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A Few Thoughts from the Season Opener - by Paul Natton


1. "Top, top, top, top, top of the lea..." Nah. Not having that nonsense. League tables shouldn't exist in August. That said, if we're serious about No.19, we need to start well and sustain it. So it's at least good to know we had the best start this weekend and, if it makes City feel their nemeses aren't going away, so much the better. 

2. Today was boss though. It was exactly what we've come to expect at Anfield under Klopp: a big, entertaining win. In all honesty, it was easy. I know that's not a word anyone likes to use in football, but it's the most appropriate because we utterly dominated West Ham from start to finish. They barely had a sniff of the ball never mind a sniff of our goal and, as is so often the case, the comprehensive scoreline could easily have been doubled. Still, 4-0 isn't to be sniffed at. 

3. Klopp's selection was reassuringly predictable with no surprises. He set his stall out for players having to earn the shirt pretty comprehensively as only Naby and Alisson started of the new boys. And that's right: why should the lads who got us to Kiev be instantly ditched? The corollary of the team selection was a very strong bench - actually the strongest I think I can ever remember at Liverpool - and that's clearly what we need. However with a squad this strong, Klopp's much-vaunted ability to create and maintain a superb team atmosphere could be tested. It's early days yet, but none of those lads on the bench today will be happy if they're still there in October. And then there's the players who weren't even on the bench. Still, such are the first world problems of title aspirant clubs. 

4. Of the players who started, not a single one faltered under the pressure of having others breathing down their necks. Maybe the least impressive player was the two and a half week goal keeping record transfer holder, but only in so far as his football is concerned because he had almost literally nothing to do. His footwork was great and his imposing physique impressive, but that was the extent of what we saw from Alisson today. 

5. The other new boy though... wow! Naby was constantly available for the ball and his touch and movement oozed class. However, in my view, we saw 25% of what he's got to offer, at most. The delayed, angled ball to Robbo was a touch of class that meant the left back (superb, by the way) didn't have to break his stride and therefore was able to play the cross for Mo's opener at the perfect moment. That said, there is so much more to come from Keita. Wait until the laser-guided passes start cutting open tight defences or he decides to beat opponents from a standing start to open up the parked buses or he dominates opposition midfielders single-handedly even without the ball. This lad is going to be sensational. 

I heard him being eulogised all round me today and even more on the way out of the ground. Honestly though, this is just the start. I think he’s going to win the PFA POTY award because he will rip this whole league to bits and then decide whether or not he’ll allow it to be put back together again. He is absolutely made for English football and is going to come to be seen as the archetypal Klopp player. Sorry to be so mealy-mouthed, but this lad is everything we want him to be and more. Tellin' yers. 

6. Naby wasn't the MOTM though! And nor were the front three who carried on in terms of goals, movement and pressure as they ended the last campaign (with Mané looking especially sharp). No, the best player on the pitch was the man who has to be the most underrated player I can remember at Liverpool: James Milner. He utterly bossed that match today from midfield, the support of Keita and the superb Gini notwithstanding. 

Once you start listing Milner's qualities it's hard to stop. Obviously he covered every blade of grass despite being comfortably the oldest Liverpool player on the pitch. But it's his brain. He sees the whole game and makes instant decisions to Liverpool's benefit that are perfectly executed with his two great feet, superb passing and lung-bursting runs. Today was no exception and the pull back for Mané's first was a case in point, requiring every one of those attributes mentioned above. 

If it was any other 30-something out there today, we'd think it obvious that this is unsustainable. But this is James Milner - the fittest player at the club in pre-season. Do not bet against him being Klopp's first choice for much of the campaign, because he'll keep this up and Klopp will not want to let it go. The only thing disappointing about Big Games James is the relatively underwhelming response he gets from some fans. We're now blessed with an awful lot of players who have important roles, incredible talent or great character. A handful have all three and Milner is one of them. 

