Front Three Form
There’s few that deny that Liverpool’s front three were amongst the strongest in Europe last season. I’d say the world, but the majority of us only watch the Premier League, Bundesliga and occasional La Liga match up.
Scoring over 90 goals between them, Salah, Mane and Firmino were a force to be reckoned with. All three scored, assisted and celebrated together. They were enjoying their football, the club and each other.
Liverpool have made a strong start to this campaign. With summer additions such as Shaqiri, Fabinho and Alisson, the Reds added both depth and quality in what was arguably the club’s best ever transfer window.
It’s obvious that the issues which hindered our performances at various points last season have been addressed. The defense, which was once the subject of ridicule, is now the tightest in the league thus far; aided not only by the arrival of Alison, but that of Van Dijk last January too.
Character and work rate carried us through the second half of the game yesterday with another defensive master class from the big Dutchman and the rest of the back line. I say the second half of the game yesterday, but this has been the case for the majority of this seasons games really.
I recall a comment I gave to an opposition fan before a game last year when he asked me for my prediction for the upcoming match. I said: “You will score and we will concede, but we will score more goals than you.”
That was our attitude. We were lethal going forward but soft at the back; a prolific front three that bet makers wouldn’t dream of placing odds against and a back line that leaked goals.
This season, it’s a lot different. For me, it’s not a cause of concern but more of a cause of confusion.
We have added depth, strengthened defensively to the point that we no longer worry about conceding ridiculous goals and we have kept the same dangerous front three. We have added in areas we have lacked and brought in more support to complement. What could be possibly missing?
It’s safe to say that, so far, Salah, Mane and Firmino haven’t clicked in the same manner they did last term.
Recently, I described their performances as “underwhelming” but I don’t think this word does the players justice.
I admit that the spark has been amiss at times. The last, decisive pass to unlock a defense has often ran astray, sometimes they’ve looked sloppy in possession, unable to keep up with each other, counter attacks are not as clinical, and the finishing looks off too.
Is this something to worry about? No, not at all. This should all be expected after a long year they’ve had.
After finishing a long campaign that stretched all the way to Kiev in May (Allez Allez Allez), the lads have had little down time. They jumped straight into a World Cup, followed by a United States tour to see us.
They then returned back home to begin the Premier League season, with little or no break, which has already been plagued by the mundanity of international fixtures. This is both physically and mentally tough for them.
Mohammed Salah ended a four-game goal drought yesterday against Huddersfield, with a daisy cutter of a finish that was too precise for the Huddersfield goalkeeper.
This goal marked Salah’s 50th in English football. A tremendous milestone and one I’m sure he’ll be proud of. I do agree this is one that we might have hoped would have came lot sooner this season for the Egyptian, but none the less it was an important goal that further demonstrated the little Egyptian’s quality.
It was enough for us to get back on the bus from Yorkshire with three points, preserving our slot at the top end of the league table. It wasn’t as spectacular as some of the displays we put on last year but it was professional. I’d take another 29 1-0s right now if it meant we lifted that much-coveted Premier League trophy in May.
Isn’t it reassuring to know that we are joint top with Manchester city, and we have come nowhere close to performing at the best of our ability? Instead of worrying and complaining, appreciate what the lads have done.
We know they could be doing better and I’m sure the players know that too but for us right now, they are doing what we need them to. Getting the goals and the points that come with them, and moving on. There is still much to come from this Liverpool squad that it’s frightening. City are operating at their best or very close to it. We aren’t. You still can’t separate us points wise and we’ve had the tougher fixtures.
We must also keep in mind that opponents adjust their game when they play us.
Managers set up their sides to stifle us, not to get the best out of their players.
When I think about this, I imagine a secret meeting of all the Premier League coaches, minus Klopp of course, sitting upon a long oak table with lights dimmed and cigars lit. Pep at one end, Mourinho at the other, showing game tape and discussing the best ways to stop our front three.
We can’t be ignorant to the fact that these men blew teams away last season; it was laughable what they did to defenders at times. I’m sure with each riot ran, Premier League teams have worked through the night to break it down piece by piece, play by play, to analyze what made our trio click and how to suppress the power.
Give it time. The lads will be back. Salah’s got 50, Mane’s got no thumb and Firmino has no eye. I’d say we are doing ok considering.