Liverpool 4-1 Leicester City
Chelsea 1-2 Liverpool
Derby 0- 3 Liverpool ( League Cup )
Liverpool 5-1 HullCity
I liked September. For me it meant that my second year of university was starting, which felt a hell of a lot less daunting than the first, and it meant that I was going down to Liverpool for the first time since May. I travelled down on the Friday night and met my Dad in the city. We had decided to make a weekend of it and had booked two tickets to see Jamie Carragher in conversation with author Simon Hughes and The Anfield Wrap’s John Gibbons. Carra was on great form as you would expect, I got a photo with him too and it was fantastic to meet a genuine Liverpool legend.
It was exciting to be at Liverpool’s first home game of the season. It had been four months since Liverpool drew 1-1 with Chelsea in what was the final home game of last season. Anfield had changed a little bit over that time, but you can read more about that further down.
Liverpool had changed too since the last time I’d seen them. They were fantastic against Leicester and the performance really set the tone for the whole month. Thrashing the champions 4-1 was a real statement of intent, as was Liverpool’s performance against Chelsea. Jordan Henderson’s goal will go down as the standout moment of the month and rightly so. It was glorious and it was the least Hendo deserved after overcoming a difficult start to the season. But despite securing 10 points from four games against Arsenal, Spurs, Leicester and Chelsea, there were still doubts going into Liverpool’s home game against Hull. The demons from Burnley lingered as did the accusations that Liverpool simply can’t break down inferior teams. Instead Liverpool went out and thrashed Hull 5-1, and trust me it could have been more.
In September Liverpool played four, won four and scored 14 goals. Manchester City have won all six games this season and yet are only five points away. I’ve also just heard that De Bruyne will be out for four weeks. The chase is on. The game is afoot. Let’s hunt some orc.
Here’s what I’d like to talk about this month.
I was lucky enough to be at Liverpool’s first home game of the season against champions Leicester City. Lucky enough to be part of not only the biggest crowd at Anfield since 1977, but part of the one of the loudest.
Saturday September 10th saw the opening of Anfield’s new main stand, which boosted the capacity from 45000 to 53000. It marked the end of a 3 year redevelopment project, which has seen the entire old main stand taken apart and demolished, a new, bigger stand built over it and the introduction of a new fan zone.
As a feat of engineering, the new stand is magnificent. Twice the height of the old one, it truly is a colossal structure and it is now a dominant feature on the Liverpool skyline. It looks magnificent from outside the ground but it looks even better from inside the stadium as it towers above the pitch.
It had been four months since Liverpool’s last home league game and everyone was excited to get back to Anfield. Everyone was up for it. And that was before everyone realised that last season did actually happen and that Leicester, the champions, were turning up and were hoping to spoil the party.
I wanted to get to the ground early so I could have a look at the new stand – everything about it is great by the way, I especially like the new home of the eternal flame and memorial of the 96 – and I think 53,000 people all had the same idea. The atmosphere before kick-off was buzzing. There had been talk that people were planning on meeting the coach, just as they had done last season before the Dortmund and Villareal games, and as I was walking towards the main stand I could see that they had. A cloud of red smoke was billowing up from outside the King Harry on Anfield Road. Yes, the coach was close.
A new feature of our new main stand is that the coach drives straight into the ground, rather than parking outside for the players to walk in. The entrance for the coach is on the corner of the main stand beside the Anfield Road end, which is just outside the area where thousands of fans had congregated to enjoy the new fan zone. The result was that the coach got mobbed, which pleased me. I feel we play better when we show the players that we are all together. Welcoming the coach an hour before kick-off is a great way of doing that. And to those that say that we should save doing it for big nights, for when it matters? Well I’d say that they all matter. 38 cup finals and all that. Anyway, it all just means that for big nights where we might just need an edge we’re going to have to raise the atmosphere another level. I’m sure we’re capable of that.
Jurgen Klopp had asked the fans to be loud. He asked them to be the loudest they had ever been. During the game I thought that we were loud. You’ll Never Walk Alone sounded fantastic and all of our goals were celebrated wildly. There’s a great moment just after Mane makes it 2-0 when there’s a break in play for about two minutes where the Kop breaks into ‘We are Liverpool’ and it spreads its way around the ground until everyone is singing it. That sounded really loud. Match of the Day even took time to point out how loud the crowd were during the highlights of the game.
I was dubious as to whether 8,000 new voices would make a difference at Anfield, especially when you consider that a significant proportion of the new seats where corporate, but it seems as if they have made a sizeable contribution to the atmosphere. Apparently the new stand was designed so that the acoustics of the crowd didn’t disappear into the open air but instead carried onto the pitch, and it seems as if they’ve done extremely well to make it work.
