95 Minutes of Liverpool, Explained

Liverpool's Firmino scores

I believe that there are actually a few instances in your life where time actually slows and you suddenly experience a true moment of clarity. If you decided to become a Manchester City fan in any year that starts with a “2” before the other three digits, or you actually believe that Wayne Rooney isn’t worth more to Man U on the transfer market than he is on the pitch, or if you’ve ever suddenly thought that Messi could do anything he very well pleased on a “cold, rainy night in Stoke,” then it’s very possible that you’ve never had one of those moments. Sadly, as a fan of Liverpool, these moments of clarity occur often…yet, as is the case for everything the Anfield faithful are privy to, it rarely results in anything positive for the club.

Again, on Saturday, a wealth of mind-melding moments mixed in with a second half that would give ping-pong fans whiplash, but…the time to see if anything useful was gleaned is certainly yet to come. However, we finally feel like every single player in Liverpool red showed exactly what the world can expect of them…so, we felt it time to lift back the cover and see what is truly on the Liverpool roster.

Let’s take a look!

Simon Mignolet – If Klopp isn’t having the Belgian shot-stopper working on crosses from dusk until dawn, then the German manager must be watching something else after the whistle blows. It seems to be contagious for Liverpool keepers to make some ridiculous errors (i.e. Pepe Reina’s last few seasons), but there is definitely a reason that Liverpool offered Mignolet a new contract. LFC are banking on Mignolet switching from extreme hot/extreme cold to giving the fans more hot than cold as the keeper grows (he’s only 27). Verdict: keep him, but bring in competition ASAP.

Nathaniel Clyne – When he works himself inside and gets himself involved in 1-2’s with midfield players, he’s great. He also might have one of the better defensive minds of the wide defensive options (which is not necessarily a great thing…did you see Moreno’s play?), but he needs to beĀ in the central of the defense to truly work. If Lucas is constantly needed to bail you out, you’ve got work to do. Verdict: keep him, he’s 24 and might be your best right back.

Kolo Toure – If he isn’t your 90th minute option to sub on as an extra defender and waste some of stoppage time, then he shouldn’t be in the line-up. Verdict: replace immediately. Veteran leadership is great…veteran dead-weights are not.

Mamadou Sakho – A French international that could grow into the best central defender of the current crop. He needs someone that can pair with him that is a bit more dominant in the air (poor Sakho is not an aerial duelist), but he has the strength to succeed in the EPL. Not his best showing, but he might survive any big transfer shifts. Verdict: keep him, but bring in someone to aid Sakho and Mignolet’s aerial issues.

Alberto Moreno – He can’t defend. If Flanagan gets healthy, it’s time to sit the Spaniard. His youth and potential is the only thing that should keep him on the books. That, and the fact that a wing with Moreno, Coutinho, and an in-form striker could become one of the best attacking wings in the league. Verdict: bench him, and make him watch the penalty he conceded on a loop.

Emre Can – The future of the midfield. His youth results in some rash mistakes in tackles, but he can be one of the best for this squad going forward. If he settles, he might be one of the few members of this starting eleven still starting in 2020. Verdict: keep him (and pay him to stay), but keep someone like Lucas (in this form) next to him to cover his youthful mistakes.

Lucas Leiva – If his career seems dead ONE MORE TIME… somehow, on zero knees, the Brazilian is the most consistent performer in the Liverpool ranks. While the world worried about replacing Gerrard, it might be Lucas who leaves a massive hole in the midfield. There’s no telling how long he can keep this up, but he made more blocks on potential troubling crosses than any defender all day long. Verdict: keep him, but stop taking him for granted. Joe Allen isn’t going to fill these shoes, so start looking around the market.

Jordan Henderson – 99% heart. Hendo is a great captain in terms of his voice, his work-rate, and his passion. However, he will never be the player he took the armband from. He will be fine in the starting eleven for years, but he’ll struggle if he has to be the star man. Henderson has to be given the cover by other great players to cover all the ground that he does, and there aren’t many players in the world that can replicate the amount he does during 90 minutes. Verdict: Not necessarily the hero Liverpool wants, but the hero they need.

Jordan Ibe – He felt like he was rushed into the squad to help fill the void of the departing Sterling, but Ibe is continuing to look like one of the only speedy players in the Liverpool ranks. He currently sits on a precipice of either becoming Sterling 2.0 or Ryan Babel. Verdict: too young to toss, and worth seeing what the future holds. Not ready for 90 minutes every week.

Roberto Firmino – While not saying there’s any way he will be as great as Luis Suarez, it feels like this type of season is just like the first few flashes of Suarez for Liverpool (during the reign of King Kenny). A handful of games with no goals, but then flashes of greatness. Firmino is much better on the pitch when he can pair with Coutinho, but there’s definitely hope for one of Liverpool’s recent signings. Verdict: Keep him, but bring in someone that will make runs behind the defense so that he can show to the ball and create with flair instead of pace.

James Milner – Should have put the game to bed in the first half, but he did come out tops in his second big chance. A player that says he doesn’t want to be a sub, but a player that, if you want your club challenging for top four, needs to be a sub. Still a great snag for free, but time waits for no man. Verdict: LFC must obtain enough midfield quality to make Milner’s selection to the BENCH tough to justify. Otherwise, it’s mid-table again.

Steven Caulker – He’s defensive cover. For that purpose, it works…for now. Verdict: Let him serve his purpose, then replace him with something 3…4…5 times as good.

Christian Benteke – If he doesn’t start actually moving and find a way to either join the free-flowing attack OR succeed within the Klopp style attack, toss him. Verdict: Hustle, or get out.

Adam Lallana – If you can look me in the eye and tell me he meant to bounce it off the ground and into the net, then you are very good at convincing yourself to believe a lie. The perfect player to play most games and be a great off-the-bench spark. Never quite shown the magic he did with his old club, but this goal and some great future showing can still solidify his place with Liverpool. Verdict: Like Milner, you need more quality in the middle of the pitch to find out if he’s playing because of his talent or just playing because you’ve got nobody else.

Yes. It was breathtaking. You want to label it a great game? Go ahead. Still, after this January, there is very little doubt what LFC has on their hands. It’s now time for Klopp to start building something that isn’t stuck on celebrating the 80’s. Walk on…with hope, in your hearts.

 

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About the author: Andrew McCole

 

If I may be so bold to condense my immense personality into two words, it would be: soccer nerd. I love everything about the beautiful game and I tend to reflect that in my writing. I suffer through Liverpool fandom and hope that they will win another title before my wife spreads my ashes at Anfield (considering I'm in my twenties, it seems somewhat likely). Although I also dabble in tennis, teaching, and coaching, most of my free-time is spent writing articles for The Center Circle! Feel free to stalk me on Google+

 

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