It could have been tricky. It wasn’t. Liverpool got back to winning ways to end January on a good note. An away trip to Huddersfield Town is a potential banana skin but it was all too easy for the Reds. The home side poised little threat going forward and had Jürgen Klopp‘s men been sharper in front of goal it could have been much worse.
Emre Can fired the away side head with a well drilled effort from just outside the penalty area. Roberto Firmino doubled the lead in the first half with an audacious goal which made Huddersfield ‘keeper Jonas Lössl, an impressive performer all season, look foolish.
Can earned his side a penalty late on in the second half. There was a flashback to the 2014/15 season as Mohamed Salah and James Milner had a debate over who would take the spot kick just as Mario Balotelli and Jordan Henderson did under Brendan Rodgers against Besiktas. Salah was given the nod and fired home his 19th Premier League goal of the season.
The three points means Liverpool are now joint third with Chelsea having played a game more and it opens up a five point lead over Tottenham Hotspur who play Manchester United tomorrow. It’s a good position to be in.
Here are the talking points from the game.
Can found his groove
After being a contender for Man of the Match against Manchester City, Can’s form tailed off in the following two matches. Against Swansea City in the 1-0 defeat he was safe in possession, probably a little too safe, while against West Bromwich Albion he let the away side run through the Liverpool midfield far too often.
The tide had once again turned. People began questioning his commitment to the club with rumours suggesting he was on his way to Juventus in the summer. Many fans wanted him removed from the starting XI but Klopp stuck with his compatriot and instead dropped Gini Wijnaldum for the trip to Huddersfield. It was an inspired decision.
Can, being deployed in more of a box-to-box role, was at his marauding best as he drove the away side forward on a regular basis. No player on the pitch completed more dribbles than the 24-year-old powerhouse in the first half (2). His goal was fortunate, having taken a deflection, but it was a well hit shot and it got the Reds off to a good start.
He took a tumble in the area to win the penalty in the second half to round off a good performance. BT Sport named him as the Man of the Match.
Yes, he’s inconsistent, but on his day he’s one of the better midfielder in the Liverpool squad. If he does leave for nothing in the summer It won’t be as easy to replace him as people think.
Andrew Robertson is a key cog in Klopp’s system
The former Hull City left-back had a tough start to life at Liverpool. He wasn’t familiar with the system and needed more time with on the training pitch with Klopp. Now he’s had it he’s quickly become a key cog in the system.
The full-backs for Liverpool play tweaked roles. On the right, Joe Gomez tucks inside to make it almost like a back three. He impacts the game in central areas and doesn’t look to stretch the opposition.
On the left, however, you see Robertson is used as a winger who has been instructed to keep the width and create space in central areas.You see this really well in the graphic above, courtesy of whoscored.com. The 23-year0old Glaswegian is almost glued to the touchline with very few touches in the middle of the pitch.
The fact he’s willing to stick to his task means the opposition have to either close him down, and this opens up space in the defence, or allow him to put some dangerous deliveries into the penalty area.
What shouldn’t be overlooked is just how quickly he’s adapted. For Hull last season he averaged 37 passes and he was used as an underlapping full-back. This time around he’s an out and out left-back and he’s averaging 70 passes per 90 minutes.
Sadio Mané remains on the peripheral
The Senegalese speedster hasn’t been able to replicate the form he showed last season. His touch looks off at times and he’s not as destructive. He’s had injury problems and the suspension after the red card against Manchester City didn’t help him find his rhythm.
Yet, despite it appearing as though he’s off the pace he’s still been involved in 15 goals this season. He’s actually involved in a goal every 106 minutes this term. It might not seem like it but in his last 12 starts he’s scored five goals and has assisted a further three.
Tonight he initially looked sluggish but he managed to assist Firmino with a genius flick and could’ve finished with a double after missing two headers. He’s productive even when he isn’t at his best. That in itself is a skill, an underrated one at that.
It’s a hard one to work out. But Klopp won’t mind so long as Mané continues to have an influence in the goals for column.
Firmino is stepping up
At the start of the season, Liverpool fans questioned whether Klopp made the right move not bringing in a more natural striker. The Reds had a reported £200million to spend and the likes of Alexandre Lacazette and Àlvaro Morata were up for grabs.
Klopp backed Firmino and gave him the No.9 jersey. Mohamed Salah blitzed the league early on and stole all of the headlines but the Brazilian has been going about his business. It’s perhaps going under the radar, but he’s arguably the most well rounded forward in Europe right now.
Including his outrageous strike tonight he’s been involved in 29 goals this season. We’re still only in January. He’s well on course to be involved in close to 40. Not bad for a forward who isn’t prolific. He’s scored more than Morata and Lacazette in the Premier League.