12 observations from Liverpool’s first 12 Premier League games of 2018/19

Liverpool are nearly a third of the way through their Premier League campaign, but what has stood out most in their opening 12 matches?


The Reds have gone into the latest international break off the back of a 2-0 win over Fulham, leaving them second in the table behind Man City.

They remain undefeated in that time, enjoying their joint-best points tally at this stage of a Premier League season.

With eight league clashes to come between now and the end of the year, this serves as a useful juncture to assess the progress Jurgen Klopp‘s side have made so far in the top flight.

Here are 12 quick observations from Liverpool’s first 12 league games of 2018/19.

 

Gomez the Star Man

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, October 7, 2018: Liverpool's Joe Gomez during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester City FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Having been an option at right-back last season, Joe Gomez has taken his chance in his stronger centre-back role and been imperious.

There are few more exciting young defenders in Europe on current form and he is forging a special partnership with Virgil van Dijk.

The 21-year-old is Liverpool’s Player of the Year so far—that performance against Wolves in the FA Cup is now a distant memory.

 

Van Dijk’s Presence Unrivalled

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, November 11, 2018: Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Fulham FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

If Gomez has been the Reds’ star man, Van Dijk is not far behind, with the Dutchman now quite comfortably their most important player.

The gigantic centre-back has given Liverpool a completely different aura since his arrival and his displays this season have been all-conquering.

An injury to him would hurt more than any other player and he holds the key to Klopp’s men mounting a serious title challenge.

Now third-choice captain, he will only rise up that pecking order.

 

Alisson’s Quiet Influence

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 29, 2018: Liverpool's goalkeeper Alisson Becker during the FA Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC at Stamford Bridge. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Alisson is yet to make a truly great save for Liverpool—but then again, he hasn’t been needed to.

The 26-year-old is a big reason for the Reds conceding just five Premier League goals, standing tall when required and distributing the ball superbly.

It is easy to suggest Alisson is not being regularly tested, downplaying his influence in the process, but Liverpool would not be where they are with Loris Karius or Simon Mignolet in goal.

Two big stops at Chelsea stand out, without which Liverpool would have lost, and 32 of his 34 saves have come with a one-goal lead, a one-goal deficit or with the match level.

 

Trent off the Boil

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, August 7, 2018: Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold hands out balls and scarves top supporters after the preseason friendly match between Liverpool FC and Torino FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Last season saw the meteoric rise of Trent Alexander-Arnold, but 2018/19 has seen a case of ‘Difficult Second Season Syndrome’ creep in.

The 20-year-old has not been consistently poor, by any means, but his displays have too often lacked quality at both ends of the pitch.

His crossing has been erratic, defensively he has been targeted and he has not enjoyed the same success as the ever-reliable Andy Robertson.

All young players suffer dips in form at such a tender age, from Robbie Fowler to Steven Gerrard, and Alexander-Arnold will come out the other side and carry on thriving.

 

Fabinho Gradually Improving

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, November 11, 2018: Liverpool's Fabio Henrique Tavares 'Fabinho' during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Fulham FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Fabinho‘s slow start at Liverpool was much-publicised, but as each game passes we are starting to see what he can contribute.

He is not yet perfect, with more influence required, but he is a physical specimen who is increasingly using the ball well and displaying his understated positional sense.

The ex-Monaco man will be an important member of the team by the time the business end of the season rolls around, with the same applying to Naby Keita, who is still adapting.

 

More Required from Mane & Firmino

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, October 7, 2018: Liverpool's Sadio Mane looks dejected after missing a chance during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester City FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

While Mohamed Salah has chipped in with eight goals and provided a growing threat in attack, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino remain short of their best.

Mane started the season well but has dropped off quite alarmingly, with his touch often heavy and his quality diminishing.

Meanwhile, Firmino has just two league goals to his name and has struggled as a No. 10, often going missing in matches.

Both are wonderful footballers who will come good, but their slump is a big reason for Liverpool failing to fire in the final third.

 

Return of Klopp’s 4-2-3-1

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, November 11, 2018: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp before the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Fulham FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Klopp begun to deviate from 4-3-3 formation that brought so much joy last year, often going with the 4-2-3-1 system that won him back-to-back Bundesliga titles with Borussia Dortmund.

While the results have continued to be positive, the tactical change-up isn’t getting the best out of Klopp’s attack.

Firmino’s aforementioned struggles in a deeper role are there for all to see and Salah is arguably more effective out wide rather than centrally.

There can be few complaints when considering the Reds’ league position, but the 4-2-3-1 isn’t as cohesive as the 4-3-3 at this stage.

 

More Pragmatic Approach

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 29, 2018: Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk (left), Joe Gomez (right) and Eden Hazard (centre) during the FA Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC at Stamford Bridge. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Something that has been most evident in the opening 12 matches is a more cautious, measured approach by Klopp.

The blood-and-guts style of play from last season has long gone, with the pressing less relentless and the general speed of play slower.

It may not be as entertaining, and it might be playing a part in the attack struggling to find top gear, but it is garnering results.

Klopp could well be preserving energy in his players, rather than going hell for leather and tiring them out by Christmas—expect the intensity to grow and more goals to flow soon.

 

Shaqiri the Best Signing

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, November 11, 2018: Liverpool's Xherdan Shaqiri celebrates scoring the second goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Fulham FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Fabinho and Keita have higher ceilings, and Alisson has settled swiftly, but Xherdan Shaqiri has been Liverpool’s best signing of the summer as things stand.

Signing the Swiss was something of a gamble from Klopp, but he has proved another shrewd purchase.

He has scored important goals against Cardiff City and Fulham, but his eye for a pass, dynamism and work rate have all stood out too.

Liverpool needed to be buying players of Shaqiri’s quality as squad options in order to improve, but the forward is threatening to become a guaranteed regular on current form.

 

No Reds Future for English Pair

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, October 7, 2018: Liverpool's unused player Nathaniel Clyne during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester City FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Klopp has built a formidable squad, but there are a few individuals who look like square pegs in round holes.

Nathaniel Clyne and Adam Lallana are two of those, with their injury problems and lack of genuine top quality likely seeing them sold next summer.

They were both good enough for Liverpool when Klopp first arrived in 2015, but the Reds have moved on while they have grown stagnant.

The same could apply to Simon Mignolet, Joel Matip, Alberto Moreno and Daniel Sturridge, even though the latter has chipped in with four goals this season.

 

Man City Skewing Perceptions

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, October 7, 2018: Manchester City's manager Pep Guardiola during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester City FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Unfortunately for Liverpool, their best team of the Premier League era is being rivalled by arguably one of the greatest sides in English football history.

City are going to take some stopping this season, but their quality and ability to rack up points should not make this Reds outfit go ignored.

They are on course for an all-time record points haul without yet being at their best, and Klopp has made unbelievable strides as manager.

Not everything should be judged on what City are doing.

 

The Title Race Is On

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, September 29, 2018: Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge celebrates scoring the equalising goal with team-mates and the supporter during the FA Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC at Stamford Bridge. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

City are understandably strong favourites to retain their crown come May, but they will be worried about this Liverpool side.

They are currently the second-best team in the country, despite Chelsea rebuilding, Tottenham remaining a threat and Arsenal given a new lease of life by Unai Emery, and only two points separate them from the leaders.

The Reds have acquired 30 points from 12 games and still have gears to find, and they can go all the way this season.

If they can stay in touch with City by the time spring arrives, anything is possible.

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