Six games and we chose the wrong one to write about. That was very dull, so is this column, and we blame Mohamed Salah.
On paper it made sense. Liverpool satisfied the Big Club focus, Mohamed Salah was on 199 goals for the Reds and there was the possibility of a ‘new manager bounce’ on Chris Wilder’s return to Bramall Lane, made slightly more probable by Liverpool failing to win any of their last four away games against newly promoted clubs.
Raul bloody Jimenez scored a brace in a 5-0 Fulham win, Brighton ensured a 15th BTTS in a row with a 2-1 win over Brentford, Manchester United and Chelsea had a right old time at Old Trafford, Aston Villa went and beat the champions, and we could have banged out 600 words on the Bournemouth resurgence under Andoni Iraola, no problem.
But here’s something on Liverpool winning through a slightly dodgy Virgil van Dijk volley and another slightly dodgy stoppage-time Dominik Szoboslai goal in a game in which very little happened besides. Sorry about this…
Sheffield United broke on a few occasions to provide some hope of a Liverpool f*ck up, but they were almost comically lacking in cutting edge in the final third. Cameron Archer is the typical Premier League ‘handful’, in that he’s a willing runner, causes defenders some strife, but ultimately disappoints. And his fellow forwards were even less convincing.
Liverpool meanwhile, didn’t appear to be trying all that hard. Some credit to the Blades, for sure, who tightened up significantly after what we speculated at the Football365 Christmas Do may just have been the worst result in Premier League history last time out. And a win’s a win of course – Liverpool didn’t need to get out of second gear, so why bother?
Alexis Mac Allister played further forward, in a role more similar to the one he thrived in at Brighton, and the spot everyone assumes he’s going to play in when Jurgen Klopp completes his midfield rebuild. When someone better than Wataru Endo arrives, that is.
The Japan international scored a lovely goal against Fulham, earning him a place from the off on Wednesday night. He didn’t play badly and at £16m could even be seen as a bit of a bargain, but as a defensive midfielder he’s no Fabinho, and despite calls for Mac Allister to play in the more attacking role, Klopp’s first instinct to use the Argentinian deeper looks to be the best option with the resources currently at his disposal.
Without him to put his foot on the ball and find forwards between the lines and behind them, Liverpool lacked any real oomph.
Those goals then – slightly dodgy, as we said. Either could have been ruled out on another day, for Van Dijk legging up a defender to give himself free reign from a corner, and for Darwin Nunez scissoring someone from behind before assisting Szoboszlai. Not definite fouls, but 50/50s that both went Liverpool’s way.
We blame Salah for the lack of a talking point. He had a few decent chances, or at least decent for him, but fluffed a couple and volleyed one straight at Wes Foderingham. We had the ‘Greatest Liverpool goalscorer ever’ piece near enough ready to go. It writes itself. It’s Sheffield United Mo, FFS, do us a favour.
The game was dull, but Klopp won’t care. Liverpool are second, and are very much in a title race that’s now wide open. That’s exciting, at least.