The Reds returned to action after the international break with a win in the Merseyside Derby, thanks to yet another Mo Salah brace.
Liverpool 2-0 Everton
Premier League, Anfield
Saturday 21 October 2023
Goals: Salah pen 75′, 97′
Red card: Young 36′
Getting used to the left
The two most unfamiliar names on the teamsheet came at left-back and the left side of midfield: Kostas Tsimikas making his first league start of the campaign and Ryan Gravenberch making his full league debut for the Reds.
Bizarrely, despite having signed well over three years ago, this was only Tsimikas’ second time playing in a Merseyside Derby.
The Greek defender had a pretty steady start, making some decent moves forward, interchanging well on counter-attacks and making a few good defensive interventions too, but there were a few poor crosses a few too many fouls.
As for the Dutch midfielder, his movement on the ball, turning away from pressure and his ability to win the ball back in the middle was excellent.
But he should have two goals in two league games. After hitting the bar from close-range last time out, here he opted against attacking the far post when he would have had a tap-in. Learn those lessons fast and he’ll be a huge threat.
Both faded in the second half, which was testament to their lack of action as much as the team’s flat showing, and both were subbed on the hour.
And, yet for the reasonable impact and opportunity of those two, it was the third member of the left flank, Luis Diaz, who twice took on Ashley Young and twice was scythed down – yellow cards each time and a red accordingly.
A 12.30 kick-off out the way
Last season it was often noted that we fared terribly in early kick-offs, failing to win any of our six at 12:30pm.
That ignores two factors though; few teams have to play them as regularly as we do, and the Reds were garbage in a lot of games last term, regardless of kick-off time.
Despite that upturn in points, it was a fairly dismal atmosphere for too long in the derby, something long noted in early Premier League matches and not just at our ground.
Meanwhile, it’s also worth noting Sean Dyche is the eighth Everton manager to face Jurgen Klopp during his Liverpool tenure, such is their inability to find a suitable boss and the instability at the club overall.
Finally, we saw a fifth red card in Liverpool’s league matches this season – and the first not for us, which was a nice change.
Lots of shots, not enough guile
It is fair to say it was a tough watch in spells, and the shots stats reinforce this.
The Reds racked up 15 shots in just over an hour, with just a single one of those on target – and nothing to trouble Jordan Pickford at all.
Salah probably went closest with a curler from the right edge of the box, but even that was over – wide, never heading in.
It is of course always tough to break down 10 men who are defensive-minded even before they receive a red card but, this time, Liverpool will know they weren’t quick enough and weren’t inventive enough with their passing and movement in the final third.
Crossing and set pieces were also inaccurate from both flanks.
And yet, enough pressure usually does the trick. One too many moments of poor decision-making leads to an error of judgement somewhere along the line, and this time it was a handball and penalty.
Salah’s productivity doesn’t stop
It wasn’t Mo’s best game of the season, but his effectiveness level continues to be through the roof at Anfield – albeit thanks to the penalty spot and Darwin Nunez‘s selflessness this time around.
This match marked four home Premier League games in a row in which he has scored. And, in the last 13 home league matches, he has found the back of the net in 12 of them, notching up 14 goals in that time.
Not content with just bagging, he’s also a creator these days.
The No.11 remains an incredible source of goals and points for the Reds and, even when not at his very best, can still prove a match-winner. With 105 goals, the Egyptian now has more goals at Anfield than Steven Gerrard and Kenny Dalglish.
It’s only October and others play afterwards, so no getting carried away, but the three points took Liverpool to the top of the league – after last season, we’ll absolutely take that!
Given upcoming matches, we must now give ourselves the mini target of winning out through to the international break.
Do that and by the time we face Man City – another 12:30pm kick-off- we should be high on confidence and ready to really test ourselves, seeing just how far we’ve come with our summer rebuild.
Then, perhaps, we’ll get our best indication of what kind of season lies ahead for Liverpool.