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A Few Thoughts from the Palace game - by Paul Natton - Opinion - The Liverpool Way Jump to content

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A Few Thoughts from the Palace game - by Paul Natton

1. So what if it’s a cliché? That really was a test passed. Palace are perfectly set up to exploit any weaknesses in our approach. They’re well drilled defensively, very fast and direct going forward and have a handful of players who can all score, playing at a ground that gets right behind its team. That win required quality and character and we showed both. 

 

2. And if the team as a whole didn’t quite display each of those traits at the very highest level throughout, Virgil Van Dijk most certainly did. What. A. Player. 

 

Look, I know he’s been here ten minutes and we’ve won nothing, but I honestly cannot think of another centre half who is so complete. He has got absolutely everything: lightening pace, supreme strength, aerial dominance, genuine class on the ball, steely composure, great judgement, positioning and reading of the game, plus he organises everyone around him. 

 

Using the B word about a £75m footballer is borderline morally repugnant so I’m not going to do so. But I will say this: in the context of the size of the market, he’s as good a value signing as I’ve seen in years. He utterly dominated Christian Benteke to the point where he was hooked and it was so reassuring to recognise that we can no longer be bullied at the back with the big man in the side. That is long overdue for Liverpool and long may it continue. 

 

If the mark of a great player lies in your enemy’s eulogies, Gary Neville’s praise for Virgil on Monday night was the icing on the cake of a great performance. He was visibly sickened by Van Dijk’s quality. Is right. 

 

3. Virgil wasn’t alone though. Even accepting Klopp’s post-match comments about the full-backs having much more to come, I was struck in the first half particularly by the outstanding pace and technique right across our back line. When you throw Alisson’s composure into the mix behind them, that’s a potent brew for maintaining our stellar attacking game without conceding at the other end. It’s cake and eat it time with this lot. 

 

4. And I thought Joe Gomez, who was brilliant by the way, was a case in point. He doesn’t have the physical dominance of his partner, but he certainly has his pace, composure and ability on the ball. As the man in possession of the shirt, I expect him to make Lovren and Matip wait much longer than they’d like to get a game. 

 

That burst of recovery pace and tackle on the rightly pre-match lauded Zaha was superb. However, it was his composure that stood out for me. To be fair, even allowing for the occasional error at right back, these are traits he was showing last season. 

 

Let’s just hope that he can stay fit this time around because he looks like he could really settle into a classy partnership in the centre with Van Dijk if he does so (and I am far from a Lovren hater, by the way, so this is not a comment with an ulterior motive). 

 

5. Just back to Alisson for a moment though. One of the TLW lads said after the game how sound it is having Xabi back playing in goal. Time will tell, but that doesn’t look like an outrageous shout right now. He can ping it into a player’s stride almost anywhere on the pitch and he looks like he can keep them out too, which is refreshing. 

 

The save he made from the Palace free kick was a good one and he also dealt well with a few other bits and pieces. That distribution though...

 

6. Further forward, we looked less potent. Mo was a little off his game and Bobby was pretty anonymous (although arguably playing to instructions in the frequency with which he dropped deep). That said, the former was instrumental in the win even without scoring. He won the penalty and drew the red card (both correct, by the way - what was The Hodge on about? Pure Sakho, that pen). 

 

However, the back to front classic Klopp-ball second aside, we lacked potency up front. I thought Palace defended well and played bravely in trying to take the game to us, but it was more our front three being just below the boil than anything else that kept the score down because we did have opportunities. 

 

7. As for the midfield, they were superb in the first half in my view but less so in the second. All three were below the peaks of West Ham, albeit facing a tougher challenge. Naby was sensational in his movement and positioning in the first 45, but his end product needed a little re-calibration. That said, the turn to bewilder Townsend before pinging a beautiful ball over the top for Mo was lovely. 

 

I was surprised Milner went off, but Hendo quite obviously settled the side when he came on. It’s not that we were rattled as such at that point, but we needed to just get back into our groove and Hendo’s ability to take the ball and then pick the right pass was just the ticket. 

 

As for Gini, he continued as he left off last week: just ultra professional with smatterings of class throughout. 

