Have Liverpool found the new Gerrard in The Ox?

Date published: Monday 15th January 2018 9:17

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Credit for the Ox
What. A. Game.

I can’t have been the only one thinking we’d missed our opportunity when we couldn’t convert a fairly dominant display into a half time lead, but the opening 25 mins of the second half were reminiscent of the 5-1 v Arsenal where we went straight for the throat and just blew them away. This was the only option; we weren’t getting anything from this game without a two-goal cushion, but in the end we just overran them, forcing errors left right and centre, and took full advantage. The closing stages we just ran out of gas, and two late concessions made things incredibly nervy, but in the end we had just done enough.

Special praise for the Ox – can someone ask Arsene if he ever played that well for Arsenal? We all knew he had pace and strength but yesterday it was married with intelligent use of the ball, disciplined defending, and a game changing goal and assist. Klopp’s singlemindedness on him in the summer (to the exclusion on the defenders we desperately needed) seemed odd, but in light of Coutinho’s departure it was the right decision. Ox won’t bring the same quality to the team that the Brazilian did but he can replace him in a different way, and I think Klopp knew that, even back then. Probably what spurred him on.

Second place in my honours list goes to Robertson – a lot’s been said about him since he replaced Moreno but he was outstanding yesterday. Finally we have a proper left back. Wijnaldum and Can were excellent and Gomez continues to be a Rolls Royce of a defender for 89 minutes a game. Firmino was understated but still the game’s best attacking player. It says something that Mane and Salah both scored in a four-goal performance and neither troubled the MotM list.

Overall, you have to be pretty happy with that despite the near-collapse. Now if Stoke could see their way to putting four past Utd we could even finish the weekend in second…


…Genuine question for the mailbox (probably best answered by neutrals).

What is a better signing?

24 year old Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Bought for £35m with a year to go on his contract.
29 year old Alexis Sanchez. Probably bought for £35m with 6 months left on his contract.

A year ago, that question would seem mad. Now I’m not so sure.
Mike, LFC, Dubai


…THAT is why we bought the Ox.

Gooners laughed when we bought him but he suits our system way more than theirs. He was immense against City!
Joe, Plastic ‘Pool fan from Cambs


…So glad this is the Sunday I decided to take my girlfriend to Disneyland and miss us putting an end to Pep’s run….

The Ox – take a bow. You’ve arrived!
Reuben (Space Mountain is the one) Jenkins


Eight conclusions
1) And breathe. What a game. If ever there was a game that deserved to be the one that ended Pep’s unbeaten streak, it was this one. It was not some defensive masterclass that stifled his team nor was it some lucky goal or penalty. Instead, it was a proper football match played by two very good teams and coached by two managers of the highest standard.

2) Has Klopp had a private word with Alex Ox after Pipo’s departure? His goal apart, his positioning and workrate for excellent. The biggest compliment I can give him is that we have not really replaced Steven Gerrard until now. AOC looked every bit of the Gerrard fan he is and scored a goal that would make his idol proud. His movement, his willingness to track ball and call for the ball were first class. And to think that six months ago Arsenal fans were mocking his transfer fee.

3) The term ‘Fab Four’ was created by the media and statistics show that we do just fine without Coutinho. In fact one of our best performances came against West Ham in a 4-4-2 with Salah and Firmino up top complimented by AOC and Mane on the wings where we counter-attacked at will. In this game however, Klopp had to play a 4-3-3 with Wijnaldum and Alex Ox serving as the vertical runners. He matched City in the middle of the park and both Wijnaldum and Alex Ox were excellent in a positional sense.

4) Joe Gomez is an excellent defender, but is prone to brain fades. His main defensive weakness seems to be the long diagonal where he frequently gets caught out. Sane’s goal and Sanchez’s at the Emirates were both directly his fault. That said, he is young and the rest of his game seems to be immaculate. .

5) Is Jurgen Klopp a genius or are his tactics just suited to this type of game? I watched the Man City-Spurs game a couple of weeks back and was enthralled by the pressing of both sides. Ederson constantly playing his way out of Spurs’ press while his opposite number Lloris struggled was a major factor in deciding that game. But Jurgen is the master of the press. A man whose fundamental tactic is to create traps that would allow turnovers at the most dangerous areas of the pitch. At one point in the first half, there were six Man City players within 30 yards of Ederson and all the Liverpool attackers barring Can followed them. It was a delight to watch.

