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Football News: Sheffield United v Liverpool - A Liverpool Perspective

Sheffield United v Liverpool - A Liverpool Perspective
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Sheffield United v Liverpool A Liverpool Perspective

 

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It makes a nice change to be writing this after a win! It feels like it has been a long time since that happened. The only problem is that it is a victory over the team at the bottom of the Premier League, rather than the one at the top. As we have seen with the win in Europe, it might not necessarily lead to move either. This had been coming, Liverpool had been throwing away results through a combination of woefully bad finishing and bad luck. The finishing was still not all that good, but the luck has finally been on the Reds' side. We have seen so many shots diverted onto the woodwork, into the goalkeeper's hands or wide of the goal, it was refreshing to finally get one that deflected into the goal.

While it was definitely a deserved win, it must be pointed out that there are still problems there for Liverpool. It was lucky they were facing one of the worst strike partnerships in living memory as Klopp was having kittens on the sidelines about the lack of communication between the backline and Adrian in goal. That is a major problem with the defenders at the club. Added to the lack of protection from the midfield and it adds up to a very unsure defensive set-up. Luckily it was enough to get through this game with a clean sheet, which should improve confidence for future matches.

 


Sheffield United

 

It is quite sad seeing Brewster sat in the stands watching when the players in front of him in the pecking order are so bad. McBurnie is among the worst strikers I have seen in the Premier League and I am shocked Chris Wilder perseveres with a player with such a clearly bad attitude to training. You could see it after half-time when the Blades players were doing their re-warm up. Everyone else was doing it with a bit of effort and intensity, sprinting on the little sprints. McBurnie was just strolling around and barely broke into a light jog on the sprints. While they have passengers like him, who offer so little other than the occasional flop to the ground in the hope of winning a decision from the referee, they are going to struggle.

A team like Sheff Utd rely on the players coming together and working hard to become a team that is better than the individual parts, with good coaching helping them to improve. Ramsdale has benefitted, especially in this match when he was excellent, by working hard in training with good coaches, after his spell at Bournemouth with Eddie Howe nearly ruined him. McBurnie clearly has not improved at all, regressed in fact, while Brewster just looks lost each time he is on the pitch.

That inability to recruit a striker has bitten them badly this season. They are never an easy win for anyone, they are a team that are rarely cowed or dominated, they rarely allow their heads to fall and keep going for 90 minutes, but they just lack real quality in the squad. I am sure they will be back up quickly if they stand behind Wilder when they (as it looks inevitable now) are relegated.

 


Liverpool

 

Klopp - I think I now understand Klopp's reluctance to pair Phillips plus another at the back. It is not about their ability, it is the fact that Phillips is not a talker. Klopp wants his backline to constantly communicate with each other, something van Dijk is particularly good at, as is Henderson. Without it, you are relying on individuals playing as individuals, which can be very hit and miss. I would still prefer he just worked on their communication, rather than keep putting midfielders at the back.

 

Adrian - looked nervous and was not spreading confidence with the way he dealt with crosses and shots, but he did the important thing by keeping the ball out of the back of the net. Though he was called into action far too much for my liking. Looked very short of confidence and in need of support from the fans to me. He became a whipping boy for a while and that cannot have helped him.

 

Alexander-Arnold - he was much more restrained than Robertson on the other flank, but he seemed to do even more damage with his raids forward. At times he was nearing his best after a sloppy start to the game. Defensively he does need to communicate more, especially if he is ever to become the captain a lot of the fans seem to think he will be in the future.

 

Kabak - I am still not won over by this lad yet. He was dominated by McBurnie in the air, constantly caught flatfooted by runs in behind and his communication is non-existent. Defensively he is unconvincing to say the least. He did show signs of being able to play on the ball though, with one ball to play in Robertson in particular impressive. Hopefully Kabak's confidence will grow after this clean sheet and he will start to talk more. That is the one thing that does shine through right now, he looks incredibly short of confidence.

