It wasn’t always been pretty, but Liverpool capped off a great week with a 1-0 victory over Swansea City.
Jurgen Klopp’s men have followed up their sizzling 4-1 victory with two performances that, despite dominating both games, did not necessarily merit three points. Still, here we are, looking at Liverpool sitting six points off of the top spot in the Premier League.
The victory was well earned, as Liverpool dominated possession for much of the game, and although neither team had many clear-cut opportunities on goal, Liverpool took advantage of a penalty through James Milner, and that was the difference. Here are some takeaways from the match.
First touch failure of key players
We’ve seen it all season, but it was especially evident against Swansea. The troubles with their first touches that have plagued Roberto Firmino, Christian Benteke and James Milner continue to hurt affect Liverpool . Many scoring opportunities were wasted because of this, especially in the first half. A perfect example was when Jordon Ibe was in on goal before his touch (although not his first) escaped him, and stunted a great attacking move. We’ve seen brilliant touches from players like Adam Lallana and Philippe Coutinho, but their teammates need to improve in that area. Liverpool can consider themselves fortunate to have a penalty on Sunday, otherwise these failed opportunities due to bad touches could have come back to haunt them.
Emre Can is capable of playing a holding role
Lucas Leiva has thrived in the holding role for Liverpool but due to a suspension, Emre Can was thrust into the same role and did not disappoint. His ball circulation was superb and he was strong in the tackle in what turned out to be a man of the match performance by the young German. Many felt that a holding role would restrict Can, as he has shown an affinity for making marauding runs all over the field, but he showed just how capable he is in a more reserved role. Lucas will likely return to this role when Liverpool play next, and we’ll have to see how Can fits in with James Milner and a fit Jordan Henderson. Still, this was a very positive performance for Emre Can.
Liverpool really need Philippe Coutinho to get fit
Jurgen Klopp told the media after the match that he expects Coutinho to be ready for Liverpool’s Capital One Cup clash with Southampton Wednesday, which is really good news. Everyone knows how important the little Brazilian is to Klopp’s side, but it really showed in their Europa League clash against Bordeaux on Thursday and even more so against Swansea. Despite dominating possession, Liverpool couldn’t break through the Swans’ back line. It was for these situations that Coutinho’s playmaking abilities were missed. Lallana holds onto the ball a bit too much and hasn’t shown the ability to consistently move toward goal. Firmino may have been brilliant against Manchester City, but he looked fatigued throughout the match. Liverpool’s attack is really missing their number 10, and his return from this minor injury will be heartily welcomed.
Possession is good, but final product is better
The first 30 minutes or so of Liverpool’s past two Premier League games have been something supporters haven’t seen in a while. It’s been pure domination of the ball. This is good, but we have now seen the negative side that this strategy brings. First, we saw the four-goal outburst that put Manchester City to the sword the Etihad. The possession was strong, the ball was recycled around the midfield until a crack was found in the City defense, and those cracks were exposed brutally. Against Swansea, however, the cracks were difficult to come by. Sometimes it has to do with the defense, and sometimes it has to do with inability to make that one pass that opens it up, and it felt like the latter for Liverpool on Sunday. In the end, a team can have high possession in a match and still walk out of the stadium with nothing. Goals need to be found, and while the performance against City showed that Liverpool can find them, the match against Swansea was sobering proof that they need to be consistent.
Return of Henderson and Sturridge
Even better than the three points today was the long awaited returns of Liverpool’s injured Englishmen, Jordan Henderson and Daniel Sturridge. Henderson’s introduction at Anfield after a 3-month absence was warmly welcomed, as Liverpool’s captain will provide an enormous boost. Sturridge’s return, however exciting, must be handled with caution given his record of frequent injuries. Supporters hope that the pair can stay fit, because of their importance to the squad and what they can contribute to Klopp’s side. They’ll inevitably have to shake off some of the rust they showed on Sunday, but their presence in the Liverpool squad will be a definite boost.