The Hard Tackle takes a look at the talking points from Liverpool’s point of view as the Reds earned a narrow 1-0 win over Manchester City.
Liverpool came into the game looking for a win to peg Chelsea back to within six points. Summer signing Georginio Wijnaldum gave the Reds an early lead, heading the ball into the net with aplomb after an Adam Lallana cross found him perfectly.
The win sees Liverpool maintain the six-point gap from table-toppers Chelsea.
The Hard Tackle discusses some of the talking points from the fixture from Liverpool’s point of view.
Liverpool were criticised for signing Georginio Wijnaldum from Newcastle in a big money move. Critics claimed it was a transfer for which the Reds overpaid. But with the player featuring in 18 of the 19 Premier League matches for Liverpool, the midfielder has proved his doubters wrong.
Jurgen Klopp seems to have handed him a very key role in the first-team setup and despite the player’s conservative return of 1 goal and 2 assists, he has been at the heart of every Liverpool victory. The player added another goal to his tally on Saturday night, a goal that may prove to be priceless, come May.
Georginio Wijnaldum has scored 13 Premier League goals since arriving in England; all 13 have come in home games.
Great goal that one! pic.twitter.com/ET0AUXWAYL
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 31, 2016
The player seems to love playing in front of the home crowd and the midfielder, whose performances have flown under the radar to an extent, turned out to be the difference against an opposition as formidable as Manchester City.
Wijnaldum seems to have the backing of his manager, who seems to trust him and the former Newcastle man seems a perfect fit to the Klopp ideology.
Simon Mignolet was dropped in favour of summer signing Loris Karius by Jurgen Klopp after the 2-1 loss to Chelsea in mid-September. But unconvincing performances from Karius forced Klopp to reinstate Mignolet and the Belgian hasn’t looked back since.
With 3 shutouts in 4 games and only 1 solitary goal conceded, Mignolet has shown the whole footballing fraternity that he is not some average custodian and that he commands more respect than what he has received in recent times.
Successful first-half take-ons:
— Tom Williams (@tomwfootball) December 31, 2016
In fact, such has been the level of display by Mignolet that, when the two sides went into half-time on Saturday night, Simon Mignolet had more successful take-ons than some of the world-class attackers on display.
Mignolet, what a man.https://t.co/OmzHMxWiaJ
— LFC Fans Corner (@LFCFansCorner) December 31, 2016
He produced a moment of chanced magic when he beat Aguero en route to completing his successful take-on. Liverpool fans would be hoping the Belgian builds on his recent displays and his form could just be the difference between a title challenge and a title triumph for the Reds this season.
Anfield the Fortress
One of the features of all the iconic Liverpool sides in the history of the club has been their dominance at home, something which has been largely amiss in the Premier League era. But Jurgen Klopp seems to have brought along a change that the Kop army should be loving.
— Virgin Media (@virginmedia) December 31, 2016
Liverpool have now gone 17 games unbeaten at home and Anfield finally looks like an impenetrable fortress. And the 17 results include 11 wins in it, a run that has seen Liverpool keep pace with the marauding Chelsea, who are on a club-record 13 games winning streak.
A brilliant home record has been the highlight of almost every title-winning Premier League side and Liverpool’s home record suggests they are taking strides in the right direction.
Klopp earns a tactical victory over Guardiola
While the Saturday night fixture failed to give us multiple magical moments, the result had multiple narratives. One of which was the tactical masterclass that Jurgen Klopp produced to upstage Pep Guardiola. A minor change in personnel, with Emre Can coming for Divock Origi, facilitated the central part of the plan.
The German pushed Adam Lallana up towards the left-wing while deploying Roberto Firmino in a false nine role. While these can be seen as minor changes, it had major effects. Adam Lallana’s lack of pace means he could have struggled to have much of an impact on the wings.
But against an aged wide defence, the plot worked out perfectly. Adam Lallana found the space at almost every instance while Roberto Firmino could run rings around the somewhat unorthodox and flat-footed central defensive pairing.
And it was the duo that facilitated the goal and the winner for Liverpool. Roberto Firmino found Adam Lallana with a beautiful 30-yard pass, who put in a perfectly weighted cross in the box for seemingly no-one, as Liverpool had no player in the box at that time.
But Lallana has been on fire this season and his vision found the marauding Wijnaldum perfectly who scored with a brilliant header. While the changes were risky, they worked and proved once again that Klopp does not lack the tactical mind and is more than willing to use it against an opponent as esteemed as Pep Guardiola.
Joel Matip has been undeniably one of the best signings of the season in the entirety of the Premier League. But in his absence, it is his fellow Bundesliga import Ragnar Klavan that has gone about his business with aplomb.
He’s a giant of a man
In the middle with Dejan
Try go past him if you can
— Andy Heaton (@Andrew_Heaton) December 31, 2016
The Estonian has been a rock at the back and has earned plaudits for the way he has defended with assurance against the likes of Sergio Aguero and Romelu Lukaku. The player cost Liverpool a bit under £5 million but is starting to show signs that, even at the age of 31, he is a bargain.