The good, the bad & centre-back woes – Debating Liverpool 2-0 Midtjylland

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It was not one many will look to relive but plenty of talking points emerged as Liverpool secured a vital three points in the Champions League with a 2-0 win over Midtjylland.

Jurgen Klopp‘s side got the job done at Anfield in unspectacular fashion but with injuries mounting and games in quick succession, a win is a win.

Diogo Jota was once again the man to score the crucial goal, which coincided with the club’s 10,000th in all competitions, with Mohamed Salah adding the finishing touches from the penalty spot.

It leaves the Reds at the top of Group D after two games ahead of their double-header with Atalanta, but they could be forced to navigate their next run of fixtures without yet another centre-back.

Here, This Is Anfield’s Joanna Durkan (@JoannaDurkan_) is joined by Lubo Domo (@lubodomo) and the Redmen TV’s Jack Gill (@jacklfcgill) to discuss the highs and the lows from Liverpool’s victory and our compounded centre-back woes.

 

The good…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, October 27, 2020: Liverpool's Diogo Jota (R) celebrates after scoring the first goal during the UEFA Champions League Group D match between Liverpool FC and FC Midtjylland at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

LUBO: For me, Shaqiri was the main positive. He looked very good on the ball, played quick passes and set Trent up perfectly for Jota’s goal.

He also showed desire and great effort for a guy who hasn’t played in an important game for the club for a while. It’s a big positive having him as an option in the midfield three or the front three.

He can bring the unpredictability Klopp and everyone at the club was talking about at the beginning of the season so hopefully, he stays fit.

Another plus was Jota, who is keeping up his good form having scored again and he may well turn out to be the key this season. I am also pleased Trent got more involved offensively as he’s been quiet in the league so this season.

And hard not to look past the three points and the clean sheet, which is very important when you’ve played a game like this.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, October 27, 2020: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (R) celebrates with team-mate Xherdan Shaqiri after scoring the second goal during the UEFA Champions League Group D match between Liverpool FC and FC Midtjylland at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

JACK: Firstly, another good win in the Champions League! And a clean sheet after a couple of good saves by Alisson who once again showed his importance for us.

Jota once again scoring a very important goal, he looks like a very good signing for us.

Like Lubo, I thought Shaqiri‘s performance was positive too, he’s extremely talented and if we can keep him fit he could become a key squad player for us.

Trent‘s performance was similarly uplifting, he was Man of the Match for me but the biggest positive of the night was young Rhys Williams who looks so confident and comfortable when called upon.

It looks like we’ve got a bit of an injury crisis at the back but Williams’ recent performances have given me faith that we will be okay.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, October 27, 2020: Liverpool's substitute Rhys Williams during the UEFA Champions League Group D match between Liverpool FC and FC Midtjylland at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

JOANNA: I have to echo what the guys have said about both Shaqiri and Jota, two bright notes on what was an evening where little transpired in the final third.

The major positives, for me, all happened at the back. The importance of Alisson‘s presence was again made known and with forced changes in the centre of defence, his leadership and experience was and will be key in instilling confidence.

Trent showed signs of being back to his best, like how ridiculously good was that volleyed pass to the opposite flank in the first half! And Williams definitely deserves praise for settling in without fault at the back – looked calm and assured.

On the whole, little that got you out of your seat but right now picking up wins by any means necessary is all that matters and another clean sheet was a welcome bonus.

 

The bad…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, October 27, 2020: Liverpool's Divock Origi during the UEFA Champions League Group D match between Liverpool FC and FC Midtjylland at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

LUBO: Disappointed with Minamino, who was so good in pre-season and I had expected him to feature a lot more. He looked particularly off and didn’t seem to find his place or make good use of the balls that got to him.

Maybe his confidence is low too in what was a generally poor game from the lads.

On the whole, there was not enough movement from the front three in the first half. I really like the 4-2-3-1 formation, but it hasn’t worked well so far.

It will take a bit of time for sure for the players to adapt to it, but when it does it should give the team more options in different circumstances.