The atmosphere at Anfield is extremely important. We know that we may not always be the best team but we know that we can have the best atmosphere. Admittedly, it has been a bit flat at times over the years but hopefully those days are over.
The new main stand was christened with a demolishment of the champions. Hull then turned up to find a fortress and they were swiftly dealt with. Let that be a lesson to the rest of them. Manchester United on a Monday night are next and you can expect some atmosphere on that night. Bring them on.
Friday Night Football
Football on a Friday will be a new feature this season. Trialed last season when Aston Villa hosted Manchester United, The Premier League have given the all clear for numerous fixtures to take place on a Friday night this season.
The whole concept of Friday night football is a controversial one. The only reason it exists is so Sky have another slot to show live football on television, which is a more attractive slot than, say, 4pm on a Sunday, and will theoretically generate more money for them. The controversy spawns from the idea that the league care more about Sky and television viewers than they give a toss about the actual fans that go to the games. We’ve only had two games on a Friday so far, the first saw Southampton fans, and presumably Manchester United fans from London*, have to travel to Manchester and the second saw Liverpool fans travel to London. Hardly ideal. Liverpool fans, for example, were left dismayed when they found that there would only be one train going back to Liverpool after the game, forcing hundreds to have to look at sorting accommodation in an expensive area of a London. It just means that fans are having to fork out even more money to watch their team play. Seriously, can’t these billion pound companies, Sky and The Premier League, sort something out for the fans?
None of that affected me as I wasn’t at the game, I feel that I just had to make that point. I feel that I had to make that point because I, perhaps selfishly, love the idea of Friday night football. Ever since the fixtures were released during the summer I was looking forward to September 16. For perhaps the biggest Friday night of all time. Here’s the thing, I knew, even weeks before, that I would be out watching the game. I presumed that I would be watching it at The Three Sisters, god bless their £4 double pints, alongside my mates, and I was correct. There I was at 8pm on a Friday night with a drink in hand watching The Reds. Glorious. But the night had the potential to go two ways. At 10pm I was either going to despondent or I was going to be ecstatic.
For me, Friday night football was everything I had hoped and dreamt it to be. Liverpool were tremendous. You know that. You’ve seen Henderson’s goal. It might be the greatest thing you’ve ever seen. Throughout the game I was getting texts from friends, friends who don’t like football but know that I do. They had gone out, unaware of the game, but had ended up watching Liverpool. What a great feeling it was to know that Liverpool were on show and that they were performing. They were the show.
I bounced out of the pub at 10pm. Liverpool had made a serious statement of intent and I couldn’t be happier. The night continued for hours, how could it not? That Friday might have been the most fun I’ve ever had. God bless Friday Night Football.
*I’m sorry I couldn’t resist.
Mignolet vs Karius
After appearing on the bench against Leicester and Chelsea, Lloris Karius was handed his competitive debut against Derby in the League Cup.
Signed for just under £5million in the summer, Karius was expected to start the season as Liverpool’s number one. But after breaking his hand in Liverpool’s pre-season friendly defeat to Chelsea the German was ruled out for the first month of the new campaign. Simon Mignolet, who has been Liverpool’s undisputed, although not entirely popular, number one for three seasons now, started Liverpool’s first six games of the season and even though he didn’t do anything wrong, probably didn’t do enough to earn the shirt. Liverpool fans were calling for Karius to start from the moment he was declared fit, but Klopp resisted, probably deciding that throwing an inexperienced 21 year old goalkeeper straight into the team for a home game against the champions and an away match at Stamford Bridge might not have been sensible.
Instead, Karius was gently handed his first competitive start away to Derby and then retained his place for the thrashing of Hull. Klopp has since confirmed that Karius will also start Liverpool’s next fixture away at Swansea.
I think it would be easy to assume that Klopp has decided on his number one, and for the record I think it will eventually be Karius, but I still think that Klopp is still trying Karius out. He’s young, he’s in a new country with – and I know this is an annoying cliché but just look at Claudio Bravo against Manchester United – a different, more physical style of football, and, so far, he’s barely had anything to do. Liverpool were so dominant against Derby and Hull that Karius was virtually a spectator. So far he has faced three shots on target, conceding one goal.
