Monday 16 September 2019

John Aldridge: 'The first month of the season has gone like a dream for Liverpool'

Liverpool went ahead when Trent Alexander-Arnold’s cross deflected in off Chris Wood (Anthony Devlin/PA)
Liverpool went ahead when Trent Alexander-Arnold’s cross deflected in off Chris Wood (Anthony Devlin/PA)

John Aldridge

If you want a reason why Liverpool are already seven points ahead of Manchester United this morning, Liverpool’s second goal against Burnley at Turf Moor last night was one heck of a piece of evidence.

From the moment Burnley’s Ben Mee gave the ball away, Liverpool were on their bike and 'goal' was written all over the charge forward.

Roberto Firmino carried the ball on and released Sadio Mane at just the right time. And Mane was never going to miss that one-on-one with the goalkeeper.

Liverpool’s striking unit is firmly in the groove now, even though we are just a few weeks into the season. Yet tha tis exactly what Manchester

United cannot do week after week – score when gifted a chance by the opposition.

It tells you that Liverpool are miles ahead of Manchester United in their cycle of development. United are struggling to put their game together, to get their big names to gel into a force that plays to a certain level every match.

Liverpool are doing just that. They are trying to get that much sought-after Premier League crown to add to the fact that they are European champions – and you can see the confidence from that status surging through their veins.

Their attacking class is there to be seen, with their forward trio of Firmino, Mane and Mo Salah all in top form and looking like scoring whenever the ball is at their feet in the opposition penalty area.

Mee's part in Liverpool’s second goal will add fuel to the ongoing debate about defenders carrying the ball out from their own back line. England found out last summer at the UEFA Nations League finals how costly a tactic it can be when it goes wrong.

When you do that you are always at risk of just one pass going badly astray, as happened last night – that's all it takes.

I didn't expect Burnley to play like that. I thought they would get the ball out to their full-backs and push it forward form there.

But no, they seemed to want to carry the ball out and it backfired massively.

Fair dues to Burnley who had a go at times in the game. Their strategy was obvious from early on, they wanted to force as many corners and free-kicks as they could.

Manager Sean Dyche clearly saw that as the way his team could have the best chance of getting a goal without exposing themselves to Liverpool’s rapid counter-attacking. 

And then they gave the ball away cheaply and undid all of that planning!

It cannot be denied that there was a serious element of good fortune about the first Liverpool goal.

Trent Alexander-Arnold was trying to drop the ball onto a Liverpool forehead at the back post, he wasn't trying to score a ridiculous goal from where he was.

But sometimes you need a bit of luck in an away game like last night's – one that can turn into a real battle if you don’t break the opponents will early on.

And that freakish ball from the fullback which deflected off Chris Wood for an own goal was the moment that opened the floodgates.

Having gone two goals ahead in the first half, Liverpool then simply played out time, limiting Burnley to long range shots.

The home team never really got close enough to Adrian's goal to cause the travelling Kop many worries.

And they were put completely at ease in the 80th minute as Roberto Firmino added the grace note of a third goal in the second half and yet another Premier League win had been secured.

It is some time to be a Liverpool supporter, but it was not always so. Three years ago, Liverpool went to play Burnley in the Premier League, also in August, and lost 2-0.

Burnley were deserving winners that day, as two Liverpool howlers at the back helped the home team on their merry way.

The difference between the Liverpool of 2016 and now is as clear as that between night and day. Liverpool have moved on massively.

Though quite a few of the same players are around today, this Liverpool team is now playing with an organisation and class that is way beyond what was there in 2016 as the team were locked in a struggle for traction and confidence.

The current Liverpool side has all the hallmarks of a purring top-notch car that glides along whenever it is wheeled out of the garage.

Now they stop for the international break. But when the action resumes, with a game against Newcastle, it will quickly be followed by a return to Champions League action.

Liverpool’s group draw last Thursday of Napoli, Salzburg and Genk was another boost for Jurgen Klopp this season. No-one at Anfield can have any complaints about what they got.

Teams such as Real Madrid, Ajax and Inter Milan were waiting for us, but were drawn elsewhere. If Liverpool don’t get out of the group they have got, and safely into the round of 16 next spring, well frankly they will have only themselves to blame.

The first month of the season has gone like a dream for Liverpool.

Things are looking good if you are a Scouser.

Online Editors

The Throw-In: Selection dilemma for Dublin and All-Ireland ladies football final preview

In association with Bord Gáis Energy

Also in Sport