By Phil Roberts
Starting with Sunday’s win against Burnley. How pleasing was the in game management of the players for you? Not only coming from behind but also not collapsing when Burnley pulled one back late on.
Fair question as myself and others have criticised some of Jurgen’s in game management at times, but he clearly got everything right against Burnley. It was not so much that we were chasing the game or protecting a lead though. It was the lads who started the game who really got it done. After conceding early to a goal which should have been chalked off as a foul against Alisson, we were back in front within 23 minutes and then extended that lead just after the hour. The narrative before the game seemed to be that Liverpool are stuttering and City will probably pull away now, but the response showed that no such thoughts were in the minds of Jurgen Klopp or the players. Klopp opted for a more attacking line up including Adam Lallana which raised more than a few eyebrows on Merseyside, but if Lallana’s performance was anything to go by, it was a stroke of genius from the boss. It was great to see us go on and get that 4th goal after Burnley scored in extra time. We could easily have bottled it there but we turned the situation to our advantage and hit them on the counter, which was really pleasing to see.
Adam Lallana was recalled to the side, how important can he be for Liverpool between now and season end?
I’ve said for a long time that a fit Lallana is a great asset to any team. Lallana is an intelligent player who is very comfortable receiving the ball in tight areas. This forces teams to play more compact to stop the threat centrally, caused by the one-twos he likes to play from the number 10 position. In turn that allows more freedom for the likes of Salah and Mane in the wider positions. More than that Lallana can truly be trusted to play as part of a midfield three and follow Klopp’s instructions in and out of possession of the ball. There are few who work harder than Lallana and his off the ball contributions are just as important to victory as his on the ball contributions. I’m sure he can be very important in the run in, especially considering that Klopp doesn’t seem to trust Shaqiri’s off the ball understanding of the game and the fact that Keita is only showing his talents in fits and starts at the moment.
A fantastic win against Bayern Munich seen the reds move into the CL QF, how good a performance actually was that from Liverpool?
I think it was a performance that deserves plenty of credit! Don’t forget, this was a Bayern team in great form, a team who had scored 11 goals in their previous two league games, a team who’s pedigree in Europe is surpassed by very few and we played them at their place. In hindsight Liverpool swept them aside with relative ease. So you have to put the game in context but admittedly there were a few too many subpar performances in the game. The passing was loose from both teams for large spells. I don’t think it was our midfield’s finest night but the difference was made at either end of the pitch. The Liverpool defence looked comfortable for most of the game, keeping Lewandowski anonymous for large periods. At the same time Mane was anything but anonymous and his sublime skill, pace and determination was the difference between the sides. At the time of writing we are waiting on the draw for the next round to take place and I’m certain that none of the other 7 teams are hoping to draw Liverpool in the quarter finals.
Finally, Sadio Mane seems to be almost unplayable currently. Is there an argument that he has become indispensable for this Liverpool side?
For me Mane has been our best player since New Year, closely followed by Van Dijk. His contribution has been invaluable. Mane is a player who is never deterred by a missed chance or a mis-placed pass. He is relentless in his pursuit off victory and is always there to be counted upon in the big games. In 2019 we have seen Mo Salah go through spells of not being able to put the ball over the line, which could be a worry considering that Firmino is also not as prolific as he was last year. Fortunately, during this spell, Mane has stepped up and has been on fire. I’m glad to see he’s finally getting the appreciation he deserves. What’s impressive for me is that Mane has showed that he can score all kinds of goals. He can beat an offside trap, he can leap like a kangaroo and has scored more headers than a man of his height is entitled to score, he can put one in from distance and against Bayern he showed that he has got a cuteness about his finishing too! I’m made up for Mane and long may this rich goal scoring streak continue. As is the strength of our front three, should the goals dry up a little for Mane I’m sure one of the other two would step up. Although Sadio’s contribution has been invaluable so far, I don’t think the pressure is on him to keep scoring in every game.