't fare much better, Leeds had more of the ball with 51.6% of possession and winning 54% of the duels.

In terms of passing Leeds bested us there too with 460 passes compared to our 423. We may have been the more attacking team with 22 shots (6 on target) compared to Leeds 6 shots (3 on target - for 3 goals) but these numbers show Leeds out played us in the middle of the park by holding onto the ball and better passing it around which is rather concerning.

Let's further break down some key elements from our game, starting with the most obvious and that's our lack of cohesion and ongoing defensive bloopers. Virgil van Dijk could be blamed for Leeds goals two and three. Perhaps a little harsh to criticise him for the third, but if you want to be considered as the best in the world you will be held to a high standard.

The first Leeds goal can be put on the shoulders of Gomez and Alexander-Arnold. It was almost a carbon copy of Arsenal's goal in the Charity Shield match where Neco was lambasted for his poor defensive effort, allowing Aubameyang to come infield to the edge of the area and get his shot away.  The only difference in this incident was Trent got some “help” from Gomez who inadvertently blocked his run allowing the Leeds player that extra yard to shoot, although he had likely already gained enough space without Gomez’s extra help.

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Let’s move on to Van-Dijk who since losing the Ballon d’Or around the middle of last season has graced us with multiple error riddled performances.

I was hoping a new season would bring back the original VVD we signed but unfortunately was wrong, as he's continued on where he left off.

One blunderous error leading to a goal and then a lackadaisical shut down leading to Leed's third goal.  VVD’s only saving grace yesterday was he managed to get on the score sheet. Even with that in mind the time has come for Klopp to bring Virgil down a peg or two and back to the real world where you're only as good as your last performance. That's currently on par with Sakho and if he’s not careful I'll be comparing him next with Harry Box-head McGuire.

The question is why has this occurred, we've gone from one of the most formidable defensive units in the world to a team that concedes three goals against a Championship side, who made it look like Laurel and Hardy were organising our back line. Is this happening because Klopp has instilled too much pressure on our fullbacks to get forward and therefore we lose shape too easily? Whatever the reason, with a tough run of games ahead a solution is needed quickly.

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Now let us revisit the statement “we need a natural goal scorer” despite our four goals perhaps suggesting otherwise this became extremely evident just before Leeds conceded their second penalty. Firmino was through on goal with what appeared to be a relatively easy finish but he completely scuffed his chance. This was a prime example of where a natural goal scorer would have converted that opportunity into an easy goal. I'm not putting Bobby down because he's a brilliant play-maker and his work rate in deep lying positions is out of this world.

Bobby is a player who links the back with the front and he will get the occasional goal due to his ability to read the game and positioning skills but he is not a natural goal scorer and he will not finish plays as often as a more outright centre forward would.

Is Mohammed Salah perhaps returning to the above demanded natural goal scorer? Well cometh the hour cometh the hat trick.

Salah started the new season with that determined look of hunger in his eyes, a look we first saw and loved a few seasons ago. Right from kick off you could see he was up for this and wanted to put last year’s failure to get the golden boot for a third season in a row behind him and put himself back in the hunt again in this one.

Two of Mo's three goals were well taken penalties which must mean he's been studying JFM footage over the pre-season; even the penalty legend himself could not have it them any sweeter. Coming from from open play goal number three was a thing of beauty, hit with such venom no keeper would have stood a chance.

This performance was more than mere goals though. Salah was willing to take shots from outside the area. Something that's been lacking in his game. His control and passing was at its best, playing some lovely one twos with his team mates and fingers crossed this better form continues.

On a side note, Mo has now scored 50 goals at Anfield and picked up another record along the way. This time snatching one from Rooney via us winning 35 league games in which Salah has scored (Rooney's record was 34). His performance also helped boost our tally to 60 unbeaten games in a row at Anfield in the premier league.

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Elsewhere on the pitch, Naby Keita stepped up in the first half with some decent runs, lovely passing and a willingness to take shots from distance.

Again something we've been begging for over the last few seasons. The only worry is it doesn't appear Naby has the work engine to see out an entire game. He went missing a little in the second half before being dragged off for Fabinho. Only the first game of the season however so promising signs from Naby and in the plus column, I don’t believe he got injured.

Overall the game was a fast paced end to end affair that had you sitting on the edge of your seat right to the end. Every player had a decent(ish) match but no one else really stood out for me. As usual a player or two will have split fans opinions on how they performed and whether they deserve to be in the team next week.... looking at you Gini.

I will end by saying it was good to see Klopp trusting Jones to come on for our captain at the 66th minute mark and in such a tightly fought game, considering he had the likes of Milner on the bench that would have brought greater experience.

All said, it was three points on the table, with Salah back in form and would have been a thoroughly enjoyable match from a neutral's perspective.

Time to roll the dice and go again with our next match in 8 days against the big spenders Chelsea or as someone, cough, Jurgen, likes to call them 'a club owned by an oligarch'.

Stay safe and I will see you then Redmen….

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