Home sweet home. It's been a long time but the Reds were back playing in front a packed Anfield, and it was business as usual as goals from Diogo Jota and Sadio Mané secured a routine win over an irritating Burnley side. Here's long time TLW contributor Paul Natton with some thoughts as the Reds made it two wins from two...
1. Back at Anfield!!! Is right. I was saying to the lads today that it only struck me just how much I've missed every single thing about football last weekend once it was properly back. The fact we were away last week felt a bit like a rip off, especially when seeing other fans all over the country buzzing off being at the game on Match Of The Day. That video the club put out yesterday nearly tipped me over the edge with anticipation, too. I honestly felt like a kid on Christmas Eve.
2. The idea of going in early because of this NFC ticket palaver was doing my head in, but I did as asked mainly because I didn't want to contribute to a backlog that kept others out until after kick off. And besides, l was able to at least chat to one of the lads inside The Kop for the hour we had to kill before going to seats. Got to say though, that hour was probably the least Covid safe I've been since that Atleti game: it was chocker and also very hot and humid down there with no-one in masks. Still, we're back, so I'm not complaining.
3. Got to say I was slightly concerned going up to my seat in 206, though. Without getting too dark about the last 18 months, it had occurred to me that some of the faces that sit around me would fall very much into the most vulnerable categories. Happily though, everyone was present and correct with Eddie, who I sit next to, commencing his 70th consecutive season at the match!!! 70 years!!! 1951 was his first season and in all those decades I don't think he's seen a single referee he likes! Joking apart, the list of names associated with the club who have died since we were last at the game was pretty sobering. All in all, I felt very lucky to be at the game today.
4. As for the match itself, we lost the toss and Burnley, in electing to make us kick towards The Kop first, set their predictable "disruptors" stall out. I don't have a problem with that as such, even when they ensured a very bitty first ten minutes with time wasting from goal kicks and the ball in the air a lot right from the off. Klopp is right to praise Dyche and Burnley in the build up as it denies them the chance to play the whole "How dare you?" card. It’s absolutely dire to watch though and I've no idea how their fans put up with it. As a club they all buzz off that "no frills/old school" shite though, don't they? Numbers 1-11 on the shirts from kick off (honestly don't think I've seen that in 30 years) is a reflection of that mentality. As I said they're entitled to it, but I just don't get them enjoying it. And as for the booing of the taking of the knee, the less said about that, the better. Awful though, obviously.
5. The goal settled us with an early cross from quite deep by Kostas and Jota finishing well with his head after cleverly running off the back of Mee, timing his run to start immediately after Mee had checked over his shoulder to the dart in front of him. Get in!!! Goal celebrations at Anfield are back!
6. We then had a period of control when Hendo was imperious in both his demeanour and use of ball, while barking at players with a constant focus on increasing the tempo and stretching the play with his ambitious passing. He looks every inch what he is these days doesn't he? The PL, CL and World Club Cup winning captain of Liverpool, in case you're not sure.
7. Overall Harvey Elliott was hugely impressive. I thought he had a couple of moments where he was a bit slow in his decision making early in the game, but he quickly found the tempo and his quality and bravery on the ball shone through. For the disallowed goal, he played a superb ball through to Mo for a boss finish. From where I was sat, offside never even crossed my mind, but having seen it again on the telly, it clearly was - just. I thought it was a big statement from Klopp to start Harvey for the first game back at Anfield and an even bigger one to leave him on when making substitutions. Shades of how he dealt with Trent when he first came through, I thought. I doubt he'll start every week, but if it wasn't obvious previously that he's a serious talent, it's clear now - and a talent whose presence now reveals the rationale in not replacing Gini.
8. And on that note, a word on Keita: that's two weeks on the bounce where he's been composed and tidy, doing the bits and pieces that Klopp demands from his midfielders. To be honest, I'd take that now, if he can stay fit. He's clearly never going to be the explosive fifty million pound player we all expected when he first arrived, but that's OK if he can give us this every week. Damned with faint praise? Probably, but there it is.
9. Speaking of central midfielders, what about Trent's performance today? What an incredible talent he is. I have been quite intrigued by the idea of him playing in the midfield where I want him to get into more of those De Bruyne positions at inside forward. However, he managed it a few times today while nominally still being our right back! I'm not sure whether that was a result of having Harvey and Mo with him on that right flank, making it maybe the most technically gifted, if not in Europe, then certainly in England. However, each of the others seemed to take it in turns drifting out to the far right when we were camped in the final third, thereby allowing Trent to come further inside. He hit one good shot from there which forced a save from Pope and of course set up Mane with that lovely little ball around the defender for a great finish from the forward for he second goal. I feel we need more goals and goal threat from midfield - and especially from those inside forward positions - but if Trent can do everything else he already offers and add a few key moments popping up there each week then even better. Either way, it still blows my mind just how good he is, even now.
10. My final main thought from today is on Kostas. He looks very good going forward, with a fantastic cross on him and also a good corner too on today's evidence. Having a genuine back up for Robbo is huge, even if he remains untested defensively bar a few bits and pieces he's had to do. On that though, I'm reminded of Klopp's comments early in his time here when he said you can get full backs cheaply and easily and then get them to play how you want on the training pitch. In his development of Robbo and faith in giving opportunities to academy graduates like Trent and Neco, he's backed that up. The same seems be true now with Tsimikas. One on one defending appears to be something Klopp is happy to develop over time as long as his fullbacks can offer legs to get up and down their flank and also have the right attacking intent and understanding of how to press. It's still early days for Kostas, but the signs are very positive.
A few other bits and pieces:
- Alisson made another late save to maintain the clean sheet to add to a good save from McNeil in the first half and the offside one from Rodriguez. Keepers who can provide that level of concentration to deliver in key moments having had little to do previously are rare as hen's teeth. That's what we've got in Alisson though. He's comfortably the best keeper in the country and must be top three - at least - in the world.
- That Thiago song isn't great is it? There was another one for someone else (can't remember who) that was a bit dirge-like as well. All our best songs are full of joy, but these aren't. Maybe I'm going a bit "main stand" here, but I want "Torres bounce" type songs for a team and players this good. That said, as I'm not coming up with any alternatives, maybe I'd better shut up.
- Joel Matip was boss. Again.
- Virgil did well too, but was second fiddle to his partner today.
- This "let it flow" refereeing is all well and good, but can we have some yellow cards too please, even if they come after the ball has gone dead? Burnley left a bit on most of our lads today, but especially the two new boys to the PL, Harvey and Kostas.
- Chelsea next. Great time to lay down a marker and the ground will be bouncing with a tea time kick off. The team selection will be interesting there. Fab is a must-start, but will he let Harvey keep his place? The received wisdom would be not, but this is Klopp so you never know. Either way, there's a big game looming and we haven't even got a league table worthy of the name yet. How boss is it to be back? Come on you Reds!!!