Phillips “excellent” as super subs hand Klopp a dilemma – Media on Liverpool 2-1 West Ham

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The media praised Nat Phillips‘ display in Liverpool’s 2-1 win over West Ham and think the impacts of the super-subs hand Jurgen Klopp a dilemma with Roberto Firmino.

The Reds were given a fright on Halloween but produced a fine comeback to earn a fourth straight win and equal the club-record unbeaten home league run of 63 games.

Klopp’s substitutes worked a treat as Xherdan Shaqiri teed-up Diogo Jota to score a late winner after Mohamed Salah‘s penalty equalised Pablo Fornals’ early opener.

It was a fantastic turnaround from Liverpool, and the mentality and character of this team just continue to shine with another huge three points collected.

Here’s how the media reflected on the Anfield success.

 

Reporters yet again praised Liverpool’s mental toughness to deal with setbacks and dig out a victory…

Liverpool's Diogo Jota (centre) celebrates scoring his side's second goal of the game with his teammates during the Premier League match at Anfield, Liverpool.

The Liverpool Echo’s Ian Doyle labelled the victory a “big, big win” and exactly the kind on which “championships are won”:

Make no mistake, this was a big, big win given the lengthy absentee list and a difficult week to come with games at Atalanta and Manchester City.

[…]

It wasn’t pretty, but this is how championships are won, scrapping to triumphs in close encounter, a happy knack Liverpool have carried over from last term.

The Mirror’s Andy Dunn applauded Klopp’s side for the way in which they have shown such mental strength in responding to the 7-2 loss at Aston Villa:

That blip came at Villa Park but the patience and resolve shown at Anfield in their past three Premier League matches shows why Jurgen Klopp’s team have to be favourites to secure another title.

In each of those games, they have gone behind. In each of those games, they have found a way to come back and triumph.

Doyle praised the Reds for showing the “resolve” and “composure” needed to turn things around after falling behind:

The reserves of character and resolve were tested after Joe Gomez’s error had helped Pablo Fornals put the Hammers into an early lead.

And composure was required when VAR, having chosen not to overturn the penalty won and dispatched by Mohamed Salah for the equaliser three minutes from time, ruled out a Jota strike for a foul by Sadio Mane.

And Dunn believes it is this mental strength and ability to respond to set-backs that makes Klopp’s side favourites to win title again:

This is why they are champions, this is why, more than likely, they will be champions again. This is why they are top of the table. Again.

There has already been one spectacular blip this season but this remains a Liverpool team that refuses to accept anything other than victory. It really is as simple as that.

 

Journalists lauded the impacts of super-subs Jota & Shaqiri and think Klopp faces a big decision with Firmino…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, October 31, 2020: Liverpool’s match winning goal-scorer Diogo Jota (L) celebrates with Xherdan Shaqiri at the final whistle during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and West Ham United FC at Anfield. 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)

Klopp’s current crop is “the strongest squad the Reds have been equipped with for decades” in the words of the Liverpool Echo’s Paul Gorst:

This is the current carnation of Liverpool, the strongest squad they have been equipped with for decades. Klopp has options aplenty in his ranks in virtually all areas. Even in a position as stricken as centre-back right now, Phillips can come in and catch virtually everyone’s eye.

[…]

Strength in depth – it is something that hasn’t always been apparent at Anfield and it is what will stand Liverpool in good stead as the winter months draw in.

The Mirror’s Sam Meade thinks Klopp is doing a fine job of utilising the group at his disposal to find “new solutions” to navigate the Reds through a tough period:

Diogo Jota and Xherdan Shaqiri were called upon to find the winner at Anfield with 20 minutes left and the two combined to produce the goods. Roberto Firmino, who is the least prolific of the regular front three, was hooked as was youngster Curtis Jones.

[…]

With the exception of the midfield three Liverpool’s starting XI has long picked itself but the unprecedented nature of the season is leading Klopp to seek new solutions.

Goal’s Neil Jones loved Shaqiri’s assist for Jota’s winner, labelling it a “high-class moment from a high-class footballer”:

Having been one of the few players to rise above mediocre in the Champions League win over Midtjylland in midweek, he delivered another timely reminder of his guile and technique here.

Few would have even seen the pass he found for the winner, let alone been able to execute it. It was a high-class moment from a high-class footballer.

The Telegraph’s Chris Bascombe lauded Jota’s exceptional form and believes the Portuguese is giving Klopp an genuine headache in potentially having to break up the famous front three:

Of all the headaches he may suffer in this most gruelling of seasons, it is doubtful Jurgen Klopp has considered breaking up his front three among them.