It’s hardly enough evidence to say that he’s miles ahead of Mignolet, but you can look at other aspects such as his distribution and Karius’ positioning when we have the ball, both of which I have been impressed with. Karius was almost touching the centre circle against Derby and was well out of his box against Hull. Liverpool this year will be dominating a lot of teams and in order to do that we need to push high up the pitch and play a high line. Karius’ position allows us to do that. Liverpool also need to move the ball quickly this year and, again, Karius’ passing ability allows us to move the ball quickly from defence. He’s clearly comfortable with the ball at his feet and he’s confident enough to zip the ball into his defenders.
As I said, it’s too early to tell and we’ll have to wait until Swansea to see any more of Karius. The game against United will be a big indication as to who is Klopp’s number one. However, given that Mignolet will be away on international duty while Karius will be with Klopp at training, I’d suspect that the German will be in goal.
Our Style of Play
Perhaps one of the most interesting insights into Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool came this month from Hull City’s Curtis Davies. The English defender was talking about what it was like to play against Liverpool and it doesn’t sound like a lot of fun.
He said; “Liverpool don’t give you a chance to breathe.”
“It is hard to lay a glove on anyone. When there is so much inter-changing you cannot put your mark on one person. It is tough to make a tackle. One second Mane will be in that hole, then Lallana and then Coutinho.
“There is a lot of interchange, quick football and with the full backs playing like wingers it becomes very difficult because you end up with backs against the wall.
“They play with Henderson and the two centre-halves at the back and the rest can go where-ever they want. That is not an ill-disciplined thing, that is organised.
“They were ruthless.”
This was all after Klopp claimed that Liverpool ‘played like hell’ in their 2-1 victory over Chelsea. In this context, playing like ‘hell’ is a good thing by the way. It’s hell for the opposition. Unrelenting movement, speed and pressure for 90 minutes. We saw this in glimpses last season, notably in the 3-0 victory against Villareal, but there were too many times where playing against Liverpool was too easy – I’d suspect that it was usually when Christian Benteke was playing upfront. Those times are now gone. We are now seeing the ‘heavy metal football’ that Klopp is associated with.
But, and this has surprised me this season, we are beginning to see something else. Liverpool are turning into a very good possession team. We have dominated possession in every game so far this season and only Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City ( 65%) have had, on average, as much possession as Liverpool this season ( 60%). We stretch teams too, create space and then play through them. It’s positive possession, intense, quick, not just possession for the sake of it, and when Liverpool lose the ball, they press to win it back immediately. That’s why it’s so difficult to play against them.
The Anniversary ( Almost One Year On )
Let’s quickly rewind a year. Liverpool had just drawn 1-1 with struggling League One side Carlisle United in the fourth round of the Capital One Cup. They had been booed off the pitch at half-time, full-time and then at the end of extra-time. They scraped through on penalties but the victory was barely celebrated.
Anfield was not a happy place. It was not a happy place because Liverpool were not a fun team to watch. In their opening six league games last season, Liverpool under Brendan Rodgers scored four goals. Further cup games against Carlisle and Bordeaux meant that by September 26th, Liverpool had only scored six goals in eight games. Rodgers only lasted three more games and on October 8th, Jurgen Klopp was appointed Liverpool manager.
It’s almost a year later and I’d say that Liverpool are a fun team to watch. We have been for a while, but milestones like these help us to see how far we have come. As I’m writing this it is September 26th. Liverpool have played eight games and Liverpool have scored 24 goals. 24. Twenty-four.
I don’t think I need to add anything else.
Man of the Month – Adam Lallana
Lallana enjoyed a great start to his September when he scored an injury time winner for England in their 1-0 away win against Slovenia. It was Lallana’s first international goal in 26 England appearances and you could see from his celebrations that it felt like a huge relief for him to get off the mark for his country. In his first two seasons at Liverpool, Lallana had been accused of not scoring enough goals or making enough assists. It was always acknowledged that he was a tireless worker but the suggestion was that he didn’t bring anything else to the table.
Now playing in a deeper, more central midfield position, it’s certainly ironic that Lallana has started adding goals to his game. His strike against Leicester was followed up by another goal and two assists against Hull. Lallana was also given a standing ovation when he was taken off after an hour, while his name was clearly being sung by the crowd.
Klopp adores Lallana. His energy and tireless running sets the tone of the counter-press, making him a crucial part of Klopp’s team. Now that he has started to score goals, it seems that the Anfield crowd are beginning to adore Lallana as well.
1st: Swansea vs Liverpool
17th: Liverpool vs Manchester United
22nd: Liverpool vs West Brom
25th: Liverpool vs Tottenham ( League Cup )
29th: CrystalPalace vs Liverpool