7. Other thoughts that struck me today included a couple about the back line. We had a 19 year old and a 21 year old starting the season today in a team that wants to win the league. Trent needs no introduction as a player who deserves to be there as he so ably demonstrated last season and in Kiev. However, one slight moment of lapsed concentration aside, Joe Gomez was impressive this afternoon too.

 

It certainly helps him to have Virgil talking him through the game, but his natural attributes are so well-rounded that it's not beyond belief to wonder whether he might actually usurp all the other centre halves at the club vying to be Virgil's regular partner. He has pace, touch, composure and anticipation. All he lacks is a little nous, but that's where playing next to Virgil comes in. Maybe his body will falter as it has done so many times at Liverpool thus far, but if not, don't bet against him doing a Trent.

Whatever happens with Gomez though, Virgil's importance to the back line was highlighted once again today and cannot be overstated for the long slog to come. Alisson aside, I'll wager that he is the one player Klopp will pretty much never rest. His leadership and organisation are so crucial that I don't think we can do without him. Retaining him in the side for the entire campaign will be a vital element in any potential success this year, in my view. 

8. Finally, what about the impact of the bench players? Well Hendo slotted in seamlessly, Shaq lifted the tempo and injected an immediate sense of urgency and Sturridge scored with his first touch. This is exactly what top sides need their subs to do and ours did so perfectly. Each of course will have aspirations of far more than a mere substitute role this season and in that sense, none harmed their chances whatsoever. Far from it, in fact.

 

However, I doubt impressive cameos will automatically lead to starting places in the side and indeed they may not even lead to substitute appearances every week. Klopp and the players themselves need to make this issue a non-issue and that will be a test. However, if we're going to enjoy a winning season, it's a test they absolutely must pass. 

9. So overall, what a way to start the season. Pretty much everything we could have hoped for came to fruition and if this is going to be our season, we need that to be pretty much the norm. One down, thirty seven to go then. Come on you Reds!!! 

 

Paul Natton

@OxtonSoulBoy


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22 Comments

Yeah be interesting what happens with Gomez. Still struggles a luttle but with the long ball over his head and with the high line we keep could occasionally cost us. But although he isn't great on the ball as a fullback he is more than good enough as a CB and it eould be a strength.

Overall looks thought we looked really good and completely switch off the engines after 50 mins and just coasted through. The midfield looks like it could be a major upgrade this year and that bench was stronger than I've seen in years.
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I feel like Milner is the Captain. Armband or not, he's a boss. I love him. I love most of these players. Robbo too. If you've not seen the recent video of Milner and Robbo, it's great.

Good stuff, Paul.
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Good, that.
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http://youtube.com/w...e&v=OVFBnPGOm-Q

I love the way Milner keeps tying the answers back to earlier questions.
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That’s first rate.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
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Agree with most of that.,my only issue being that Trent's crossing was appalling and he must have wasted half a dozen good positions, Milner like the old pro stepped into the breach and took over in the second half and took on the job from the right flank.

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Van Dijk is just utter class, as much as i love watching our boys tear teams apart i am mesmerized by that big cool classy bastard at the back.

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Saw some stats after the game that show Milner had the most touches, completed passes, chances created, crosses and distance covered of any player in either team. In fact the distance covered was the highest in the entire league.

He’s 32. That’s unbelievable. He’s Dirk Kuyt on steds. In fact he’s Dirk Kuyt squared. Absolutely ridiculous levels of both quality and fitness for a 32 year old midfielder.

There’s an awful lot of competition for favourite player in this squad but I reckon he’s mine. He’s an incredible footballer.
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Saw some stats after the game that show Milner had the most touches, completed passes, chances created, crosses and distance covered of any player in either team. In fact the distance covered was the highest in the entire league.

He’s 32. That’s unbelievable. He’s Dirk Kuyt on steds. In fact he’s Dirk Kuyt squared. Absolutely ridiculous levels of both quality and fitness for a 32 year old midfielder.

