It is fair to say that fans of Liverpool will still be smug after yesterday’s emphatic 3-1 victory over title rivals Manchester City. Despite the controversy with VAR, Liverpool’s win sent them eight points clear with fans calling the match a defining moment of their campaign.
This season players have impressed both fans and manager Jurgen Klopp, cementing themselves into the starting line-up. The problems for the German manager have ultimately come in his side’s midfield, with lots of debate over who should start in the middle of the pitch.
In the City match, Klopp opted with a midfield three of Gini Wijnaldum, Jordan Henderson and Fabinho; who scored Liverpool’s first goal with a fantastic long-range strike. Both Liverpool’s attack and full backs have enjoyed a lot of praise this season for fantastic displays that have contributed towards Liverpool’s eight point lead at the top of the table. But, against City, the Reds classy midfield was the key behind their success according to both pundits and fans.
What do you want from the perfect midfield? Creativity, protection of the back four, a range of passing, energy to get from box to box and goals? Liverpool’s midfield showed all of this and more yesterday afternoon, with each player playing at the top of their game to bat off all that Man City had to offer.
It was evident that they were sent with clear jobs for the game and they executed them to a tee. As ever, Liverpool’s press was a prominent part of their performance and Henderson was a key part of this, not giving City a moment’s rest on the ball and forcing Pep’s men into mistakes. He also created the wonder cross which secured his side their third goal through a Mané header. Henderson has divided opinion between fans this season, but his last few performances have surely guaranteed his spot in the starting line-up.
Wijnaldum broadcasted his creativity in abundance yesterday with an impressive array of passes sending balls short, long, left, right and centre. He also showed his ability when running with the ball, charging his team forward with skilful dribbling and linking the attack and midfield effectively. Two components that are critical for a team as quick as Liverpool. He’s been very consistent this season and if he can keep the creativity in his game shown on Sunday, he’ll be instrumental for Klopp this season.
Fabinho did not put a foot wrong all game. He provided Liverpool’s first goal early on with a sweetly struck shot from long-range, just to the left of Claudio Bravo. He then continued to battle for the ball, press City, intercept the ball and earned himself a very well deserved Man of the Match award. His, and the rest of the midfield’s, ‘radar-like’ positioning allowed the full backs and front three to go forward; a significant factor in the way Liverpool play. Fabinho took a while to settle in at the club and was sidelined a lot at the start of his Liverpool career, but since the second half of last season he has showed he is more than deserving of his starting place in this impressive squad.
The three together were immense, receiving plaudits from both fans and ex pros alike. Garth Crooks said in his team of the week article: “This was not a game for the stars but one for the unsung heroes. The men who do all the running, never complain and seldom get the headlines. The Hendersons, Wijnaldums and my man of the match, Fabinho.” Jamie Redknapp also likened Henderson to the man he took over Liverpool’s captaincy from, Steven Gerrard.
It’s fair to say that with fan favourites Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and James Milner, these three will have to stay at the top of their game to reserve their spaces on Klopp’s team sheet. However, with performances like that – it is fair to say they will be in Klopp’s mind for coming fixtures and will be a firm part of his season’s plans.
Photo credit: Fabinho – Kevin Walsh (under CC license)
Henderson – John Jones (under CC license)
Wijnaldum – Dom Fellowes (under CC license)