After an excellent start to the season, football fans across the world were expecting Liverpool just bulldoze over Manchester United in last Monday’s late night game. However, Jose Mourinho again proved that he is a master of big matches, as his team played Liverpool at their own game and pressed high from the start, which didn’t give the defenders enough time to play the ball out, something they have got used to this season. The result was a number of long balls up front in the hope of Sturridge making something out of it but with the English international form missing right now, Liverpool hardly posed a threat in the first half.
The second half was much better from Klopp’s men but it was only after the substitution of Sturridge for Lallana that the team posed any threat to David De Gea’s goal. At the end Mourinho had his keeper to thank for the point as the Spaniard made two world-class saves in the second half, first to deny Emre Can and then swatting Coutinho’s brilliant long-range effort. What was quite evident in the first was the rise in Liverpool’s attacking threat in the second half after the arrival of Lallana.
Klopp made some changes to his starting XI after Wijnaldum failed a fitness test last week and Lallana was only declared fit for the bench. The two have been instrumental in giving a solid defensive base in the centre, allowing the likes of Mane, Coutinho to do their thing up front. With these two in the midfield, Firmino can shift back to the number 9 role, giving space to Mane to join the front three on the right. Lallana should in all probability be fit to start the next game on Saturday against West Brom but Klopp would love to see his summer signing Wijnaldum back in the squad next weekend.
The former Newcastle player, who is rated at €36.9 Million by the CIES Football Observatory, has gone somewhat under the radar at Anfield this season due to the superb start made by Mane. However, his contribution from the centre should not be underestimated. He was by far the best player in Newcastle squad last season but still there were widespread concerns regarding his suitability withing Klopp’s system but to everyone’s surprise, Wijnaldum has quickly made himself comfortable in the centre alongside Henderson. The two control the game with pinpoint passes to the runners ahead. There is a solid understanding between the duo, which is why Klopp’s midfield always keeps it shapes even against high pressing teams like Tottenham.
Wijnaldum currently takes the role of a box-to-box midfielder, which perfectly suits his flexibility. It is very important that Liverpool gets their new purchase back fit again soon. Without him, there is a lot of chopping that the team goes through, which invariably offsets the balance.