 

Phillips - was dominant in the air and used his strength well. He did get caught out late on by Burke's fresh legs, though it was not because of Burke's pace. That was simply the Phillips was unable to out-muscle the Scot, as he tried to do, which meant Burke was able to use his pace. It was reminiscent of the way Carragher used to get destroyed by Drogba to be honest. Both defenders rely on using their body to stop attackers getting a run on them, but that only works when the attacker does not have a clear strength advantage to just brush them off. Luckily there are very few forwards possessing the strength and pace of Burke in the Premier League for Phillips to come up against.

Overall he did well, but there is still a lot to do to build up an understanding with Kabak, in particular, and Trent alongside him. The only way that will come is if the backline stays the same, as much as possible, for the rest of the season, to develop their partnership. Fingers crossed for no more injuries!

 

Robertson - he was absolutely marauding down his flank for the entire game, they gave him an almost free run on the left and he made sure to use it. Linked up really well with Jones in particular but his final ball was off once again. He is looking more like his old self again now, full of running and making the flank his domain.

 

Thiago - played a much more disciplined role in this game, alternating with Wijnaldum a lot in the deeper role, at times dropping in alongside him to help him. Looked much better in this game being allowed to just probe with the ball, rather than being forced to chase after it. It will not work in every match, but this type of game, when Liverpool are controlling the play for long periods it seems the ideal set up.

 

Jones - arguably the best player on the pitch, though Ramsdale would dispute it. His link up play with Robertson was exceptional and his movement was excellent too. He scored, played really well in attacking areas but was also impressively disciplined when defending and broke up a number of Blades' attacks (I will resist the temptation to say anything about blunting the Blades. Oh wait I just did, sorry!!). He is looking better and better.

 

Wijnaldum - defensively he is absolutely hopeless, with no awareness at all. He is stood watching as players run off him and by him constantly. He offers so much more when freed up to get forward, which he did a bit more of than he has been able to recently. What was particularly noticeable is how much he improved after handing off the armband to Milner. The question is why? Is the armband weighing too heavy on him? The responsibility is not for everyone. Could it just be that Milner is one of the talkers in the team and so woke Wijnaldum up by giving him shouts and instructions? Or is it just a Sugar Ray Leonard instinct of leaving a good impression by doing more at the end of games to leave people remembering that when they think back to the game?

 

Firmino - finally looked something like his best, though he was not chasing back as much as we are used to with him, he still did a fair bit of pressing and tracking back to cover gaps. His touch to set up Jones for the first goal was excellent, but his finishing is still completely missing. It is clear his confidence in front of goal is shot, no confident forward makes a pass across to no one when clean through on goal. That was the play of a man who felt it would not matter what he did the ball was never going to go in. Which was probably true in previous weeks, but this game saw him finally getting a lucky break, after some lovely footwork, and his shot end up in the back of the net, even though it was going to miss. Probably by a large margin as well. Just a shame for him that the 7,000th top flight Liverpool goal is not going to be credited to him but instead it will be entered into the history books as a Bryan own goal.

 

Salah - struggled to get into the game early on but came to life as the first half wore on. He was given no time and space at all but his movement and workrate meant he was always a threat and stopped them from being able to move men across to shut down the left flank.

 

Mane - was looking much more like himself, causing Sheff Utd so many problems and dragging players away from the flank to leave it wide open. He was unlucky to have been offside when he put the ball in the back of the net and Ampadu should be thanking him for staying on his feet at the end when it should have been a penalty. It is a shame that VAR never spotted it though, because referees are clueless and will only give a decision when a player goes down.

 

Milner - replaced Thiago in the 76th minute. His arrival energised Wijnaldum.

 

Keita - came on in place of Jones in the 80th minute. One driving run aside, he had little chance to show what he can do.

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Written by Tris Burke March 01 2021 16:30:39

 

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