Set pieces are still an issue
Once again, Liverpool conceded on a set-piece goal on Saturday. Once again, it was not the initial ball, but the second ball that Liverpool could not clear.
Clyne was second best to Borja in the aerial duel on the corner kick and Lovren found himself on the wrong side of van der Hoorn when the ball was headed back to the center.
If Liverpool want to achieve their goals this year, the sloppy positioning from set-pieces has to be eliminated. Of course, I don’t have the answer. But hopefully someone on Jürgen Klopp’s staff does.
Loris Karius is Not Manuel Neuer
….Yet. During the 2014 World Cup, Germany head coach Joachim Low said that Manuel Neuer is so technically gifted with his feet that he could even play in midfield. There was a sense that Liverpool fans expected much of the same from the former Manchester City youth player.
On Saturday, Karius looked uncomfortable at best. He flapped at several attempted clearances, and almost bobbled an easy-looking save into his own net. As the game wore on, he looked less and less confident with the ball at his feet, sending a few wayward clearances to the opposition.
There weren’t very many bright spots to point out at Swansea for Karius, not least the command of his area, which almost cost Liverpool two points in the dying moments of the game when he stayed back on his line and allowed van der Hoorn a free header from a few yards out.
A reminder then, is necessary. The man only just turned 23 in June. He came to England off of the back of a wonderful season in the Bundesliga in which he was considered perhaps the second-best goalie in Germany, behind only Neuer.
His starting position, most of the time 15 or more yards away from his own box when Liverpool have the ball, will be important for the way the team want to play this year.
Maybe most importantly, Klopp trusts him. As soon as he was healthy, Karius became the starting goalkeeper. At least for his first ten starts or so, this should buy him the benefit of the doubt with Liverpool fans.
The Team Believes in Itself
Especially after Adam Lallana went off injured, Liverpool were not the best team on the field in the first half. After Leroy Fer’s 8th minute goal, the Reds struggled to get themselves into the game.
The midfield did not know how to cope without Lallana, the all-action English midfield dynamo, who was named the team’s September Player of the Month. Firmino and Sturridge seemed to have difficulty making room for each other at the point of attack. The combination between Henderson and Wijnaldum seemed as stretched as it had been all season.
Swansea City seemed first to every ball and overwhelmed the middle of the pitch. They swarmed Liverpool, not allowing time on the ball for anyone in red. Some might say Liverpool were lucky to get into halftime down just 1-0.
But this was different than Burnley. Nobody panicked. Nobody forced shots. Nobody got frustrated. The team continued to recycle possession and work up the field in the way it wants to play. They believed in each other and they believed in the system.
They believed that because Swansea City needed to play at such high level and fast pace to get ahead, they would run themselves out of the game. All that belief payed off.
Towards the end of the first half, Liverpool’s influence was growing and the Swansea players’ levels seemed to drop off a bit. Klopp got his men in at halftime and undoubtedly made subtle tweaks, as any manager would, but most of his time was probably was spent reassuring the team to go again.
In the second half, Liverpool were clearly the better team. There was always a sense that the goals were going to come.
Firmino’s brilliant positioning when the Swans’ back line stepped out on Coutinho’s free-kick was picked out by an in-form Henderson for the first. Firmino again put himself in the middle of it all later in the second half, and all Swansea could do was bring him down to prevent him from grabbing a second.
Despite conceding within the first ten minutes of the game, despite giving up a goal on another set piece, and despite a shaky performance from the Reds new No. 1, heads never dropped. This team is still growing and learning about one-another, and Saturday in Swansea, they showed the kind of belief they will need to become Champions.
Some of more reading from some of my favorite sources: