MATCHDAY PROGRAMME

Diaz’s form, Endo & Gakpo’s position – Last word on Sheff Utd 0-2 Liverpool

With the Reds now four points ahead of Man City, there was plenty to debate after Liverpool beat Sheffield United in the Premier League.

Not everything went to plan on the night but Liverpool got the win and that’s what Jurgen Klopp will deem important.

The game does raise questions about who will play against Crystal Palace and how the manager will approach the next block of fixtures.

Here, Sam Millne (@sam_millne) and Adam Beattie (@beatts94) discuss Wataru Endo, Luis Diaz and other talking points from Liverpool’s game against Sheffield United.

 

Were there nerves towards the end of the game, for you?

SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND - Wednesday, December 6, 2023: Liverpool's Dominik Szoboszlai scores the second goal in injury time during the FA Premier League match between Sheffield United FC and Liverpool FC at Bramall Lane. Liverpool won 2-0. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Adam: No more than usual, if I’m honest.

I felt like we were in control for most of the second half despite not being at our best and it would have felt like a bit of a smash-and-grab if they’d nicked a point.

For large parts, it felt like we as fans were a bit nonchalant in the ground, as seemed to be the case against Fulham, but I imagine the anxiousness will return as the months go by if we go deep into a title race.

That said, you never quite know when it’s just the one goal and it was really satisfying to see Dominik Szoboszlai put the icing on the cake.

Sam: It definitely became closer as the match went on but I think that’s inevitable against any team while just one goal ahead.

In general, Liverpool managed the game very well once they went ahead, but it was by no means a rest and was a testing 112 minutes going into Saturday’s 12.30pm kick-off.

Though nerves began to play a part towards the end, we need to start considering how Liverpool are playing this season rather than last. The Reds now have the joint-best defensive record in the league, with Arsenal.

 

How would you assess the performance overall?

SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND - Wednesday, December 6, 2023: Liverpool's Dominik Szoboszlai (R) celebrates with team-mate captain Virgil van Dijk after scoring the second goal during the FA Premier League match between Sheffield United FC and Liverpool FC at Bramall Lane. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Sam: It was definitely a case of getting the job done, as Jurgen Klopp himself eluded to after the match.

This time of year, again like the boss said, is about momentum, and Liverpool now have that thanks to four wins in our last five matches.

On the night, there were elements of good performances, but ultimately things didn’t click up front. Sheffield United defended deep and didn’t allow the attackers any space to even get shots away at times.

It was the type of match we wouldn’t have been pleased with if we hadn’t won, but that’s football and who’s bothered? Certainly not Liverpool fans.

Adam: It wasn’t spectacular, but it didn’t particularly need to be.

We were definitely sloppy at times, at both ends of the pitch, and against a better side we might have been punished.

But in reality, a win and a clean sheet on the road is never to be sniffed at, particularly when there is so much at stake as there already feels to be.

 

Can we expect to see Endo more often?

SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND - Wednesday, December 6, 2023: Liverpool's Wataru Endo during the FA Premier League match between Sheffield United FC and Liverpool FC at Bramall Lane. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Adam: I’d be amazed if not, particularly given how busy the schedule is about to get.

He gives us a nice balance and appears to be gradually adapting to life in the Premier League, which was always going to take a bit of time.

If I were being harsh, I’d say it sometimes takes him a while to settle into games and find his feet, but he always ends up hitting the tempo of the game and isn’t afraid to put his body on the line when needed.

Sam: The Japanese has quietly been performing quite well of late.

His goal was obviously the standout moment against Fulham, but he kept the ball moving quickly when he came on and continued that way against Sheffield United.

At home and against teams lower down the league, he is ideal as a player who steps up and nicks the ball in front of players to keep pressure on the opposition.

My only worry would be against teams that turn Liverpool around with speed; we have seen he isn’t the best when running back towards his own goal.

 

Is Diaz’s form a worry?

SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND - Wednesday, December 6, 2023: Liverpool's Luis Díaz (R) is challenged by Sheffield United's Jayden Bogle during the FA Premier League match between Sheffield United FC and Liverpool FC at Bramall Lane. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Sam: Diaz has three league goals in 10 starts this season, but only has one assist all campaign.

I wouldn’t call his recent performances worrying, though. He obviously went through a traumatic period and is now coming out the other side, but I think it would be harsh to judge his season given the circumstances.

If Liverpool stick with him, he will come good again as he is one of the players who have that something special within them.

I think he needs to get back to running at defenders and reaching to the byline. It is also important to remember he still has plenty of time, at 26-years-old.

Perhaps Cody Gakpo could take over on the left for a while to ease the pressure on the Colombian.

Adam: The lack of goals is something that has always been levelled at him since he arrived two years ago, but it’s not something I’m necessarily spending to much time stressing over.

It will be interesting to see what the manager does when Mo Salah heads to AFCON, because I can see Diaz being the one to pick up some of those minutes on the right.

He only returned to the side from his knee injury in the middle of April so the end of last season was a bit of a free hit for him, but we could probably do with seeing a bit more output from him soon, in an ideal world.

 

How many changes for you against Crystal Palace?

Sam: You would expect Curtis Jones to start and Alexis Mac Allister to be rested, given the various cuts and knocks he has sustained this week.

Nunez probably also comes back in and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Gakpo start on the left over Diaz. Jarell Quansah or Joe Gomez could start at centre-back to keep Ibrahima Konate fit, too.

Adam: Kostas Tsimikas is the obvious one after Gomez was thrown in somewhat at the deep end at left-back against Sheffield United.

I was surprised to see Mac Allister get the nod from the start and fully expect him to drop out on Saturday as Sam said, perhaps paving the way for someone like Ryan Gravenberch to return to the XI.

It is going to be a bit of a guessing game in the next few weeks, but I reckon we’ve got squad to cope!