Naby presses, Virgil The Rolls and the Ox conundrum – 5 talking points from Brighton 1-3 Liverpool

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Two early goals and it looked like it would be a stroll on the south coast, but Brighton are a decent side and made Liverpool work for their 30th Premier League win of the season.

Brighton 1-3 Liverpool

Premier League (34), Amex Stadium
July 8, 2020

Goals: Trossard 45′; Salah 6′, 76′, Henderson 8′


Unwanted record avoided as Mo leads the way

BRIGHTON & HOVE, ENGLAND - Wednesday, July 8, 2020: Liverpool's captain Jordan Henderson (C) celebrates scoring the second goal during the FA Premier League match between Brighton & Hove Albion FC and Liverpool FC at the AMEX Stadium. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by Propaganda)

With Liverpool breaking records left, right and centre, we were surprisingly on the cusp of a record we didn’t want. After four defeats and a draw from the last five away games – and not a single goal to show in those five games – it was a welcome sight to see the boys navigate a tricky fixture and bring the three points home.

It was by no means plain sailing, with Brighton playing some eye-catching stuff, just like they did in the return fixture at Anfield, but once again that man Mohamed Salah played a huge part in yet another victory.

Two more goals, yet another assist, and he caused Brighton problems throughout. In 116 Premier League games he now has 75 goals and 28 assists – and will be a little disappointed it isn’t more as he tormented Brighton till the final whistle, desperate for his hat-trick and a goal that would’ve taken him closer to that golden boot again.

 

Neco makes his mark in unfamiliar territory

BRIGHTON & HOVE, ENGLAND - Wednesday, July 8, 2020: Liverpool's Neco Williams during the FA Premier League match between Brighton & Hove Albion FC and Liverpool FC at the AMEX Stadium. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by Propaganda)

If making your full debut for the Premier League Champions isn’t difficult enough, being played as a right-footed left-back only adds to the pressure.

It was a mixed bag from the young Welshman, but with the good far outweighing the naïve.

On 19 minutes a brilliant last-gasp challenge prevented an almost certain goal, keeping the 2-0 lead intact. He showed his attacking prowess with a superb step-over and cross a minute later at the other end.

He was caught out a couple of times in his own half, both times bailed out by the captain, but that’s all just part of the learning. All in all, a very promising debut and the lad has a bright future. Klopp sensibly took him off at half time as he was on a yellow card.

It was interesting that Klopp used him at left-back as Williams proving capable there would provide a very effective in-house solution to an area of that squad that needs depth adding to.

 

The Ox conumdrum

BRIGHTON & HOVE, ENGLAND - Wednesday, July 8, 2020: Liverpool's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain during the FA Premier League match between Brighton & Hove Albion FC and Liverpool FC at the AMEX Stadium. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by Propaganda)

There was a shot of Ox leaving the pitch at half time, shaking his head, looking despondent. For most of his career, managers have shuffled him from position to position, with him never really making any one position his own. The last couple of games seem to encapsulate that, subbed on the hour in both.

Anonymous against Villa in midfield, he really didn’t look like he knew exactly where – or how – to play across the front three, starting in place of Sadio Mane on the left.

He often seems caught in two minds between his midfield instincts and attempting to fulfil a forward role he’s not quite accustomed to.

Ox is often praised for his versatility and ability to play in several positions. Unfortunately, I think his game, and his ability to nail down a first-choice spot, suffers because of it.

Like Williams, Ox being capable as a backup to Mane would provide another effective option in the squad, but on this showing it perhaps isn’t the best option.

 

Keita presses and impresses

BRIGHTON & HOVE, ENGLAND - Wednesday, July 8, 2020: Liverpool's Naby Keita during the FA Premier League match between Brighton & Hove Albion FC and Liverpool FC at the AMEX Stadium. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by Propaganda)

This was another glimpse of the Naby Keita we paid a premium for – our record club signing when he was signed. He’d shown signs of his better form in the game against Villa and continued it into this game.

Within 13 minutes he’d stolen the ball, got himself another assist, and drove right through the heart of the Brighton defence setting up Mo Salah for a decent chance.

That’s now two assists in two games and a classy, dynamic performance against the Seagulls. He was pickpocketing Brighton at will, a skill that seems instinctive to him.

A fully fit, fully firing Keita is another of those ‘we already have them in the squad’ players Klopp has hinted about lately.

Maybe he’s been hearing about them Thiago rumours…

 

The Rolls Royce Van Dijk

BRIGHTON & HOVE, ENGLAND - Wednesday, July 8, 2020: Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk during the FA Premier League match between Brighton & Hove Albion FC and Liverpool FC at the AMEX Stadium. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. (Pic by Propaganda)

It’s become rather easy to take this Rolls Royce of a player for granted such is the ongoing quality of his performance. While the defence has shown signs of rustiness since the return, Van Dijk has been a colossus.

After a blip against City, where none of the back five covered themselves in glory, he’s right back to his best.

He was absolutely superb here with one or two moments having you shaking your head at just how he does it.

With the Brighton forward putting pressure on him chasing a ball over the top, he calmly nods it forward, clips it over his head, and calmly walks away with the ball. The striker was simply bamboozled.

The best centre half – if not the best player – on the planet.

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