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The good, the bad and the AFCON question – Last word on Wolves 0-1 Liverpool

Liverpool fought until the final minute to seal a 1-0 win over Wolves, which could tell Jurgen Klopp a lot more about his side than any other game so far this season.

Remarkably, on Saturday Wolves became only the second team this term to restrict the Reds to just one goal, and they came close to being the first to record a shutout against Klopp’s side.

Prior to their trip to Molineux, Liverpool had scored two or more goals in 18 consecutive games in all competitions, with their tally in 21 outings standing at 64.

Chelsea are the only other side to limit the Reds to a solitary goal this season, but this time around, the mentality throughout Klopp’s squad was able to battle for a victory.

So what could the manager take from this win? Could it be the boost needed to take control in the title race?

And given the timely nature of Origi’s impact, could Liverpool be preparing well for the loss of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane to the Africa Cup of Nations next month?

To pick through the bones of Saturday’s 1-0 win at Molineux, This Is Anfield’s Jack Lusby (@LusbyJack) was joined by the talented and knowledgable Sam McGuire (@SamMcGuire90).

 

The good…

WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Saturday, December 4, 2021: Liverpool's Divock Origi celebrates after scoring an injury tinme winning goal during the FA Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers FC and Liverpool FC at Molineux Stadium. Liverpool won 1-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

SAM: How many chances Liverpool managed to carve out against – statistically speaking – the team with the joint-third best defensive record heading into the game.

Wolves had conceded just 12 goals – the same as Liverpool – and their back line had been breached on just three occasions in their last five matches.

This is a resolute and well-organised side, and we battered them.

Per Understat, the Reds racked up an expected goals total of 2.42 while the hosts registered just 0.10.

It was one of those games in which the final result didn’t tell the true story, but we managed to get the win and that is all that matters.

WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Saturday, December 4, 2021: Liverpool's Joel Matip during the FA Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers FC and Liverpool FC at Molineux Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

JACK: Since Sam’s covered the all-important underlying figures, I’ll go with what the eye test told me.

The intensity of the game was far removed from the derby, but that could be expected given the occasion and perhaps even the fact Klopp made no changes.

But there were a clutch of really good performances in there, namely Thiago, Joel Matip and Alisson of those to start the game.

A year-and-a-half on from swapping the Bundesliga for the Premier League in his late 20s, Thiago is making these games look a breeze, while Matip’s ability to bring the ball out from the back was a key feature.

Then there was Divock.

2H95FTW Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp and Divock Origi celebrate after the Premier League match at Molineux Stadium, Wolverhampton. Picture date: Saturday December 4, 2021.

I was calling for Klopp to bring him on for most of the second half, and he was bright and busy from the moment he entered.

He’s a bizarre player. He can be so frustrating and look totally disinterested, but then he has pulled off some of the most iconic goals in the history of the club.

This one at Molineux could be another one of those.

 

The bad…

WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Saturday, December 4, 2021: Wolverhampton Wanderers' captain Conor Coady clears the ball off the line from a shot by Liverpool's Diogo Jota during the FA Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers FC and Liverpool FC at Molineux Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

SAM: Diogo Jota’s miss.

I’ve written so many pieces praising his shot placement in the past. Then he goes and does that.

I’m not sure what happened and why he thought that was the best choice, but he did.

Fortunately, it didn’t cost us. I’m just hopeful it doesn’t play on his mind over the next few weeks. The last thing we need is for him to have a crisis of confidence.

JACK: I feel for Diogo. It was an awful miss and a baffling decision to just blast it at the bodies on the goal-line.

Poor Conor Coady, taking that one in the plums…

WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Saturday, December 4, 2021: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp during the pre-match warm-up before the FA Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers FC and Liverpool FC at Molineux Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Otherwise, it was a performance where, as Sam points out, Liverpool dominated but simply did not have the luck they required – until the 94th minute, that is.

If I was being picky, I’d say Klopp could have afforded some rotation of his personnel, perhaps bringing in Kostas and Ox.

But then there’ll be chances for those players in Milan on Tuesday.

 

And do we have enough to get through the AFCON?

WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Saturday, December 4, 2021: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah during the FA Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers FC and Liverpool FC at Molineux Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

SAM: It depends on how far Senegal and Egypt go, doesn’t it?

Jota, Roberto Firmino, Divock Origi and Taki Minamino is probably enough for a couple of games but anything more and things might get a little tricky.

We witnessed it last season, when everything was OK initially following Virgil van Dijk’s injury and the team kind of powered through the loss, but then it caught up to us and our game plan took a big hit.

I think we’ll have enough initially, but the longer it goes on, the more worried I am about it.

JACK: The tournament is just over a month away, but there are still a lot of hypotheticals involved in this – not least whether it will even take place in Cameroon as planned.

I’d hope Salah, Mane and Keita are able to play against Leicester and Chelsea before flying out to the tournament, and then it’s only Brentford, Palace and the FA Cup third round to miss.

That we still don’t know that is another example of the toxic relationship between domestic and international football.

WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Saturday, December 4, 2021: Liverpool's Divock Origi celebrates after scoring an injury tinme winning goal during the FA Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers FC and Liverpool FC at Molineux Stadium. Liverpool won 1-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

With Firmino back in the coming weeks, and both Origi and Minamino showing positive signs of late, I’d say there’s enough to get by against Brentford and Palace.

But could we see a surprise in the transfer market?

A lot would depend on whether the right player was available, and perhaps whether Liverpool were, in fact, planning on selling one of Mane, Firmino or, dare I say it, Salah in the summer.

In an ideal world, a new addition of the calibre of, say, Raphinha would be brought in. But if not, there should be enough depth to just about make it through.

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