A particular moment I didn’t enjoy was at the very end when Joe Gomez completely misjudged his position and they almost scored. Gomez looked like a Sunday league player in that particular situation. He otherwise had a good game, but that one moment could’ve cost us the win.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, October 27, 2020: Liverpool's Fabio Henrique Tavares 'Fabinho' is treated for an injury during the UEFA Champions League Group D match between Liverpool FC and FC Midtjylland at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

JACK: There’s no doubting the win was overshadowed by Fabinho‘s injury. With his recent performances at the back, we thought we may be okay during Van Dijk‘s absence but his injury puts us in real trouble at centre-back.

I thought Origi was poor again tonight too, not sure what happens next for the Belgian as he falls further and further down the pecking order. I wonder if he can play at the back?

With Firmino seemingly a bit out of form at the start of the season I, like Lubo, had hoped Minamino would put him under a bit of pressure but I thought here he didn’t have a great performance.

You have to feel for him though, he’s had to learn the language and the league whilst not having many minutes in the side and being played in multiple different positions and systems.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, October 27, 2020: Liverpool's James Milner (R) grapples with FC Midtjylland's Pione Sisto during the UEFA Champions League Group D match between Liverpool FC and FC Midtjylland at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

JOANNA: It changed slightly in the second-half, but why play Origi on the left and compromise Jota when you never really know what you’re going to get from the Belgian anyway?

We were effectively shooting ourselves in the foot on both wings and no player was in their preferred position in attack so it was no wonder little came off early doors.

But you do have to question what Origi can offer now aside from an extra body to rotate through.

Overall, it was just a game you could have easily snoozed off in and we were, at times, fortunate that Midtjylland lacked a cutting edge.

 

And how big of a concern is Fabinho’s injury & how do we fill the void vs. West Ham?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, October 27, 2020: Liverpool's Fabio Henrique Tavares 'Fabinho' walks off injured during the UEFA Champions League Group D match between Liverpool FC and FC Midtjylland at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

LUBO: We have been so unlucky with injuries so far this season! Where is Dejan Lovren when you need him the most?

Fab has been brilliant at centre-back so far and now without VVD, it is a major concern and maybe it would be a good move to go for an experienced guy if we did go down the free-agent route.

For West Ham, if Matip is fit we should be okay but if not Williams has my full backing and should be given a chance to start.

Klopp once used Hendo as a centre-back last year, if I’m not mistaken, but it’s too much of a gamble this time as we need Hendo in the middle especially when our defenders don’t have much experience playing together.

I like to be positive though, now is the time for the players to stick together and every one of them will have a role to play.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, October 17, 2020: Liverpool’s Joel Matip during the FA Premier League match between Everton FC and Liverpool FC, the 237th Merseyside Derby, at Goodison Park. The game was played behind closed doors due to the UK government’s social distancing laws during the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic. The game ended in a 2-2 draw. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

JACK: Fabinho‘s injury with our current problems raises big concerns, hopefully, he’s not out for too long but if he is it’s a big issue.

But, for me, there is no need to panic and sign a free agent, though I’m wondering if James Pearce is a decent centre-back or whether Klopp fancies bringing himself out of retirement for a bit!

I think the most likely scenario is signing someone like Ozan Kabak or Ben White in January.

For now, fingers crossed Matip is available for the weekend but at the minute I’m confident in the ability of Williams who has performed really well when called upon.

And it may be that even if Matip is fit for West Ham, Klopp doesn’t want to risk him with City on the horizon and if so he could trust a partnership of Williams and Gomez to do the job.

There are some calls for Henderson to play at the back but I honestly don’t think it’s needed with Williams, Billy Koumetio and Nat Phillips all patiently waiting for their chance.

JOANNA: We just can’t catch a break, can we? As soon as Fabinho dropped to the ground I just could not stop shouting “nope, no, no, no!”

As Klopp has mentioned recently, any injury, serious or not, can see a player miss up to three games such is the ridiculous nature of the schedule and so I’m anticipating Fabinho to be out at least until after the international break.

That would see him miss the next three games and give him a window of three weeks to return for Leicester, so here’s hoping it is nothing serious as we need the bodies with Matip rarely able to be relied upon.

A free-agent could prove helpful in that department but this, surely, will see the club pull the trigger in January to land a target they no doubt had eyed for the summer.

For West Ham, I don’t expect Matip to start as he has yet to return to training and as such I expect either Williams or Phillips to start alongside Gomez – who could do with a rest himself.

The latter may prove the more cautious choice, with centre-backs dropping like flies, as he was not registered for the Champions League squad.

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