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Another new front 3 and better set pieces – 5 talking points from Liverpool 3-0 Brentford

Liverpool ran out convincing winners against Brentford, eventually converting their dominance into goals amid a tough run of games.

Liverpool 3-0 Brentford

Anfield, Premier League
Sunday 16 January, 2022

Goals: Fabinho 44′, Oxlade-Chamberlain 69′, Minamino 77′


A rotating front three

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, January 16, 2022: Liverpool's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates after scoring the second goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Brentford FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

There were two changes from the Arsenal game that altered the balance and dynamic of Liverpool’s front three and midfield.

A quick glance at the team sheet and it looked like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain would be the player to come into the midfield in place of James Milner, with Curtis Jones operating on the left of the front three instead of Takumi Minamino.

Instead, Diogo Jota moved from the right to the left, with Oxlade-Chamberlain coming in on the right and Jones slotting into midfield.

In theory, this added more speed and directness in two areas of the pitch, and this was on show when Oxlade-Chamberlain stole in front of Sergi Canos to get on the end of Andy Robertson’s cross for the second goal.

By the end of this game, there had been three different versions of the front three as a result of substitutions, and there will no doubt be more tinkering to come in the next few weeks – especially if Oxlade-Chamberlain’s ankle injury keeps him out.

Kaide Gordon came on to become the Reds’ fourth-youngest ever league debutant – he might even be needed in one of these next two games from the start.

 

Set piece threat

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, January 16, 2022: Liverpool's Fabio Henrique Tavares 'Fabinho' scores the first goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Brentford FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Klopp described his side’s set-pieces against Arsenal in the previous game as “awful”.

“In training, they looked outstanding and on a matchday they looked the other way around,” the manager said in the build-up to this game.

He will be pleased, then, that the opener here came from a Trent Alexander-Arnold corner which bounced beyond Virgil van Dijk and was nodded in by Fabinho at the far post.

With a lack of creative passing in midfield in open play, set pieces looked like the best route to goal for a Liverpool side without Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Naby Keita, and the injured Thiago.

Van Dijk had a couple of attempts at goal from corners prior to the goal, and despite the height Brentford have in these situations he, Matip and, evidently, Fabinho, remained a threat throughout on the occasions the delivery was good.

“The set pieces against Arsenal were really bad, today they were good,” said Klopp post-match. “We should keep that, that would be really helpful!”

 

Counter-pressing creativity

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, January 16, 2022: Brentford's Vitaly Janelt sees his shot go wide during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Brentford FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Another way of creating chances that Klopp has always advocated is through pressing, and this was another aspect of their game Liverpool demonstrated with the third goal coming in this manner.

The front three pressed high as Brentford tried to play out of the back, with Roberto Firmino, who else, nicking the ball off Christian Norgaard.

He and Minamino eventually decided who would finish the chance, with the Japan international scoring just a few minutes after coming on.

Firmino was taken off shortly after, resting him ahead of more pressing shifts in the coming games, which could be as important as improving Liverpool’s creativity on the ball.

 

Rafa, Rafael, Rafael Benitez

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, December 1, 2021: Everton's manager Rafael Benítez looks dejected as his side lose 4-1 during the FA Premier League match between Everton FC and Liverpool FC, the 239th Merseyside Derby, at Goodison Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The news filtered around Anfield at halftime that former Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez was also now a former Everton manager.

Shortly before kickoff for the second half, Benitez’s name was sung in the Kop and was sung sporadically throughout the next 45 minutes.

It remains to be seen how much Benitez’s decision to join Everton in the first place will affect his legacy at Liverpool, but for the time being the Red side can taunt the blue half of the city as they had with Manchester United earlier in the season.

Everton will soon be on their sixth permanent manager since Klopp joined Liverpool in October 2015, and in terms of the way the two clubs are run, and almost in the league table, they couldn’t be further apart.

 

Fixture navigation

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, January 16, 2022: Liverpool's Diogo Jota (L) challenges for a header with Brentford's Kristoffer Ajer during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Brentford FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool will now prepare for the second leg of the League Cup semi-final with Arsenal having learned a little more about their team minus their two star attackers.

They could be likely to switch things around again, using a different lineup in the cup game to that which will face Crystal Palace in the Premier League the following Sunday.

By the time of the next home game — the FA Cup fifth round clash with Cardiff City — they could rotate with an eye on getting a full-strength side out for the next league game versus Leicester.

That FA Cup tie takes place on the same day as the Afcon final, along with the third-place match, and by that time the transfer window will be shut, too.

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