6) And so on to Bobby Firmino. Our talisman. Our fulcrum. Our leader on the pitch. If he is found guilty of racist abuse, he has to face the consequences but till then he will remain our most important player. Even with Coutinho around, he was always our most important player. Everything good about Liverpool’s attack revolves around him and he always has the habit of scoring important goals. He’s a classier version of Dirk Kuyt.

7) I understand Coutinho’s reasons to want to leave. He was offered a chance to play with better players with a better chance of winning trophies. And in all possibility, he will likely raise his game a notch just by being in the same environment as Iniesta, Busquets and Messi. But with Emre Can, I just do not get it. He has been playing his best football under a man who knows how to get the best out of his players. While his impending move to Juventus may end up with extra trophies, I doubt there will be the same level of improvement Jurgen has got out oh him.

8) I end with a note on Liverpool’s potential January transfer targets. The feeling is that Klopp always knew about Pipo’s departure and planned on replacing him internally with AOC and Woodburn. That said, I would not be surprised if Jurgen broke the bank again on his number one transfer target, Thomas Lemar.
Sid, LFC


Sweaty bollocks time
The only thing I can say for myself having watched that game is I f**king stink and am going to take a shower after I write this. I’m not even a sweaty person but my balls had the texture of jelly by the end of that game.

There are criticisms which can be levelled at certain players in the Liverpool team but Firmino is not one of them. He’s so damn good I’m tempted to send him some money because whatever he earns, it’s not enough when you have that goal and that performance in your locker.

Once we went 3-1 up City looked completely broken. If we were a bit more inch perfect then we would’ve scored another two in that period before Salah got the fourth. They were a drunk boxer taking hits with their guard completely down.

Sterling hasn’t had a good game at Anfield since he left us. I’m a big fan of his but hope this continues forever.

Robertson has nailed down the left-back spot. He was excellent today. So too was Wijnaldum. The centre of the pitch today was a pressure cooker and the way he handled himself and coped was just exceptional. Every other player got pressed and harried off the ball at least once today but I don’t recall it happening to him.

If United don’t win tomorrow then the battle for the top four looks completely mental.
Minty, LFC


Liverpool need a new DM
Much has already been written about Liverpool’s defensive problems and the need for a new CB (partially already addressed by the signing of Van Dijk) and the need for a new goalkeeper. But as the last ten minutes of the City game last night showed, signing a defensive midfielder is equally, if not more, important. The Liverpool midfield needs a strong and calm leader that can marshal the back four, break down the opponent’s attack and absorb some of the pressure in the dying minutes while the team is trying to defend a lead. The absence of such a figure has lead to capitulations at Arsenal and Sevilla, and an unnecessary nervous finish to the City game. (Milner was obviously not the answer last night!).

Liverpool have sorely missed a good DM ever since Mascherano left. Lucas was a decent enough option but injuries curtailed his impact and neither Gerrard nor Henderson were able to fill that role consistently. Even Can, while capable of producing some great performances in that role, as he did against City yesterday, is far more effective as a box-to-box midfielder.

With Van Dijk already in the team and Gomez and Matip as very decent partners for him, a better goalkeeper and a DM would be the perfect complements for Liverpool’s attack.
Aryaman, New Delhi, LFC


Oh Mane Oh Mane
Mané’s goal today was probably the best finish I’ve ever seen from someone using their wrong foot.

Appreciate de Bruyne has scored some stonkers on his left foot but Mané’s was absurd. It was ludicrously powerful and exceptionally precise.

Any other takers?
Nick Glover, Scouser in Brum


We need to talk about Milner
What a game. The players and the fans put up a grand spectacle.

This was an absolute beast of a performance from Liverpool. For 75 minutes. They harried, they pressed and City opened up. Wijnaldum, Can and The Ox were great in midfield, the attack did what they’ve been doing all season long and Robertson entered club folklore with that press. A lot of people will talk about Karius but he did a lot of good things (claiming crosses, being assertive, catching the ball) that Mignolet does not probably understand. Even for Sane’s goal, he anticipated a cross and shuffled his position. Credit to Sane for spotting that and exploiting the gap.

