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The good, the bad and the importance of a break – Debating Wolves 0-1 Liverpool

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At long last, Liverpool fans have a Premier League win to talk about again, with plenty of positives in the Reds’ 1-0 victory at Wolves.

It wasn’t pretty, but Jurgen Klopp‘s men ground out a crucial three points against a spirited Wolves side, keeping their faint chances of a top-four finish alive.

Diogo Jota‘s strike in first half stoppage time proved to be the difference between the two teams, on a night when entertainment value was kept to a minimum.

A win was all that mattered for Liverpool, however, as they leapfrogged Everton and went sixth in the table, five points adrift of Chelsea in fourth.

Here, This Is Anfield’s Henry Jackson (@HenryJackson87) is joined by Red (@TaintlessRed) and John O’Sullivan (@NotoriousJOS) to discuss a crucial win and how important the upcoming 20-day break could be.

 

The good…

WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Monday, March 15, 2021: Liverpool's Ozan Kabak (L) and Wolverhampton Wanderers' Adama Traoré during the FA Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers FC and Liverpool FC at Molineux Stadium. (Pic by Propaganda)

RED: The result was more important than the performance. We’ve lost games where we’ve played better, but winning a “dirty” match, as Jurgen put it, felt good.

Three clean sheets for Kabak and Philips as a partnership is something to build upon, too.

Kabak was excellent throughout – won most of his duels, made some valuable clearances, was composed when he needed to be and passed proactively.

At Schalke, he was often the centre-back who was the most front-foot, but with Phillips’ tendency to follow the action and get caught upfield, Kabak has quickly adapted to move across to be in good covering positions more often.

Trent’s form is also pleasing after a tricky spell earlier in the season. It wasn’t so much his attacking play that stood out – he wasn’t able to get forward as often as he would’ve liked – but his defending was on point.

The two best performances of the team came from the two youngest players.

Finally, Jota’s goal shows what we’ve missed without him. He has a consistent precision to his technique – be that in control, passing or shooting, that is different in style to our other forwards.

He has six goals in seven league starts, and four goals in five Champions League starts – Liverpool would be a lot higher up in the league if Jota hadn’t missed three months of the season.

WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Monday, March 15, 2021: Liverpool's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and team-mates after the FA Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers FC and Liverpool FC at Molineux Stadium. (Pic by Propaganda)

JOHN: An ugly win, as Red alludes to. It feels like ages since we got a break and things went our way. A battling three points, which adds to the impressive results we’ve had on the road.

I totally agree that Kabak was superb – at 20, there will be inconsistencies, but that’s two excellent games in a week. Being skinned by Adama Traore aside, which happens to everyone, he was faultless.

Lots of people were too hasty to write him off and even if mistakes follow there’s clearly potential there.

Trent was also defensively solid against the dangerous Pedro Neto. Because he’s so good going forward, his defensive capabilities are often overlooked, but he’s markedly improved defensively this season. At such a young age, it’s exciting that a world-class player can and still will improve.

Fabinho once again showed what Liverpool missed on his holiday away from midfield. His passing wasn’t always as good as it can be, but he was exceptional defensively. He consistently broke up play and won his physical battles.

HENRY: I completely echo what the lads have said here, it was a gritty win – the kind we did endlessly last season but haven’t replicated this time around.

Kabak was Man of the Match – he has been so harshly criticised at times, when it was always going to take him a little time to settle – and he now looks potentially worth signing permanently this summer.

He needs to do it for longer, though, in order to fully convince Klopp.

Phillips was again excellent, too, while Trent and Fabinho were the other standouts for me, with Liverpool‘s top four hopes not quite over just yet.

 

The bad…

WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Monday, March 15, 2021: Liverpool's Thiago Alcantara during the FA Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers FC and Liverpool FC at Molineux Stadium. (Pic by Propaganda)

RED: Liverpool did not play well. It was a battling performance and at times we rode our luck.

Too many stray passes from the likes of Robertson, Phillips and uncharacteristically even Thiago early in the game didn’t set the right tone to the match and Klopp mentioned post-game how he wasn’t happy with how we started.

