Thursday 23 January 2020

John Aldridge: 'Liverpool do just enough to get another win - but one aspect of their run is still a mystery to me'

John Aldridge has been left puzzled by Roberto Firmino's form for Liverpool. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
John Aldridge has been left puzzled by Roberto Firmino's form for Liverpool. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

John Aldridge

LIVERPOOL lacked the authority we expect from them against Tottenham – but still found a way to tick off another game on their Premier League title drive.

We saw more mistakes from Liverpool at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium than we have seen in most of this season, with their sloppy passing and some cracks in their defence giving Jose Mourinho’s side real hope of taking something from the game until the final minutes.

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Yet champions win games when they are not at their best and that has been the story time and again for Jurgen Klopp and his remarkable team of winners this season.

On a day when Leicester lost and Liverpool’s dominant position at the top of the table was cemented further, there is a danger that complacency can set in and players start to believe the job is done in the race to end the 30-year wait for another league title.

Klopp will do all he can to guard against that, but the position Liverpool find themselves in at the top of the table is so dominant that it might be tricky not to think about what lies ahead and you could see some stray passes against Tottenham that you don’t want to see.

Sloppy is not a word you would have attached to this Liverpool side too often over the last 18 months, but some of the defensive errors that gave Spurs hope were not what you associate with a side that has won with ruthless efficiency in the last year and more.

With their noses in front, Klopp would have expected his team to control the game a little better than they did in the second half and had Son Heung-min or Giovani Lo Celso taken their big chances in the final 15 minutes of the game, who knows what might have happened.

Liverpool are a few steps ahead of their rivals in the Premier League this season and that has given this side an aura and a self-belief that has been crucial in taking them into this dominant position.

Now they have to make sure they finish off the job and get over the finishing line, with the target of finishing this campaign unbeaten in the Premier League very much in their sights with 17 games left to play.

What this Liverpool team are doing is far from normal and the results we have seen for all their title rivals this season reminds us of that.

What they did was beat a Jose Mourinho team that set out to frustrate them and try to snatch something with a fleeting moment in front of goal.

We have seen Mourinho get under the skin of Liverpool time and again down the years, but this was a night when the moments of luck he relies on did not arrive.

Those chances for Son and Lo Celso could have given Spurs a point and they will argue they might have deserved it, but they were up against an exceptional Liverpool side and we should never take what they are doing this season for granted.

When you see Leicester losing at home to a Southampton side they beat 9-0 a few weeks ago, it highlights how football teams have up and downs over the course of a season.

Well, Liverpool’s only ‘down’ in the Premier League so far was their 1-1 draw against Manchester United at Old Trafford back in October, leaving them 16 points clear at the top of the table with a game in hand.

One mystery for me this season has been the form of Roberto Firmino and his goal last night added another layer to the confusion. Firmino is still waiting for his first Premier League goal at Anfield and appears to have entirely different confidence levels in away matches.

He has popped up with some of the most significant goals in Liverpool’s season with the winners at Southampton, Chelsea and Crystal Palace, as well as scoring the goals that secured the FIFA World Club Cup last month.

Yet when I have watched him at Anfield this season, he has looked like a player horribly out of tune and struggling for confidence.

That is a bizarre position to be in for a player who is such a crucial part of this incredible team Klopp has pieced together, with his goal at Tottenham fired home with impressive authority.

He smashed that chance past Spurs keeper Paulo Gazzaniga to give Liverpool a lead against predictably defensive-minded Jose Mourinho team.

It was a finish of a striker who had full belief in his abilities and I suspect that if the same chance came his way at Anfield, he may well have fluffed his lines.

Liverpool continue to set a pace no team in world football could live with. To win 20 games and drawn one of their first 21 Premier League matches is remarkable and when you add in the winning run they went on at the back end of last season, it is a level of consistency that puts this Liverpool team in the top bracket of teams we have seen in English football.

Regular readers of my Sunday World column will know that I won’t declare Liverpool are going to win the Premier League title until the trophy is handed over to captain Jordan Henderson at Anfield in May.

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