 

8. In terms of broader issues, it was a surprise to see Fabinho not make the squad, but I really like what Klopp is implicitly saying with such a decision. Unless you fully understand our game and can deliver it in training, he’ll wait until you’re ready before he picks you, no matter how big a signing you are. He did it with Ox and he did it with Robbo and if it pays off with Fabinho to the extent it did with them, then game on. 

 

Also, the men in the shirt didn’t deserve to lose it after last week. Rotation has to balance competition, fitness and squad cohesion and by being scrupulously straight about it, Klopp seems to be taking the only viable approach to what must happen this year if we’re going to push City all the way. 

 

9. Also, as he was watching from the stands on Monday night, a word on the Karius deal. I don’t wish the lad ill and I felt for him after Kiev, but there’s no doubt this move to Besiktas is Klopp at his ruthless best, not to mention Edwards at his. No matter whether the player is eventually rehabilitated or not, this is a great move by the club in every respect. Realistically he was finished here and to move him on at almost a 100% profit so soon after his public humiliation is no mean feat. That the guy who’s replaced him already looks so dramatically better is further evidence that the Klopp-Edwards recruitment axis is as good as we’ve had in decades, too. 

 

10. Overall then, that was a big result. Yes, we’re only two games in with a long campaign stretching ahead of us. However, despite the sheer pleasure in watching us swat aside West Ham last week, there’s nothing especially impressive about results like that from this Liverpool team as that’s their bread and butter.

 

Grinding out good wins away from home against tough opponents though is another matter altogether, because this was deeply satisfying. Title challenges, never mind title wins, require both silk and steel and away to Palace we showed our metal/mettle. 

 

The question for the next eight and a half months of course is whether we can consistently bring each of those qualities to bear whenever we have to. On the evidence thus far, we can say it’s certainly possible - and I’m not sure that was the case before the summer. 

 

11. Roll on Brighton then and come on you Reds!!! 

 
Paul Natton
@OxtonSoulBoy
 

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The B-word?  Can only think you mean bullied, which in the context of a Premier League game doesn't seem 'morally repugnant'.  Raped on the other hand...

 

Unless it was "bargain".

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I love this back 5. Van Dijk is right up there in the top 3 in the world in his position and Gomez looks like he was built to partner him, at least he has in the two games so far. Before a ball was kicked I thought we’d win the league, now I’ve seen us play - well below our best - I’m convinced we’ll win it. Quality, physicality, untouchable going forward, solid at the back, depth and options in midfield, pace throughout the side. We’re fucking boss

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We're absolutely fucking ace.

 

Unfortunately, City are nigh on unbeatable when they're not playing us and can steamroll all the shite in this league with ease.

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I love this back 5. Van Dijk is right up there in the top 3 in the world in his position and Gomez looks like he was built to partner him, at least he has in the two games so far. Before a ball was kicked I thought we’d win the league, now I’ve seen us play - well below our best - I’m convinced we’ll win it. Quality, physicality, untouchable going forward, solid at the back, depth and options in midfield, pace throughout the side. We’re fucking boss

Yeah, the pace throughout that back line is... ridiculous. Then there’s Alisson who is quick off his line and great with his feet. It’s a bit like adding a second line of defence. The recovery pace and the closing of the space by the keeper.

 

We are still an attacking team and will concede some chances through the season, but if we can be attacking and balanced, we have a hell of a chance. A HELL of a chance.

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VVD is fucking ace.

 

But he was up against Benteke for fucks sake. Even palace fans hate him.

 

He’s given much better performances against much better forwards.

 

He's a terrible footballer.  Zaha isn't all that either.  

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Really hate Palace. Great win, not sure why surprised milner was taken off though. Would say he is the one player from the team who had a bad game. Henderson will come in against Brighton now I'm sure

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I like the point about rotation and competition for places. I used to hate it under Rafa when he just used to randomnly rest players and people would say it was good because it was competition. It wasn’t at all because how well the players played had no bearing on whether they would be “rested” or not. We’ve got a strong enough squad in the first half of the season at least to just pick our strongest 11 until they actually need to be rested, get injured or don’t perform.

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