Sunday 18 August 2019

John Aldridge: 'Opening win highlighted some problems that Liverpool must address this season'

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA

John Aldridge

Liverpool were exposed defensively in their 4-1 win against Norwich on Friday night and it is an area that Jurgen Klopp needs to address quickly.

The sight of keeper Alisson Becker limping off the field with a muscle injury was another concern and while there were plenty of positives as the European champions started the Premier League season with a convincing win, some problems were also highlighted.

I give Norwich credit for having a go at Liverpool and as a newly-promoted team they showed some real ambition as they tried to test out Klopp’s defensive line and had chances to get some joy out of their approach.

So many teams take on Liverpool with fear in their hearts, stick 10 men behind the ball and try to survive, but Norwich had a different approach and I was impressed with what they brought to the table in their first game back in the Premier League.

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Liverpool's Adrian with Virgil van Dijk as he comes on as a substitute to replace Alisson in Friday's Premier League win over Norwich

Liverpool’s defence has not been right throughout the pre-season, with those flaws illuminated once again as Norwich had four very good chances to score in the first half and must have wondered how they went in at half-time 4-0 behind.

A team with better quality attacking players would have punished a Liverpool defence that doesn’t seem to have found the right balance in recent weeks, with the concern over the goalkeeper now the most pressing issue for Klopp.

After Simon Mignolet left to join Club Brugge, Adrian has been signed on a free transfer after he was released by West Ham, but the back-up keeper is not in place if anything happens to him ahead of next Wednesday’s UEFA Super Cup match against Chelsea in Istanbul.

Young Irishman Caoimhin Kelleher is a fine talent, but he has only just resumed training after a wrist problem, with the youngsters behind him in the pecking order not ready to play first-team football yet.

I don't know what would happen if Adrian got injured now, with the signing of  Andy Lonergan on a short-term deal putting a plaster on a problem Liverpool could do without.

The positives for Liverpool in the win against Norwich were in evidence at the other end of the field, with Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino looking sharp after barely having a break this summer due to their international commitments.

I felt Salah was a little selfish at times last season as he tried to score goals and shot on sight at times when it might have been better to pass to a team-mate, but he was impressive against Norwich and the same can be said of Firmino, who caught the eye with a fine display on Friday.

Mohamed Salah celebrates his goal as Liverpool enjoyed a rout of Norwich (Martin Rickett/PA)

Divock Origi also did a great job of stretching the Norwich defence in the first half and he will have a role to play this season, with Sadio Mane also looking impressive as he came on for the final 16 minutes after playing no part in pre-season due to international commitments.

When you take into account the challenges Klopp and his squad have been forced to overcome this summer, it was an impressive performance against a Norwich side that will give a few teams problems this season – and yet I do wonder whether Klopp’s men will suffer as this season goes on.

These international tournaments during the summer months need to be looked at and I can’t believe the clubs have not made demands for changes to be made to ensure there is conformity across the world on when these events are played.

Why can’t the African Cup of Nations and the Copa America tournaments be played at the same time as the European Championships, ensuring that all the players are away at the same time and their employers have a reasonable amount of time to get them ready for the new season? Is that too much to ask?

Every player wants to play for his country and I treasure all of my Ireland caps, but it seems unfair that Mane was still playing for Senegal in the middle of July and then has to come back to Liverpool and play in the Premier League a few weeks later.

There is a danger that Liverpool’s players will run out of steam at some point in this season as some of the players have not had a proper break this summer and while I am of the view that players should never get tired, modern footballers are very different and the sports scientists around them will tell them they are tired by looking at data on a computer screen.

That discussion is for another day as for now, we can confirm that Liverpool sent out a message of intent by thumping Norwich on Friday night.

Now they have to back it up by getting another trophy in the cabinet and beating Chelsea in the Super Cup match in Istanbul.

Read John Aldridge in the Sunday World every weekend.

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