Wolves have always relied on Raul Jimenez for goals, even more so after selling Jota, and without him chances went begging which would have changed the game.

They had an xG of 1.29 to Liverpool’s meagre 0.83 and they had what looked a clear penalty turned down after Alisson, who was otherwise good, spilled a cross in just the 2nd minute.

That would’ve increased Wolves‘ xG to around 2.0 and been a fairer reflection of how Liverpool were maybe fortunate to win.

Mane was vibrant with his movement throughout the game, but his touch and decision-making let him down time and again, as it has done for much of the season.

He got an assist, but last season’s Mane would’ve got at least a goal and a couple of assists.

This was encapsulated in the last minutes of the game when Liverpool were on the attack. There were two passes on to his right and a safer pass out wide to Robertson, but he dithered, turned back, failed to protect the ball and lost it, allowing Wolves to spend the last few minutes laying siege to the Reds’ goal!

WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Monday, March 15, 2021: Liverpool's Andy Robertson (R) and Wolverhampton Wanderers' Adama Traoré during the FA Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers FC and Liverpool FC at Molineux Stadium. (Pic by Propaganda)

JOHN: Despite linking well for Jota’s goal, I don’t think the front-three combined too well.

In a 4-3-3 system, I’m not sure they will excel as a trio – maybe with a No.10 in a 4-2-3-1 system they will look better.

It’s obviously early doors and that’s two wins on the spin for the combination – with all three scoring – but nobody looks capable or interested in consistently dropping deep and linking the play.

If not Firmino himself, you can see the need for that type of player.

HENRY: I agree that the performance was far from a classic, but frankly, results are now all that matters between now and May.

Mane continues to frustrate the life out of me, even though he was lively in the first half and looked like making things happen (and got a assist).

That moment that Red mentioned in the dying seconds almost saw me throw my telly out the window – if Wolves had scored, the season would’ve needed to just end right there!

Robertson is also miles short of his best, not only lacking energy going forward but also proving to be wasteful on the ball.

I agree that Thiago was poor, too – was he really this reckless off the ball at Bayern?

 

And the importance of a break…

WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Monday, March 15, 2021: Liverpool's Nathaniel Phillips embraces manager Jürgen Klopp after the FA Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers FC and Liverpool FC at Molineux Stadium. (Pic by Propaganda)

RED: The value of winning our last game before the break cannot be underestimated.

While a three-week break would normally be a godsend for Klopp and his coaching team, they will be nervous about fatigued players travelling the world, overplaying and perhaps getting injuries or contracting the virus.

It does give time for Jurgen to work with the boys who are staying on Merseyside, though, which includes the Brazilians after their games were delayed.

Firmino now has three weeks to get closer to fitness, but perhaps it will be Ben Davies who will benefit the most from the international break.

The former Preston player has been fit, but is still viewed as behind Rhys Williams in the pecking order and again failed to make our injury-ravaged squad, even with nine substitutes allowed.

JOHN: Usually, Liverpool fans dread the international break. Players would invariably come back injured and the break would hurt the teams rhythm. But this is different.

Many of the players – Jota, the African and Brazilian contingents – won’t travel with their national team and that break, even if it’s just sat at home during lockdown, will be invaluable for a jaded squad.

WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Monday, March 15, 2021: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp during the FA Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers FC and Liverpool FC at Molineux Stadium. (Pic by Propaganda)

The coaches need it, too. Hopefully, it gives Klopp time to grieve his mother (and Alisson his father).

As much as we place them on a pedestal, they are people too and it’s been such a tough time for them. The break will benefit everyone, even the fans.

HENRY: I couldn’t have put it better myself!

This feels like a rare break that is welcome, like John says, with everyone associated with the club needing to take a breather.

The hope is that last night’s victory gives them confidence and belief going into the final six weeks or so of the season when they return, as they look to clinch an unlikely Champions League win and also get in the top four.

This has been a relentless period and everyone will benefit from being out of the firing line for a little bit.


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