1. That was hardly the most riveting game we’ve seen at Anfield in recent years, but you know what? I’m more than happy tonight. The pre-match narrative was all grumbles about Napoli and the forwards, but I think a reality check is needed, regardless of how valid those concerns may be. Just what more could we possibly have expected by this point in the campaign? If any one of you thought we’d have been in a stronger position than this back in August before the season got underway, I’d be amazed.
2. We're joint top, undefeated, have conceded just three - three!!! - goals in the league and emerged from
a run of seven games in twenty one days that saw us play Spurs, PSG, Napoli, City and Chelsea twice. Twenty points from eight games is sensational. That’s title winning form. Yes, City and Chelsea are up there too and Arsenal (bizarrely) are only two points behind, but even so. It’s been a great start to the season all things considered. Certainly I don’t think anyone could have expected more.
3. Today was about two teams nullifying each other’s strengths, but lots of Reds seem to be seeing that as a bad thing. Weird. I think limiting City to two shots on target, avoiding defeat and riding our luck with a penalty is a good result for us. Make no mistake, the much-vaunted “All I do is attack” Guardiola philosophy was dented today because he cane to Anfield not to lose and showed us huge respect with his tactics. Whenever we had the hall, Bernardo Silva sat in next to Fernandinho to try and stifle the supply to our forwards for the ball in behind. He’s never done that before and indeed he sacrificed Sané’s pace on the break too in order to do so. No, he’s gone back to Manchester thinking, “Great point” no matter what he says to the media.
4. I must admit, I was worried when I saw the team. I thought it would be a mistake to lose the possibility of Trent’s attacking threat, not to mention breaking up Gomez’s burgeoning partnership with Virgil. However, it did not disrupt us in the way I feared. Lovren did well coming into such a big game and Joe actually offered a fair bit of penetration down the right. I think quite a lot of the stilted forward play recently has been down to our fullbacks operating more circumspectly: with no one overlapping them they’re easier to defend against. However, both Joe and Robbo were more threatening today, albeit without ever truly opening City up. Joe’s pace really stood out today too. I already knew he was quick, but he won one-on-ones with both Sterling and Sané and I can’t think of many other players who can do that. He is a massive talent.
5. In midfield I thought Hendo and Gini were very disciplined, but I confess to being worried when Milner went off. Naby clearly doesn’t understand the press like the established boys do and he’s not been as explosive as I expected him to be when he arrived. However, he was largely neat and tidy and I’ll settle for that at this stage.
6. As for the forwards, that tale has already been told this season so I’ll give it a miss, save to say I think they’ll come good. Also though, for all that Salah’s figures are weaker, it’s Mané who’s been worrying/annoying me more. For all his decent return and inarguable impact I just feel frustrated by his continuing rawness as a decision maker. It’d be wrong to say it’s a massive issue because these things are relative and he’s still very
much in credit for what he gives us, but in his third year here, it annoys me that he’s still doing daft things like picking the wrong pass or giving the ball away.
7. The relative misfiring of the front three has obviously had plenty of Reds bemoaning the missed opportunity to sign Fekir. And to be honest, you can see exactly why Klopp wanted him. A player who can create, score, operate in a number of positions and do so while contributing to the press, would be huge. However, we didn’t take him and I don’t think we can second guess that decision. That’s not to say we shouldn’t go for another player of that type though and, if we can identify one and get the deal done in January, I think we should. Klopp is on record as saying he dislikes the January window, but I think this campaign is shaping up to be a three-way battle to the death and in that case the benefit of some fresh input into the attack cannot be underestimated. I read rumours of a Brazilian boy wonder this week, but ultimately I don’t care who we sign as long as he fits that profile of player.
8. So, what next? For me we need to start to accelerate the acclimatisation of the new lads into the team because we’ll need them. For all the concerns about how little they’ve played and how muted they’ve been, let’s not forget how long it took Ox and Robbo to “get it” last season and then how well each performanced once he did. I see no reason to think otherwise about Shaqiri, Keita and Fabinho. And with the likes of Huddersfield, Cardiff and Red Star coming up, they should have plenty of chances to settle into our style.
9. As for assessments of the season to date, I think we all need to recalibrate expectations if we’re disappointed with this in any way. Yes we can improve but that’s a good thing because under Klopp it’s almost a given that we will.
10. So, the international break now and that’s always an injury worry. However, hopefully Milner can get himself right over the break and we can then spread the minutes around a bit when the lads return so anyone who is feeling it - as was clearly the case with Trent today even at such a relatively early juncture in the campaign - can be given a rest. If they all return unscathed, the fixture list looks a little kinder and I see no reason why we can’t consolidate this great start while bringing the squad depth to bear more effectively.
11. In short, come on you Reds!!!