But it’s impossible to press a team like City like that for 90 minutes and you could see the players were knackered by the 80th minute. Can came off and Milner came on.

And then Milner did what he does now. He lunges into a challenge, gets the man (giving away a foul) or the player skips past him leaving the defence exposed. He was atrocious and definitely contributed to the last two City goals. Milner cannot be an option to close a game out. It does not work. It creates an imbalance in the team. He gives away needless fouls and is tactically so ill-disciplined these days which is ridiculously surprising given his experience. Thanks for being a great LB last season James but we really need to move on now.

With Keita arriving in the summer, if Liverpool can get the next window right, They will be right up there.

Extremely important to beat Swansea next week and build on this result. Liverpool really need to break the habit of winning a game like this and not getting a result in the next one.
MV, India (Thanks Jurgen for the wonderful Birthday Present!)


We need to talk about Joe Gomez
At the start of the season, Gomez looked like an absolute gem. Calm in possesion, composed and a great tackler. Certainly not a full time full back, but we all as a his future as a centre back (much as it pains me to agree with Known, he’d probably start calling him ‘The Barricade’ or some guff). Sadly recently he’s been making errors, today at fault during Sane’s goal, at Arsenal as well to name just two. I made excuses for him, but thinking about it he doesn’t really need them, he just needs a rest. He’s been out for two years and this is his first real run in the side, but he needs to be rotated along with Trent. Jurgen if you’re reading this, please don’t do a Wenger, don’t overplay him, give him the break he clearly needs now.

Sam, LFC (how could this site only rate Robertson a 6? Arguably MOTM) North Yorks


What about Sturridge?
While Liverpool are celebrating their fantastic victory, brought about by a simply irresistible forward line in Mane, Firmino, Salah – I couldn’t help but reminisce about their erstwhile celebrated attack – the SAS, and where their members were now. Sterling’s a player re-born at Citeh. Suarez is amongst the very best at Barcelona. There’s another member that I can’t think of at the moment. Does he even play football anymore. Perhaps, Liverpool’s thumping victory in his absence will/should force him to go elsewhere and realize his potential.
Deepak Bhaskar


Karius over Mignolet
Putting in a thought for those blaming Karius for the Man City goal.

He is a much more proactive keeper than Mignolet, dominated his penalty box by coming out of his line early to claim crosses and early balls. Something that Mignolet doesn’t do much.

For the Man City goal, his body position was anticipating a cross by Sane and getting ready to come and claim it, and for Sane to get in a shot and to beat him at his near post, I will credit Sane for noticing that space at the near post and executing such a powerful shot, rather than to fault Karius entirely.

I wouldn’t worry that much. Karius seems a much safer pair of hands (based on yesterday’s game). Need to give him a run of games, and a chance to establish himself as our Number 1.

7/10 for him.
Ian (Let’s aim for the 2nd spot now). Malaysia


Unami and other thoughts
– We had this great umami discussion a while back while having boys weekend. The crux of the conversation was if umami exists or not in food. I was vehemently arguing that it is nonsense invented by sushi passionistas trying to justify high prices of fish and rice. After seeing Harry Kane score yet another two goals I realized how wrong I have been. There is umami, even in football and Harry Kane has joined the holy trinity of umami footballers with Thomas Muller and the old lemon-face, Filippo Inzaghi. These players possess the uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time yet it is sometimes hard to pinpoint what is it exactly that makes them so effective.

– Talking of Tottenham, Son was easily the best player of the match and doesn’t seem to get the attention Kane, Alli and even Eriksen gets. And with the joy that reminds me of Ronaldinho – football is supposed to be fun and Son embodies that.

– Everton are static. There is no movement and no spark. Felt like they could have played several hours without creating a single scoring opportunity from open play, just dreadful. I don’t think Rooney is the problem (he is quite creative) but having both Rooney and Sigurdsson is. Play one of them, Rooney doesn’t have the stamina for 90 minutes anyway.

