Things did not go according to plan for Liverpool on Monday night visiting Swansea at Liberty Stadium. Jürgen Klopp’s men fell painfully with a close figure 1-0 result, ending their 18 game undefeated streak.
It was a flat game in general between the two sides, with neither one creating specifically much. The Reds were the dominating team in terms of possession, but did not make the most of it, barely producing any quality chances whatsoever.
Virgil Van Dijk did not have the Premier League debut for Liverpool that he had wished for, certainly not in the same calibre as his Liverpool debut in the Merseyside derby against Everton. The big Dutchman in all fairness did not have much to work with. However, individually, he delivered a solid overall performance bar his actions in the sequence leading to Swansea’s goal. Virgil was almost lucky to score yet again tonight though, having been close to head in a nice header on a corner in the first half – once again proving what a aerial threat and asset he is to Liverpool.
In Virgil’s defense, he was pretty slammed with Swansea players, but ending up heading the ball towards the penalty spot is never a good action defending a corner. The Reds number 4 was not alone to blame, though. No Liverpool player had the positioning straight to clear the 2nd ball, leaving Alfie Mawson with clear sight and unpressurized to easy put the ball past Loris Karius.
One cannot expect all of the Reds’ defensive struggles, set pieces included, to be solved with the arrival of Virgil Van Dijk, but one can certainly expect something as basic as a 2nd ball to be cleared from own penalty box while defending a corner – with or without the star defender.
The teams performance overall was close to the epitome of mediocre. Not creating much, yet not conceding many chances for the opposition either. Personally, I think Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was the stand out player before he got subbed off in the 68th minute to make room for Adam Lallana. ‘Ox’ somewhat hit the ground running from his performance against Manchester City last weekend. He was constantly on the run either pressuring the opposition or effectively driving the ball upwards the pitch, showed strength in the close combat duels and made smart and wise decisions distributing the ball while in possession.
Taking another positive matter out of the disappointing result this evening is the fact that the defense has a well working aura glowing, and delivered a solid performance. The centerback duo of Van Dijk and Matip seem to have found each other well – having nice chemistry and understand and complement each other nicely. Joe Gomez and Andy Robertson did their job good as well. The defense controlled Swansea with ease.
The biggest pointer to take from this game though is the clear need for a creative midfielder with playmaking abilities – filling the void of Philippe Coutinho. There was not anyone on the Liverpool midfield today that had the ability to break through the lines of Swansea’s parked team tonight.
This has been Liverpool’s Achilles heel this season, struggling to out manage low defending/sitting sides. Previously Philippe Coutinho was able to be the game changer in these kind of scenarios but with him across the Bay of Biscay this is a problem that will not change for the positive direction nor disappear. It will remain a main struggle for this side until a player for this role and position is added to this squad.
Something interesting, and definitely noteworthy, tonight was Matip often taking a step forward up the field. With a strong CB partner like Van Dijk, Matip is at liberty to embody his natural style of play, being able to take the offensive runs with the ball up the pitch he likes, knowing that there’s solid coverage behind him if he fails.
Klopp and his men has to re-charge the batteries for West Brom this weekend, where the obvious prediction is a image of the game similar to tonight. But with a better creativity and ball distribution than tonight against Swansea, the outcome may be radically different.
It can most definitely be anyways – because we are Liverpool, we can do anything we set our minds to.
You can find me on Twitter @maaxiangelo.