Liverpool kickstarted their Premier League run-in with a largely uneventful stalemate at Goodison Park, but the result moves the Reds to within five points of the title.
Jurgen Klopp‘s side made their long-awaited return to competitive action with little fanfare, having struggled to turn possession into meaningful chances on goal.
Following on from a long absence, the lack of rhythm and potency was to be expected – especially when you consider the other fixtures in the latest round of action.
But, at the end of the day, it is another game without a victory and it is set to delay Liverpool’s hopes of officially securing the title as they now need to collect five more points unless Man City drop them on their behalf.
Here, This Is Anfield trio Joanna Durkan (@JoannaDurkan_), Jack Lusby (@jacklusby_) and Matt Ladson (@mattladson) discuss the highs and lows from the Merseyside derby stalemate and look to when the title could be won.
JOANNA: Firstly, it’s just nice to be back watching the Reds – although they did little to ensure we were entertained!
I thought Keita and Minamino were the standouts in the first half, the former showed the forward impetus and poise in and out of possession which we have been craving and I was taken aback when he was withdrawn.
Minamino isn’t entirely suited on the wing but he too showed promise and it was clear in his play that he feels more comfortable in the system and alongside his team-mates – two major positives.
Then you have Alisson making the difference at the death, Gomez too – not to mention Van Dijk, these are the players that ensure draws aren’t defeats like yesteryear.
Ultimately, it wasn’t a game I would rush back to watch any time soon, but you can’t really complain following such a long stint out and after we moved five points from the title. I still can’t believe that last point.
Finally, the tribute to the NHS and the players taking a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement was yet another poignant and important moment in the landscape outside of football.
JACK: Hats off to Keita and Minamino for taking the bull by the horns, and to Klopp for rewarding them with starts – albeit dictated to some extent by injuries and the schedule ahead.
Keita was particularly good, and seemed to genuinely want the ball constantly, while Minamino’s work ethic and interplay suggests he could be a big hit once he transitions into a central role.
I’d love to see Taki start as No. 9 at some stage, but as Klopp found out over the course of the first half, it may be difficult to shoehorn him into the current 4-3-3.
As Jo attests, Alisson was the difference in the end; we could have been mulling over a defeat were it any of Mignolet, Karius and Co. between the sticks from years gone by.
MATT: Beyond just having football back and seeing Liverpool in action, like Jo says, the standouts, especially in the first half, were Minamino and Keita.
However, Minamino’s style when on the right completely changes our game and he and Firmino were too often coming deep and then we had nothing in behind.
To agree with Jack, I think Minamino will be much more useful in a central role than wide for us.
It’s easy to dismiss Alisson‘s importance in this result, again.
I’ll reserve a ‘good’ for the fans who didn’t show up en masse at Goodison, firmly putting those who doubted that in their place.
JOANNA: I won’t go into the current climate of why these games are being played as they are, but what I will say is that artificial crowd noise needs some work!
It’s hard to criticise Liverpool’s game too much but I thought Klopp’s substitutions were odd and actually put us on the back foot and saw us lose the control we had started to have.
I, unfortunately, did not expect any different from Dejan Lovren, but Matip’s injury should have provided the chance to add a creative spark and it just proved that we do need additions in the summer – at left-back and in attack as without the dynamism, width and pace from both Mane and Salah we do struggle.
JACK: I strongly agree with Joanna on the crowd noise – it’s terrible!
In terms of the game, it was more of a pre-season friendly affair as could perhaps be expected, but I was surprised at the lack of fluency in our forward line in particular.
But that could definitely be attributed to a lack of sharpness: would Firmino have slid that pass through to Naby, rather than shot, with more competitive minutes under his belt in the past three months? It’s more likely, at least.
All told, a 0-0 at Goodison is what has become the norm of late, and it would be remiss to be too negative about any aspect in this situation.
Although, that Lovren sub? Well…
MATT: Last season’s 0-0 at Goodison ultimately ‘cost’ the title and Klopp’s subs and lack of attacking style was criticised. Of course, this one won’t cost the title but it did play out in similar circumstances.
None of the subs ‘worked’ and the Lovren one was especially disappointing. You could have comfortably dropped Fabinho into centre-back, moved Oxlade into midfield, and brought on either Salah or Harvey Elliott. Actually go win the game.
But by that point we looked pretty knackered, which I guess is also a ‘bad’.
I’m not sure I remember Origi touching the ball, and although he’s bound to score the goal that eventually secures the title – just to further add to his folklore, we all know we need an upgrade on our ‘fourth’ forward.
And when will Liverpool secure the Premier League title – can Burnley throw a spanner in the mix?
JOANNA: It’s going to have to be at City.
Stranger things have happened, but I’m really not banking on Burnley to do anything against City, as even though they are unbeaten in their last seven matches they have a number of injuries to key players.
I don’t see them dropping any against Chelsea either and so as long as we get the job done against Palace then it’ll set up the clash with Pep’s side quite nicely.
I still can’t believe we’re really doing this and even having this discussion! I thought my emotions may be dampened because of having no fans in the ground etc. but the buildup to the Everton game proved I will bawl my eyes out whenever it is confirmed.
JACK: I can’t say I have much hope, if any, of Burnley taking points off City.
There’s a malaise growing at Turf Moor, with problems between Sean Dyche and the board, players opting out of contract extensions and others dropping out due to injury.
I recall a similar situation when Burnley were in a much stronger position last summer, watching intently as they held on valiantly for an hour only for Sergio Aguero to score one of the goals that denied us the title.
No. If we are the pick up the title in the next fortnight, it will be done the hard way, at the Etihad – and that may be the most fitting backdrop, to be honest.
MATT: If last season (and seasons past) have taught us anything, you can’t rely on anyone else!
It’s a shame, because eight days between the Palace game and City for us would’ve been a nice week of celebrating! And we’d have been given a guard of honour at City then too.
But then, beating or drawing with City to win the title in their own back yard is pretty good.
I just hope we win the game that secures it, anything else would be a shame.