Liverpool picked up another valuable three points in front of a full Anfield for the first time since March 2020 and the performance offered plenty of discussion points.
Jurgen Klopp sprang a surprise with the addition of Harvey Elliott in the starting lineup for the first time in the league, but the 18-year-old looked at home despite Burnley‘s intentions to unsettle him.
Here, This Is Anfield’s Joanna Durkan (@JoannaDurkan_) is joined by Karl Matchett (@karlmatchett) and banner extraordinaire Mark Sweatman (@LiverpoolFlags) to discuss who flew under the radar, the performance and how it felt to see Anfield back with 50,000 plus.
The hidden gem…
MARK: For me, it was definitely Joel Matip. His performance was composed and assured, and it is no coincidence that our two clean sheets to begin the season have arrived with him alongside Virgil at the back.
As good as Van Dijk is, he can’t do it alone, and you can see the trust between the two. If they can both remain injury-free this season, Joe Gomez may struggle to get back in the starting lineup for some time.
It is great that the position which was our Achilles heel for most of last term has become a strength, and with the addition of Ibou, Klopp has a little headache about how to give them all enough game time.
JOANNA: That’s a good shout, Mark. It was a fine display from Matip, but I’m going to give my nod to the man that stands behind him in Alisson.
He just looks on it this season already, doesn’t he. Sharp, clear and decisive and while it was offside, his save from Ashley Barnes’ effort was top class. He gives us so much confidence and helps pave the way for those up top.
KARL: I’ll have to look a little higher up the pitch then, and Naby Keita.
We’ve waited a long time to see him get a consistent run of game time and staying injury-free is the most important aspect of his season. Such has been the stop-start nature of his time here that nobody will get carried away after two starts, but he’s already up to 31% of his league minutes from last season.
Even so, let’s not forget he started the first four on the bounce last term, so there’s still some way to go before we can say he’s ready to be considered a regular starting option.
But still: this was a really good showing, filling in behind Kostas when he pushed on, keeping the ball well again, turning away from danger and breaking up play with regularity. Nothing to make a highlights reel, but lots to serve as a platform for victory.
MARK: The showing from Tsimikas, ably deputising for Robertson, was another fine one.
I was especially impressed with the quality of his set-pieces – he is probably an upgrade on Robbo when it comes to delivery from corners, and he seems to have become more physical in the close season with a bit more meat on his bones.
JOANNA: Adding to the Tsimikas chat, it’s a nice nod to the headaches Klopp has on his hands currently and long may it continue. Robbo is the clear starter but that he has someone pushing him, at last, is a huge boost.
Add Harvey Elliott to the discussion and Liverpool‘s strength was on display. How is he only 18? Brilliant vision and execution and an experience that will see him come on leaps and bounds. He has the x-factor.
MARK: I also want to mention young Elliott’s contribution. The lad looks like he is to the manor born, and despite his diminutive stature, he had no difficulty asserting himself against a very aggressive and physical side.
His contribution in the creation of the second goal was a great reward for a classy showing. He also has a knack for drawing fouls and creating space, which is helpful in breaking down the more defensive-minded teams. A real weapon, and it will be interesting to see how he is used this season.
KARL: Lots of individuals did well, including those two, but I’ll focus on the collective and how we stepped it up after the break.
When the tempo is raised like it was in the second half, teams cannot live with Liverpool. Playing fast, exchanging passes, rotating positions in the final third…it doesn’t matter if you’re organised and compact like Burnley are, the Reds’ attackers are too good and too relentless. Pressure eventually tells, as it did this time – they were lucky to last as long as they did during that period.
MARK: Less impressive today was Trent, who still looks a bit under-cooked as he did against Norwich, but I’m sure that the mistakes he has made over these first two games will disappear as he recovers his match sharpness.
And I found the atmosphere a little disappointing at times today, but that is often the case with these lunchtime kick-offs.
JOANNA: I’m of a bit of a different mind with Trent. He was sloppy in parts but against the likes of Burnley he will be tasked with taking risks to open up the game and some of his passing was exquisite.
KARL: By the same token, the less-impressive aspect of the team performance was late on in both halves, perhaps a tiredness factor at this stage of the season.
We stepped off it in the final minutes of each 45′, giving up possession and chances far too easily. Ali on top form meant there was no real concern, but it can’t happen against the better teams – like next week!
And Anfield’s return to full capacity…
JOANNA: It’s what we’ve all been waiting for and I to live vicariously through the experiences of others was awesome, the feeling of going to the match cannot be replicated.
Real reactions to real football, it has restored what we all love about the game and you could tell the players were feeding off it. But I’m already looking forward to what is to come against Chelsea!
MARK: I expected to feel quite emotional after such a long time away and of course, I was, but what I loved about today was the familiarity of it all — it felt like slipping on an old pair of shoes.
All the little rituals of visiting the Hillsborough memorial, meeting friends by the Shankly statue, hanging my flags up high in the Main Stand, chatting to the stewards – I realised it was these little things that I’d missed just as much as the game itself.
And what was special was that this was the first full house since I launched my little business Handmade Banners and began taking commissions and since that Atletico game I have made 50 Liverpool banners for Reds all over the world. It was a real thrill to see some of them dotted around the stadium today and to receive WhatsApp messages from different parts of the ground from excited new friends sharing their banner debuts with me.
It was very rewarding after 16 months of hard work.
KARL: Just to reiterate everything said above and elsewhere by the players and those who were there: this felt big, and feeling is a big portion of what football is all about.
Don’t take it for granted, regardless of if you’re watching on-screen and drinking it in, or there and a part of the atmosphere’s return.
Remember what it was like for a year watching empty stadiums, and savour it however your own matchday rituals differ, now that we can restart them all.