Liverpool progressed past the first hurdle in the League Cup for the first time since 2016, thanks to a combination of youth and experience.
MK Dons 0-2 Liverpool
League Cup Third Round, Stadium MK
September 25, 2019
Goals: Milner 41’, Hoever 69’
The Milner machine
The captain for the night was heavily involved in the game, deputising for Andy Robertson at left-back.
He created a great chance for Harvey Elliott early on which should have resulted in the first goal, but then put a header wide when Elliott returned the favour shortly after.
He eventually opened the scoring when Stuart Moore failed to hold his well-hit shot from outside the area.
The Yorkshireman was able to control the game down the left, finishing the game with a 93 percent pass success, three key passes, and 13/13 long passes completed having made 151 touches
Milner was good at the back too, making a couple of important defensive contributions in the second half, coming inside to help the centre-backs blocking shots and putting off opposition forwards.
He rounded off his performance with a great cross which saw his fellow full-back, Ki-Jana Hoever, head in the second.
Keeping the style
From Caoimhín Kelleher at the back, to Rhian Brewster up front, it was intriguing to see how much this team would still look like Liverpool.
It was a familiar 4-3-3 formation, but the players used in the system altered its appearance slightly.
The average positions show how attacking Milner was, and the attacking intent of the more advanced midfielders. Midfielder Naby Keita and left-winger Curtis Jones finished the game with the same average position.
This naturally affected the style, but Elliott was very much one of the positives for Liverpool, shooting with both feet and hitting the woodwork twice.
One of the main differences was the use of a less defensive player in the No. 6 role, and to use Klopp’s own words, more of a Jorginho type…
The Lallana role
Lallana came off the bench in the game against Chelsea, but didn’t put in the best cameo performance on the left.
Here he dropped back to the deepest midfield position as Klopp suggested he might before the start of the season.
“Adam is this kind of player, he can play that and obviously enjoys it a lot, this ‘Jorginho’ role,” the manager said in July.
“I hope Maurizio Sarri doesn’t see the games, otherwise he will probably make an offer!”
His passing was neat and tidy as you might expect, with 96 percent pass success from a total of 112 passes.
A pass through the lines to Curtis Jones led to the aforementioned chance for Elliott via Milner, and he regularly linked up with the left-back himself.
This game suited him, as the team dominated possession and there was little for him to do on the defensive side.
Some neat and tidy touches helped him get out of trouble on the rare occasion he was put under pressure, and it was a good showing overall in a new position for him.
Cup runs needed
It’s likely that Klopp will need to call upon some of these players in the Premier League, should one of his preferred first-team players pick up an injury.
It’s a fairly shallow senior squad, so it’s important that the fringe players, and young players on the brink of the first team, are getting competitive matches.
This means youth players have had to either make do with U23 football, go out on loan in January, or hope that the club have a good FA Cup run – but they haven’t made it past the third round in that competition for four seasons.
They need competitive games, and the best way to get that for Liverpool is for the team to stay in the cups.
Missing men at home with their feet up
Perhaps just as important as the outings for these players was the rest it provided for others.
Mane and Xherdan Shaqiri were injured, so didn’t travel either, so it provided an opportunity for rest and recuperation.
Given the hectic summer many of these players had on the back of last season’s campaign which didn’t finish until June, any rest these players can get is a bonus.
This was an important win for the squad, and progress in the this and the FA Cup will be good for the team if they stick with the rotated squad.
The attention now turns to a trip to Sheffield on Saturday to face United, and aiming to get a first Champions League win of the season against Salzburg at Anfield on Tuesday.