There’s an awful lot of competition for favourite player in this squad but I reckon he’s mine. He’s an incredible footballer.


There's no reason he can maintain the high level for at least another two years, maybe up to four. Any idea what his contract situation is like? I fucking hope he doesn't get the urge to go to a smaller club. Fuck, he's such a boss. Shame we didn't get him years ago.
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I can’t believe City let him go, regardless of their quality and riches. It’s easy to see why he bailed though. He’s far too good to be a bit part player getting scraps of appearances.
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I can’t believe City let him go, regardless of their quality and riches. It’s easy to see why he bailed though. He’s far too good to be a bit part player getting scraps of appearances.


Did you see the MOTD analysis on him? It was only brief but showed the way he makes himself available, and how he doesn't get pissy when it's not passed to him after making a run, he just gets on with moving again to make himself available. It's great others are seeing what he offers. You read a lot of sneering on opposition forums about how shit Liverpool's midfield is with the likes of Milner and Henderson. I wouldn't swap Milner with almost anybody in the league.

I'm sure it's not going to be completely smooth sailing this season, and there will be disappointments, and we may even fuck it up somewhere, but this team is so capable, and only just scratching the surface of what it's capable of, that I see no reason to be anything other than positive and hopeful until such a time as they show me there's reason not to be.
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Robbo's correct about the milk thing.

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Pigeons wind me up but it's probably because they're so deep in thought that they don't get out of the way.
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Nice one, Paul.

 

I thought the same as Magicrat regarding Trent's passing.  I'm not sure why he got the nod for this one.  He's very reliable usually, but I thought he was way off.

 

The other thing that struck me was I've got a feeling we're going to get lots of near-offside and also "was he interfering" controversial goals this season.  We play such an attacking forward line that at times it seemed there were two or three breaking runs at a time. I thought we were doing it deliberately just to break the back line and turn the opposition defenders.  If they were offside they didn't care, as another player would be on hand to make yet another run, being level or just on.

 

Honestly, I saw it that many times, I thought it was by design as opposed to accidental.

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We have enogh depth to rotate the midfield without a massive drop off and I expect all of them to get enough games to keep them satisfied. As long as we keep winning

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Nice one, Paul.
 
I thought the same as Magicrat regarding Trent's passing.  I'm not sure why he got the nod for this one.  He's very reliable usually, but I thought he was way off.


I would have started Clyne, but one thing TAA did that was excellent was play a key pass to Naby who created the goal. Really excellent pass that was.
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Milner was glorious. That head injury made him even better.

One day I'll concede that I was wrong about him. But not yet. It's too soon...
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I would have started Clyne, but one thing TAA did that was excellent was play a key pass to Naby who created the goal. Really excellent pass that was.


I probably would have started Clyne yesterday as well but if it showed anything then it’s that there’s absolutely no remaining doubt over who’s first choice RB.
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Did you see the MOTD analysis on him? It was only brief but showed the way he makes himself available, and how he doesn't get pissy when it's not passed to him after making a run, he just gets on with moving again to make himself available. It's great others are seeing what he offers. You read a lot of sneering on opposition forums about how shit Liverpool's midfield is with the likes of Milner and Henderson. I wouldn't swap Milner with almost anybody in the league.

I'm sure it's not going to be completely smooth sailing this season, and there will be disappointments, and we may even fuck it up somewhere, but this team is so capable, and only just scratching the surface of what it's capable of, that I see no reason to be anything other than positive and hopeful until such a time as they show me there's reason not to be.

I was surprised how good the analysis was on MOTD last night. Thought they did a excellent job in breaking some stuff down.
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I was surprised how good the analysis was on MOTD last night. Thought they did a excellent job in breaking some stuff down.


Yeah, agreed. It wasn't super in depth but it was a good attempt to show what's going on.
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I was surprised how good the analysis was on MOTD last night. Thought they did a excellent job in breaking some stuff down.


Were Shearer and Murphy involved?
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