Liverpool eventually got the job done against Preston, continuing the Reds’ 23-game unbeaten run in all competitions and reaching the League Cup quarter-final.
Preston 0-2 Liverpool
Deepdale, League Cup
Wednesday 27 October, 2021
Goals: Minamino 62′, Origi 84
Two names stood out when the lineups were released, those of teenagers Harvey Blair and Tyler Morton. The latter was able to take his chance in what was a promising display.
He was calm and composed on his second appearance for the club and his first start. His passing was neat and tidy, finishing the game with a pass success of 94%.
He played a handful of forward-thinking, line-breaking passes which helped Liverpool progress the ball forward — something few other players were managing to do accurately.
There were occasional moments of good covering defensively, too, and as Jones and Ox are not known for their reactive defending, he was often left isolated.
Despite this, he still kept his composure and put in one of the best displays in red on the night.
A rare start for Takumi Minamino saw him play a role from the left almost tailored especially for him.
Out of possession, he lined up as the left-wing as Mane or Jota might normally in that position but in possession, he dropped into a No. 10 position behind Origi.
This more advanced position, almost alongside Origi times, saw the Japan international take up some good positions – and meant he was on hand to turn in Neco Williams‘ cross for the goal.
Minamino’s position also gave Jones the space to drift from midfield into a wide position down the left, though not much came from this.
Minamino’s play was sometimes scrappy and he couldn’t always make the most of the good positions he took up. This was not all his own fault, though, as when he received the ball there was rarely movement in front of him.
Neco’s ‘new’ role
It wasn’t just the change in the names on the teamsheet which slightly upset Liverpool’s flow in this game, it was also the roles in which these players operated.
Minamino’s has been covered above, and having a playmaker on that side rather than a winger or inside forward meant there was a lack of pace and directness at times.
There was also no real effective target-man for Liverpool — a role often played fairly successfully, even if under the radar, by Mane, Jota or Roberto Firmino. Divock Origi should have offered this kind of outlet but didn’t.
In the middle, Jones and Oxlade-Chamberlain offer similar things so the midfield lacked the functional No. 8, while in the deep role the squad only really has one defensive anchor type player — Fabinho.
In the second half, Williams moved from right-back to the right-wing with the introduction of Conor Bradley. It was a role-change that finally worked, as the Welshman assisted Minamino and forced the issue for Origi’s goal.
Ropey back line shored up by Phillips
Preston twice broke through the Liverpool defensive line in what was a shaky first-half display lacking organisation and composure.
With Ibrahima Konate and Virgil van Dijk impressing as a pair against Man United, Gomez and Matip needed a good game to show they can be reliable options in what is a strong defensive unit depth-wise.
Though their play on the ball was decent enough, there will be worries around how easily Preston were able to break the offside trap and it was left to Adrian to keep Liverpool in it at half-time.
Nat Phillips replaced Matip at halftime and cleared the ball into row z with his first touch of the ball.
It was kind of reassuring, and perhaps exactly what was needed to settle Liverpool in this kind of game against Championship opposition.
Back for Brighton
Though this version of Jurgen Klopp‘s red machine wasn’t the most well-oiled, it did serve a purpose in that it gave key players a rest and gave the rest of the squad some experience and/or match fitness.
Though it’s difficult for any player to come into a completely changed lineup, only Morton, Williams, Adrian and Phillips really made the most of it, with Bradley looking useful off the bench.
Regardless, the win keeps morale high and sees the winning feeling spread throughout the camp. Those who missed the game will have been glad to see their teammates progress.
The Reds will be back in front of a packed Anfield on Saturday in what they hope will be business as usual from the players who have been doing the business so far this season.