Liverpool 2 -1 Sheffield | All systems go or papering over the cracks?

See, I said we have more mettle than Sheffield and would easily beat them. I think we'd all agree the win was never at any stage in doubt.
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Okay there may have been a few moments where things didn't go quite to plan and in all seriousness Sheffield belied their lowly league position with a great performance. We did what all good title winning teams do however and ground out a win.

Nester Liver Bird Spotting mentioned this season will not be won with 100 points and I tend to agree.

Whether due to Covid or other reasons teams are a little wobbly and so long as we keep our noses to the grindstone, keep winning more often than not, then we'll remain in the hunt.

How much confidence should we take from this win?

While we finished deserving of all three points, I don't think we were entirely convincing and our upcoming opponents will surely have spotted some chinks in our armour. Namely our defence.

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I've noted previously that Fabinho is by any standards a very good centre back and he is. He's lacking in certain departments though, mostly the air and that's not helped by Gomez who in the context of elite defenders is equally lacking in aerial skills.

So that's a pair of centre backs who can't defend well with their noggins - less than ideal. Add to that Gomez, in my view, has recently been less than impressive in general and things become worrying.

Matip is due back from injury soon and is better. With Van Dijk out Matip's probably our best centre back all round. The trouble is he's rarely available for more than a few weeks before he's injured again.

Already the rumour mill is making noises about us signing Kabak and/or Koulibaly in January and I hope they're right. My view is our current selection of defenders will lose us points this season.

More so than with Van Dijk and possibly more so than we can get away with and still win the title.

Don't get me wrong, our defence isn't suddenly a disaster and yesterday Gomez improved in the second half but as ever fine margins are involved at the level we wish to stay at and presently I feel we're just the wrong side of where we need to be.

Okay enough about defence already, what else happened in the match!

VAR happened, again. I'll add Klopp's press conference below and I agree with his view. Fabinho's tackle on McBurnie was not a foul as he won the ball and further to that it's questionable if it was even in the area or on the line, which for penalty claims makes up part of the area.

In addition to our defensive issues, our midfield and attack were not fully at the races for large parts of the game. We tried a new formation with Firmino as a ten and Mane, Jota and Salah ahead of him.

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Firmino himself scored a nice goal, at Anfield no less, to get us off the mark.

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And then Jota scored our second with a great headed effort to seal the victory.

That wasn't the whole story though because for virtually all of the first half our attack looked a bit of a mess. Possibly Klopp had given them license to interchange places at will. That's what they did but whether by design or accident it wasn't effective.

Mane didn't have his usual impact, often finding himself in the centre rather than on the left where he does so much good work. Firmino was dropping ever deeper to collect the ball but not able to make much impact with it. Salah and Jota were not involved as much as they should have been.

I don't find this to be a big problem. It was a new line-up and formation and as the game continued things improved. Going forward, once the kinks have been ironed out and used in the right games, an attacking four could prove deadly for our opposition.

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Our central midfield was a similar story. Not completely convincing. Reduced to a two of Henderson and Wijnaldum we didn't control the centre of the park as strongly as we would have hoped. Sheffield were too easily able to play through us and we struggled to get things going in the opposite direction.

Again we needn't be unduly worried. Thiago will be back soon and make a huge difference. We'll then have multiple players who can play DM if Fabinho is covering in defence and also help toward a more attacking threat from central midfield.

Thiago can be more attack biased himself or free up Henderson to get forward more. The questions remaining are as follows.

(Thanks to Sid and other posters on our match thread for raising these points)

Is our defence good enough or do we need to buy in January?

Between now and then who will be our best centre back pairing.

Should Fabinho be used in midfield or would that be too big a risk in case of injury to Joe or Joel?


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