Crystal Palace v Liverpool
Another great win last night for Liverpool at a very tricky venue. Crystal Palace v Liverpool away is always a potential banana skin. To be fair though to Crystal Palace, maybe the label of ‘banana skin’ is not very fitting nowadays. In previous seasons Palace have often been widely tipped as relegation candidates.
But can the same be said about their chances this season? A quick look at their starting XI and the subs bench suggests their aspirations may be a bit more ambitious than an annual relegation fight. Only time will tell in that regard obviously, but I think it’s fair to say that a quick look at their squad more than suggests they are no mugs.
Too Early To Get Too Excited…..But….
Of course it is too early to get overly excited but there is a feel about this current Liverpool squad. This is not merely based on our two competitive fixtures so far this season. When you take into account our form since the last half of last season as well, we are looking more and more impressive as time goes by.
We are looking more solid, more composed and more resilient. We have of course always had the goal threat, but now we are looking more like a complete unit.
Anything to do with signing Virgil Van Dijk by any chance? It’s no coincidence is it that our more assured performances have come about since we signed the big Dutchman. It’s still early days for Alisson Becker, but it would be interesting to see how much more we can develop and improve with a solid goalkeeper behind our back four.
No disrespect to Loris Karius and Simon Mignolet but neither of them ever filled us with confidence. That’s not ‘having a pop’ at them. It’s fact….as Rafa would say. At times they gave us fans ‘kittens’ with their uncertainty and indecisiveness. If they had that effect on us fans, what did they do to the players in front of them? Virgil Van Dijk et al of course.
A Strong Spine
It’s an old adage that every successful side needs a strong spine. It’s difficult to recollect the last time we had a spine as good as the one we have now. And at the heart of this spine of course is Van Dijk. What a difference he has made. Yes eyebrows were raised back in January at the size of the fee we paid our feeder club, Southampton, but what about now? It’s looking like a bargain isn’t it!!
Another key aspect of a successful side is having successful partnerships on the pitch. If all XI click then that is the ultimate aim. In order to achieve that situation, partnerships all over the pitch also need to be working efficiently obviously. Such as the partnership between the keeper and his back four. The partnership between the two centre-backs. How the right and left centre-backs interact with their full back colleagues. And so on.
It is the pairing of our current two centre-backs that has already caught the eye this season. We all knew that Van Dijk was good, but we didn’t realise he was as good as he has turned out to be. He has been immense. Also, many of us always thought that Joe Gomez’s best position was centre-back. Would he have got to play alongside Van Dijk so early into this season if Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren weren’t injured? Maybe not. Nevertheless the shirt is now his so to speak.
And hasn’t he taken his chance with aplomb. Under the guidance of big Virgil, Gomez has taken to his centre-back pairing so well. Having said that, it seems at times that the whole team is under the guidance of Van Dijk. Such is his influence.
Crystal Palace v Liverpool Ratings
Some great performances last night. Some not so great but as a team they all dug in and came out with a deserved three points. I don’t think many will disagree if we say that Van Dijk was man of the match. Closely behind him were Joe Gomez, Alisson Becker, Trent Alexander-Arnold, James Milner, Sadio Mane and Andy Robertson. Very, very close behind him was Naby Keita. How long has he been playing for Liverpool? And how long has he been performing in the Premier League? It seems as though he has been with us for donkey years. To say he has hit the ground running is a huge understatement. And to think, there’s more to come from him!!
That’s not to say the others didn’t step up the plate, but by their very high standards, the likes of Mo Salah, Bobby Firmino and Gini Wijnaldum were a bit quieter than normal. It can’t be bad can it when Mo has a bit of a quiet night and yet provides an assist, gets fouled for the opening goal from the penalty spot and is brought down for the straight red. By the way, it was a straight red, but before that how good was that full-back. He looks a good ‘un.
I think Mohamed Salah has achieved that status of no matter how he is playing, he will effect a game in some way at some time. He is certainly a different level than the player that hardly got a game at Chelsea. When the opposition are so preoccupied with him, more opportunities appear for the others.
On The Bench
Again, as well as recognising the importance of a strong spine, it is so important to have a strong bench. Looking at our bench in the first two games has been a real eye-opener. So much quality to call on. Without doubt, they have been the best benches we’ve had for many, many years. If not ever.
Onwards and Upwards
Yes, as already stated, it’s way too early to get overly excited. But, two difficult opening fixtures well negotiated. Six points, six goals and none conceded. Can’t ask for any more than that can we. Crystal Palace v Liverpool is always a tough fixture. It would not be a surprise if many teams come unstuck to this Palace side. They do have a lot of quality in their squad. Having said that, Christian Benteke seems to have hit the buffers at Selhurst Park doesn’t he. He’s gone right off the boil. Once a regular thorn in our side during his Villa days, he looks a pale shadow of the player he was. Still, not our problem to be concerned about.
Great for us to come away from a Crystal Palace v Liverpool fixture with all 3 points. Brighton up next at Anfield. Let’s not get too carried away and look to continue our impressive start this coming Saturday.
Final Score – Crystal Palace 0, Liverpool 2 (Milner 45, Mane 90+3).
Well done Redmen, three great points. COYR!! YNWA!! JFT96!!