Every Liverpool supporter was holding their breath following Christian Benteke’s stunning goal, and they all let out an exacerbated sigh when Sadio Mane crushed the chances of Jurgen Klopp’s first Premier League victory coming on Sunday.
Countless draws under Brendan Rodgers followed by two draws to begin the Klopp era had the supporters praying that Sunday was the day, but Southampton made sure that we’d have to wait. Benteke’s goal was a great moment, and there were plenty of strong performances from the Reds, but there were also some weaknesses that will need to be fixed if Liverpool are to finally earn three points in any competition, let alone the Premier League. Here are some takeaways from the match at Anfield.
Klopp’s midfield needs a shuffle
Yes, this may have been the third full 90 minutes in the past eight days for James Milner and Emre Can, while Philippe Coutinho, Adam Lallana and Lucas Leiva have all played in part of or all of the past three matches. However, tiredness isn’t an excuse for the poor play of some. For Lucas and Can, they can hold their heads high after pretty strong performances. Lallana has been solid, invisible at times, but, when involved, solid. Unfortunately, we have to face the facts. Milner and Coutinho have been abysmal. Coutinho doesn’t see enough of the ball with Lallana and Can being the most frequent carriers in the midfield. However, when he does, he squanders an attempt at a fancy pass or tries a shot from 25 yards out, usually missing. Meanwhile, Milner may have played a great ball for Benteke’s goal, but his service has been horrible otherwise, and other than his tireless work rate (which I think we’re all tired of hearing about so apologies for mentioning it), he contributes very little from a position on the right that is supposed to be where he thrives. It’s hard to drop last year’s star player in Coutinho, but Klopp may have to make that difficult decision based on his performances on the pitch. And yes, it’s tough to bench your captain, even if he is a stand-in, but Mamadou Sakho is more than capable of wearing the armband, and it just seems like there are players who can contribute more than Milner.
Good service changes everything
Benteke’s presence made an immediate difference, as Divock Origi just doesn’t cut it as a lone striker right now. He found ways to get involved in the attack, and was able to power home a trademark header off of Milner’s phenomenal cross. One of the main reasons that perhaps the midfield should see a shuffle is because they aren’t providing the service that is necessary. Origi is by no means a finished product, but if better balls were played into him, he may have been able to contribute more while Benteke was injured (look at his headed assist for Can’s goal against Rubin Kazan, even if it was slightly deflected). Alberto Moreno and Nathaniel Clyne aren’t putting great balls into the box either, but Liverpool have no other options at the fullback positions, so that doesn’t really matter. A change in the midfield could perhaps bring better crosses and something that would make Liverpool fans salivate: goals.
It’s going to take time
Some Liverpool fans thought that when Klopp was appointed manager that the club would never lose a match again. I exaggerate, of course, but many thought the man would work miracles. While he is a fantastic coach it’s just not going to happen right away. The draw against 10-man Rubin Kazan was difficult to understand, but draws against the 6th and 8th place teams with a manager who just met his players two weeks ago, well that’s fine by me. Take into account that Benteke and Roberto Firmino are just getting healthy, while Daniel Sturridge and Jordan Henderson still have yet to return, and you realize that Jurgen Klopp has made vast improvements with this club already. Brendan Rodgers was in his fourth season at the club, knew all of his players well and was getting similar or worse results. As time goes on, and players get fit, the team sitting in 9th place, which really isn’t that bad considering they’re six points off of the top four at this early stage in the campaign, will get better. We just have to wait.
Jurgen Klopp saw his first Premier League victory slip from his grasp, but he also saw a lot to build on as Liverpool move forward. I have a feeling that the lineup that has gone unchanged, aside from Joe Allen starting over Lucas against Rubin Kazan, will see more changes as Liverpool move forward. Next up is a Bournemouth team that the Reds have seen before in the Capital One Cup. But, the real juicy fixture awaits next weekend when Liverpool travel to Stamford Bridge to take on Jose Mourinho’s stumbling Chelsea. It’s hard to think of a better team or place other than Anfield for Klopp to get his first Premier League win.