– Coutin-who? Ok, I Hate these sort of things (Moaninho, Fraudiola etc.) but as others have pointed out, maybe Coutinho isn’t that important after all. Lallana was superb before his long injury and when Winajldum and Can play like they did yesterday, Liverpool should be OK.

– Although I hope City will win the league which still seems very likely, I was glad that if they lose, they lose to Liverpool. Hats off to Klopp for making exceptionally entertaining side. Never want to miss their games and with a new goalkeeper who knows, maybe they can win the league next season?

– Talking of City, Silva was missed and hopefully he will be back soon. As Guardiola said, there are more important things than football and as a proud father of a two-month-old daughter, I wish all the best for the Spanish magician and his family.

– Aguero is not an ideal choice for these types of games. When you need to break the bus, he is ideal but when you need an attacker that presses high in tight away matches, he disappears. I still hope though that City don’t sign Alexis Sanchez, never liked his attitude. Instead, City should sign Wilshere. Toure is too old and Gundongan is injury prone. Wilshere would fit perfectly to City’s style. And being injury prone wouldn’t be that big issues since he wouldn’t be first choice anyway.
Matti Katara, Helsinki


Wilshere for City again
Ynexpected move in summer 2018?

Jack Wilshere leaves the North London Immigrants and signs for Manchester City on a free.

After watching him play against Bournemouth, Wilshere’s currently the third best player on their books, and the best two are likely leaving before the the Russia 2018 World Cup is over.

Alexis Sanchez is almost certainly off in January and Özil would be stupid to stay, meaning that with no transfer fee in play, and David Silva somehow being SIX years older than Wilshere, i think it makes a lot of sense to see Wilshere head north and play the prime years of his career for Guardiola.

Also, does anyone else feel sorry for Lacazette, who seems to be going through a very public realisation that the ship is taking on more water than it can handle.
Lloyd Stiles, THFC, Vienna


Please tell me this is peak Arsenal. Congratulations Bournemouth you thoroughly outplayed us.

Watch Arsene come 8th and win the Europa and this Champions League football. Actually, that would be peak Arsenal.
Rob A (even the Ox played well…) AFC


Wenger out…now
How much more humiliation is this once proud but now pathetic football club going to pour on its loyal and overcharged supporters. Contract or no contract the manager must go NOW. Just one example of his gross incompetence is his handling of players at different levels. The contracts of the two world-class players on the books are allowed to run down to six months causing uncertainty, conflict, disruption, and considerable financial loss. How can this happen in an organisation which traditionally was respected and admired throughout the football world.?

Then look at the purchases of young talented players with enormous potential from other clubs e.g. Walcott and Oxlade Chamberlain whose careers have regressed during their time at Arsenal. Thank goodness the potential of the latter is now being realised at a proper club with a proper manager. Now look at young talented players who have come through the ranks e,g. Bellerin and Iwobi who both appeared on the scene showing considerable promise but their performances have also regressed significantly.

I fear for the careers of the very talented youngsters now coming through. Players like Maitland-Niles, Nelson and others, will their promising careers be ruined by staying at this mess of a club?

I have been watching Arsenal since the 1950s and it really hurts to have to talk publicly about our club in these terms but the decline must be halted before it is irredeemable.
Macca, Herts


Peter G’s weekend thoughts
* It figured that Alan Pardew’s first win with a Tony Pulis squad would come in Tony Pulis fashion: 44.1% possession, 23.1% long balls (the exact same as Middlesbrough this weekend), two goals on headers from set-pieces. As for Brighton, when Pascal Gross has an off day, they have very little attack to speak of, and a new striker won’t change that much.

* Burnley are slipping for two reasons: 1) the xG odds are catching up with them; 2) Nick Pope, who was brilliant in the first part of the season, has come back to earth.

* Best moment of the weekend was Bournemouth scoring the equaliser against Arsenal and not stopping to celebrate, but running back to the centre circle. They knew they could win.

* I bet I wasn’t the only person who thought Liverpool were actually going to concede the equaliser in the dying seconds.
Peter G, Pennsylvania, USA (can’t come up with clever a ‘Hand Of’ name for the Doucouré goal)

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