Dave Tindall uses his latest column to marvel at Sadio Mane’s debut, but fears Alberto Moreno will continue costing Liverpool as he looks ahead of Saturday’s clash with Burnley.
If it’s going to be like this, count me in!
Arsenal 3 Liverpool 4.
What a way to start the season.
It wasn’t the result that surprised me as I’d written in last week’s column that Arsenal had a poor opening day record and were vulnerable to a confident Reds side boosted by that 4-0 friendly win over Barcelona.
But to smash four goals past them in a wild 18-minute burst was a wonderful reminder of the thrills this Liverpool side can produce under Jurgen Klopp. We like scoring four against the big boys it seems – Man City, Borussia Dortmund, Barca and now Arsenal.
There were other, more painful, reminders on show at the Emirates but I’ll come to those later.
As it’s a brand new season, let’s start with our shiny big-money signing Sadio Mane. As we didn’t see him displaying his feathers at Euro 2016, as he isn’t from an elite footballing nation and as we signed him from Southampton, there was a perception that Mane was massively overpriced at £30m.
But with his pace, power and eye for goal, he looked an excellent purchase for this Klopp project – a round peg for a round hole – and what a debut. There was lots to like in his performance but cutting in from the wing and smashing one into the top corner to make it 4-1 was a particular favourite.
Mane scored four goals against us last season so it’s nice to have him on board, wreaking havoc on others. I don’t want to make too swift a judgement but all the signs are there that we’ve landed a potential gem. “Being technically good and quick is a nice combination,” said Klopp of Mane after the game. Yep, Jurgen, you’re dead right.
Philippe Coutinho loves a goal-of-the-month contender and, after walloping in a dramatic late winner on opening day at Stoke last season, he changed the course of this match with a brilliant whipped free-kick (“I think it was my best one”) on the stroke of half-time to make it 1-1.
Liverpool were looking a bit flat before that but restoring parity before the break was the catalyst for a dramatic change of momentum. His second goal which made it 3-1 wasn’t half bad either. And how many passes did we put together before he turned in Nathaniel Clyne’s fizzed cross? I’ll tell you. 25.
Even Adam Lallana got on the scoresheet, chesting down Georginio Wijnaldum’s cross and then clipping an angled shot past Peter Cech to put us in front.
We had to wait until January for Lallana’s first Premier League goal last season and he managed just three more after that. This time I’d hope he can kick on and match or better the 10 league goals he netted in his final campaign with Southampton.
Left-back blind-spot for Klopp?
One of the most pleasing things about the 4-0 friendly win over Barca was the clean sheet, especially as they had Messi and Suarez in the starting line-up.
But the downside of Sunday was the almost exaggerated display of defensive vulnerabilities.
And we all know where any such conversation starts. Left-back.
It’s becoming a bad joke now the performances of Alberto Moreno. This was Sunday’s crime sheet: A ridiculous header into the path of Aaron Ramsey which our Spaniard retrieved in perilous fashion with one of his flying double-footed lunges. A mis-timed tackle which gave Arsenal a penalty. Being caught out of position to allow Walcott to make amends less than a minute or so later.
There were other wobbles but those were the highlights. It’s simply got to stop.
At various times down the years, Arsene Wenger has been heavily criticised for failing to get in a goalkeeper, central defender, holding midfielder or top-class striker. So is left-back Klopp’s blind spot?
The problem seems so glaringly obvious. Sure, it’s understandable that transfer targets might prove elusive but, given that likelihood, why was Brad Smith sold to Bournemouth and Jon Flanagan loaned to Burnley? I don’t get it. Playing James Milner there, as happened in pre-season, should surely be a fourth of fifth emergency option and yet he looks set to step in.
As for other mistakes, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain should never have been allowed to waltz through the defence to start the Arsenal fightback and the marking for Callum Chamber’s anxiety-increasing third wasn’t great. Should Simon Mignolet have done better for their first and second goals?
One obvious error was the over-celebrating of Mane’s fourth. True, it was a stunner and going into a 4-1 lead at Arsenal on opening day is cause for an explosion of emotion.
It wasn’t Klopp’s fault that Mane should seek him out but perhaps giving his new summer signing a piggyback wasn’t ideal.
At least the boss admitted it. “If you celebrate too early, life always gives you a knock – that’s fair,” said Klopp and those words are worth bearing in mind ahead of our next game – an away trip to Burnley.
Burnley focus for Reds
Yes, we’re on a high after the Arsenal win but let’s not get carried away.
Klopp has shown he can win the big games but there were some horrible lows against teams we were expected to roll over last season. Think Watford. Think Newcastle.
Sean Dyche will have his men pumped up, especially after their opening-day home loss to Swansea, and if Liverpool aren’t on it, there will be trouble.
However, here’s some stats I’ve come up with to put LFC fans a little more at ease. Of the 11 defeats we suffered under Klopp last season, seven of them came after we’d had just two days off after playing a previous match. We also lost after a three-day gap twice and after a four-day gap once.
On just a single occasion did Liverpool lose a game a full week on from their previous one. It makes sense. Klopp wants energy, pressing and intensity and it’s hard to do that when the games come thick and fast.
The more you think about it, not playing in Europe this season could really be a huge plus with Klopp able to pick a more settled and consistent side and get his ideas across on the training pitch during the week.
In that respect, there are no excuses for anything other than a follow-up win at Burnley on Saturday. No messing about Reds. Let’s make it six points out of six.