Five things we learned: Klopp is getting there - but he still has a way to go
Published 31/12/2015 | 02:30
Liverpool are not far off. This is a phrase heard more than once since Jurgen Klopp succeeded Brendan Rodgers, and after stunning away victories at Chelsea and Manchester City, it was possible to believe.
But since that devastating demonstration of attacking at City in November, Liverpool have lost at Newcastle and Watford. This was not a must-win game but Klopp needed his players to show control and aggression rather than the beautiful game. Klopp got some of what he requested.
Liverpool went level on points with Manchester United last night. That might be considered a definition of quite far off.
How Liverpool are missing Suarez and his many goals
Soon after Christian Benteke made it 1-0 the news came through that Luis Suarez had scored his 50th goal for Barcelona. In 68 games.
Suarez helped Liverpool to finish second two seasons ago. Some of the Suarez money has gone on Benteke and he did a bit last night. Then again, Liverpool won here 1-0 last season and Lazar Markovic was the scorer. A lot of the Suarez money went on him too.
Big sam still talks the talk when it comes to tactics
Sam Allardyce has bemoaned the use of language in English football before - remember "Allardici"? - and here he asked for his players to revert to the basics. "We need to be more active out of possession," he said. This amounts to closing down opponents, which in another language becomes "gegenpressing". This then becomes "a philosophy".
Essentially this is running down the man with the ball - and his nearest options - with energy. Simply by doing this when he came on for the injured (again) Jack Rodwell, substitute Duncan Watmore had the home fans on their feet. It doesn't seem too much to ask. Ian Rush did it.
. . . and his defenders are developing good memories
Sunderland defenders can remember what Allardyce has told them. In the previous two matches, at Chelsea and Manchester City, Sunderland conceded five goals in the first 22 minutes. In the last home match, Watford's Odion Ighalo scored after four minutes.
Even when Dick Advocaat was in charge: on the season's opening day Sunderland were 3-0 down at Leicester in 25 minutes.
Last night, they reached minute 25 with a clean sheet - when Vito Mannone tipped a Roberto Firmino drive onto a post. Still, 0-0 at half-time will have delighted Allardyce. Then the second half started.
Sunderland need to find more passion against Villa
This was tame given what was at stake. It will have to be more visceral on Saturday. Then the visitors will be Aston Villa and presumably Sunderland will not try to slow things down as they did last night - before Benteke scored.
Allardyce said he would take two draws from the two home games, while Rémi Garde has specified the need for 10 Villa victories. But time is running out. Leicester had 13 points at halfway last season. Sunderland have escaped before, but it looks beyond this side. (© Independent News Service)