Liverpool were held to a 0-0 draw at Anfield by Manchester United and The Hard Tackle discusses some key talking points from a game that certainly didn’t live up to it’s billing.
Liverpool and Manchester United settled for a first goal-less draw in 49 games as the two teams were forced to share the spoils on a night that offered little to live in the memory of those who witnessed it. Through the course of the international break, the hype was immense going into the clash between two of English football’s most decorated clubs, but sadly the buzz ended there.
In a game that had little (none in-fact) to offer in-terms of goals or even goal-mouth action, a draw seemed the fair result in what turned out to be a game of two halves. While Manchester United were the dominant outfit in the 1st half, it was Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool that had the majority of the say in the 2nd. However, neither side managed to grind out a result owing to a lack of opportunities and an inability to bury the limited chances that came their way.
Tonight’s performance would have done little to help Daniel Sturridge stake a claim for a first team place in the future. The England international has come under the microscope in recent weeks owing to his lack of impact when on the pitch, prompting many to debate the 27-year-old’s future at Anfield.
Daniel Sturridge’s game by numbers vs. Man Utd:
1 touch inside the box (Lallana – 2 in 1st 5 mins)
0 chances created
0 shots pic.twitter.com/ecffGsBtFP
— Empire of the Kop (@empireofthekop) October 17, 2016
There is little the striker can do to justify his poor show on the night but it would be harsh to ignore the nature of the game and Liverpool’s poor first half. In a game where the strikers had little to do, it was important that they tracked back and got involved in the build-up play more often, which is precisely what the Liverpool forward and his Manchester United counter-part, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, failed to do on the night.
There have been rumours in recent weeks linking him with an exit in the near future and performances like that of Monday night only add to the speculation. Sturridge is due his big performance and he’ll hope he gets the chance to do exactly that next week when the Reds welcome West Bromwich Albion to Anfield.
The midfielder who was initially ruled out for the game along with Dutchman Giorginio Wijnaldum due to a groin injury, came on as substitute in the 59th minute and immediately showed what Liverpool were missing for over an hour’s play against United. Lallana has quickly transpired into an engine of sorts in the heart of Liverpool’s midfield this season and on Monday night he helped the Reds create a lot more chances than they did prior to his arrival.
Emre Can early on in the game struggled to keep pace and showed the Reds’ faithful how crucial Lallana has been in implementing and maintaining Klopp’s high-intensity football through the 90 minutes week-in and week-out. Although many felt that the 28-year-old should have started, rushing him into the starting XI after his groin injury could have proved to be costly. Now with a week to go for West Brom’s visit, Lallana will have enough time on his hands to return to full fitness and subsequently into the starting line-up.
Does Klopp need to identify an antidote to Mourinho’s ‘style’ of football?
After Burnley, Manchester United were the second team that managed to stay compact, sit back and absorb Liverpool’s attacks while occasionally surging ahead on the counter. The Red Devils didn’t play that way throughout the game, as they started out the more attacking side trying to forge a few chances and hurt the Reds early on. But the second half witnessed a more resilient United side that threw bodies on the line to ensure Liverpool don’t get too many runs into the final third.
With all the teams in the league aware of Klopp’s style of football, there are going to be more teams that follow the Mourinho model and decide to sit back and attack on the counter in the future. Granted, hard work is optimal to determining the success of the German’s system, but what alternative does he have when teams manage to nullify his high-pressing style of football?
Liverpool could probably resort to long-ball tactics in such encounters but they need the bodies to compete in the air as well if such moves are to be successful. Or a possession style of football that lays emphasis on passing efficiency and build-up play littered with quick little interchanges between players, is something that could help break-down a solid defence.
Liverpool will have to either establish consistency in their high-pressing style of play, because they are yet to do that, or they have to adopt varying strategies for different kinds of teams. There is the constant talk of the ability of players to maintain the high intensity football throughout the course of an entire English footballing season emerges and for good reason too. The lack of a winter break means players could be more susceptible to fatigue, hamstring injuries, etc due to the high volume of fixtures that come their way.
Jury out on Loris Karius
Loris Karius is yet to impress the majority of the Liverpool faithful as he stumbled through another nervy 90 minutes of action in goal for the Reds. While he wasn’t tested as much as his United counterpart David De Gea, the German wasn’t confident in dealing with situations either. Karius’s distribution and indecisiveness were reminiscent of that of Simon Mignolet, the man he was brought in to replace.
The German may be still young and it’d be fair to say that such games are part of his growth as a player and his development is imminent. But it’s the parts of the game one thought would be natural to him which disappoint the most. His passing with the ball at his feet was a worry, most noticeably when he passed straight to Paul Pogba 18 yards out when Dejan Lovren was his target.
That said, there is a lot for Karius to improve on and he will need to get working on his abilities if he is to match up to the standards he set at the Bundesliga last season.