It is unlikely to be an insufferable migraine. After another starring role, this time in a 2-1 victory over West Ham, Diogo Jota is pressuring Roberto Firmino to give Klopp a welcome dilemma prior to next week’s trip to Manchester City.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, October 31, 2020: Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino (L) and West Ham United's Angelo Ogbonna during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and West Ham United FC at Anfield. 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)

On a similar train of thought, Jones thinks one of Shaqiri or Jota should be rewarded with a place in the first-choice attack to replace the struggling Roberto Firmino:

With Firmino below-par too often at present, there must be a case for Liverpool bringing one or both of Jota and Shaqiri into their starting line-up, either for the trip to Atalanta on Tuesday, or perhaps even the visit to Manchester City next weekend.

Bascombe paid Jota a huge compliment in writing how the Portuguese “resembles Firmino at his best”:

The greatest compliment to Jota in his early weeks at Anfield is he resembles Firmino at his best, tigerish out of possession and brimful of confidence with it.

He also has the hunger which is dragging Liverpool to these defiant victories.

And Bascombe rightly stated how Jota potentially replacing Firmino should not be viewed as punishment for the Brazilian’s form but rather a helping hand for the No.9’s:

Eulogies for Jota – and calls for him to be a permanent starter – should not be considered too harsh on Firmino.

It is hardly surprising that after running a marathon every week to trigger Klopp’s high press, the South American occasionally looks wearier than previously. He could as easily see Jota as taking the pressure off should he have more opportunities to refresh.

 

Phillips earned plenty of praise for a superb performance on his Premier League debut…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, October 31, 2020: Liverpool’s Nathaniel Phillips during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and West Ham United FC at Anfield. 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)

ESPN’s Danny Lewis assessed Phillips as Man-of-the-Match and described how the incoming centre-back was “Liverpool’s most solid defender”:

Making his Premier League debut, but looked confident from the off. He was arguably Liverpool’s most solid defender.

The BBC’s Neil Johnston was particularly impressed with how dominant Phillips was in the air:

Phillips, whose dad, Jimmy, played against Liverpool for Bolton in the 1995 League Cup final, at least provided an aerial presence, the 22-year-old making a series of headed clearances.

Gorst, somewhat boldy, proclaimed that Liverpool’s centre-back problems will be no more if Phillips maintains such a performance level:

It was one he duly took with an excellent display that oozed power and poise. Centre-back problems? Not if this becomes the regular output from the Bolton-born Phillips.

 

The media saw positives in Liverpool’s performance but also felt the game showed areas to tighten up…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, October 31, 2020: Liverpool’s Curtis Jones (R) challenges West Ham United's Sébastien Haller during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and West Ham United FC at Anfield. 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)

Starting with the positives, Lewis thought Klopp’s men did well in restricting West Ham‘s counter-attacking threat while they poured forward to chase victory:

Liverpool managed to keep hold of possession and dominate the ball for large periods of the game. On the other hand, West Ham defended very well, but Liverpool attacked and defended in a manner that meant the away side usually struggled to get out.

In a shock turn of events the use of VAR was praised as the Mail’s Oliver Holt credited how efficiently officials correctly disallowed Jota’s goal:

But after a VAR review, referee Kevin Friend ran to the touchline to check the monitor and decided, correctly, that the goal should be ruled out because of Mane’s challenge on Fabianski as he followed up his shot.

[…]

It was a welcome example of how VAR should be used, in conjunction with common sense refereeing. It also begged the question why so few referees choose to do the same. So many of the problems with VAR could be remedied by consistent application.

Dunn thinks Liverpool remain suspect defensively and believes that this isn’t just down to being without Virgil van Dijk:

That type of defending has been typical of Liverpool for a while. Since the day Klopp’s team were confirmed as champions, no Premier League team has conceded more goals – and Virgil van Dijk was around for a good chunk of that time.

Perhaps Liverpool’s vulnerability has not just been down to inconsistencies in the back four.

Meade discussed the “worrying habit” of conceding first in too many games, and thinks Klopp’s side must sharpen their concentration despite having the quality to redeem deficits:

Liverpool are making a worrying habit of conceding first in matches this season.

[…]

It would be easy to highlight Van Dijk’s absence but the Dutchman was present for the games against the Gunners and Villa. Liverpool’s quality is such that coming from behind is by no means impossible, but they are making life hard for themselves.

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