And they're off...
Same old Liverpool, and I don't mean same old from last season but same old since the turn of this decade really. For years upon years now we've shot ourselves in the foot with the same mistakes. We've been linked with anybody with a heartbeat but never materialised in signing a number of players with real quality. Rather one, potentially, decent signing and a couple of players who will only be squad players at best. Think about it honestly, what was the last summer that excited you in terms of our transfers - regardless of how they eventually turned out.
I'll be honest I was excited by the signing at Lovren, I thought he looked a quality centre half at Southampton and for us to get him gave me optimism going into that year. The other signings that year, not so much so. And that's been one of the problems for so long. We don't have signings who grip our imagination, just a lorry load of "solid hands" or "potential".
Another constant problem we've had for a number of years is defending. This is not exclusive to the Klopp era, nor is it exclusive to the current set of defenders. It's a long installed problem at the club that, I imagine, each and every manager/coach we've had since the days of Hyypia/Carragher at the heart of our defence has tried addressing. And every manager with his coaching staff has failed to sort it out for whatever reason.
I used to be totally anti-zonal marking, even going back to Rafa's early days with Sami and Carra back there. I hated it. I'm old fashioned, your best header of the ball picks up their best header and everybody knows who to blame when we concede. Then Sami Hyypia scored an absolute belter of a header against Arsenal in the European Cup from one of our corners. And they used man-marking at the time. And I decided that regardless of the system you implement, if the delivery is good, the movement is good and the connection on the ball is good then you stand a fair old chance of conceding from a set piece.
So for me it's not a case of we need to change the system. Klopp is an advocate of zonal marking, so we're gonna stick with it. Sound. That's fine and dandy, as long as we've got the players suited to that system. We don't. But as I said earlier, it's not a new problem. I was never overly confident with opposition set pieces when we had Skrtel, Agger, Toure, Sakho, Klavan, Lucas, Ilori, Coates, Gomez or any other of our most recent centre halves at the back. It's a problem we've had for years.
And one of the main contributing factors to that problem is commanding centre halves don't exist any more. The old guard of player who'd throw their head on anything has gone in favour of somebody who can play nice passes out from the back. Matip being a prime example. The fella is, what, six two? Six three? Maybe taller. And he looks like a strong wind would knock him over. But he's alright with the ball at his feet. And that's what most people say when they explain why he should be in the team. It's one reason why Danny Agger was so adored as well. Now I'm not knocking that reason at all, or even that type of player, but while that sort of player is your main centre half, you're going to struggle defending when the ball is in the air. And we have, for years. Benteke bullied our defenders, Carlton f**king Cole ran us ragged one game for West Ham. Because we don't have that type of defender any more who is up for the physical fight and aerial battles because they don't exist. The game has moved on from that sort of player. And if you look throughout the opening weekend, so many teams have struggled with set pieces.
Players don't wanna go and really compete for headers any more in case it messes their hair up. Even long punts up the field now from a goal kick, there's no defender throwing everything he's got to knock it back where it came from. It's all nice and gentle little jumps to tap it five yards.
Which brings me round to another long standing problem, our scouts. We moan religiously about the owners, not spending enough or over spending on others or doing this that and the other wrong. But what the f**k are our scouts doing? It's another part of the game that's moved on, you don't see managers/scouts on scouting missions at the game any more. In today's world, everybody in football knows of anybody with an ounce of talent before they've hit puberty. But are our scouts feeding Klopp with information that Van Dijk is the only centre half in the world we can get? Surely it's their job to say, there's a lad playing in Romania who has a bit about him or that kid from Dundalk looks a prospect or have you seen Smith and Jones down at Bury? Everybody might know about these players because in the modern world, that's how it works, but surely a scout is there to find them before they actually become the interest of the globe.
But maybe the scouts are giving Klopp this information and he's choosing to ignore it or the owners are choosing to ignore him when he says it to them. If it's Klopp refusing to listen then that again is another problem we've had for many years, once again something not exclusive to Klopp. But the stubbornness of our managers. Stubbornness in their persistence to stick with players who aren't good enough rather than trusting a young kid. People like to talk about how Klopp gives the young lads a go, he gives them a run out in games he basically doesn't give a toss about - or that's how I've seen it during his time here. Arnie is only starting at the minute because Clyne is injured. Woodburn and Kent have both been refused loan deals yet are being kept off the bench by Divock Origi who has proven to not be up to the required standard. Solanke was only on the bench because of Sturridge's latest injury. Danny Ward is told he's in the mix for the number one shirt but can't even make the bench on our opening game despite Mignolet and Karius showing that they're not good enough. Now young kids will make mistakes but f**k me so are the seasoned professionals. And they're making mistakes that I wouldn't expect a school kid to make let alone a full international. At least a young kid might show some f**king desire and heart, something else we've lacked for many a year. As a collective we don't fight. We might have the odd individual who shows some passion and looks like he cares but on the whole, nowhere near enough. And a kid is only going to get better by playing alongside the better players as opposed to the squad players who get thrown into the League Cup ties?
So the problems we experienced against Watford are issues we've had to deal with for years. It's nothing new really and it shouldn't come as a surprise when we experience the same issues throughout this season. We've changed personnel on and off the field in that time frame and still had the same sort of problems.
But on to the game itself;
Mignolet - will cop his usual amount of blame due to people just having it in for the lad. He could be man of the match and he'd still cop the blame for that throw in we conceded in the 73rd minute just outside their box. But against Watford, I thought he was average. Made a couple of saves, mainly routine ones in all honesty. Had his usual flap, the one where he told Lovren to leave it springs right to mind. And the goals, I don't blame him for any of them really. It's defensive errors more than goalkeeping errors that cost us.
Alexander-Arnold - had a solid game for his first start in a Premier League game at Anfield and only his third in total. (But of course I'm going to say that aren't I? He's Scouse). He was part of the problem that led to their second because it was a poor clearance. Even if it didn't hit Matip, it was still going right back across goal. Should of just put it out. But at least he did get in front of his man, unlike any other defender during that move and most of Watford's attacks came down the left. I thought overall it was a solid start, some f**king brilliant deliveries as well on the other side of the game.
Matip - I don't recall him doing anything that sh*t other than a few sloppy passes. But I don't recall anything great either. I think he's sort of in the category of us thinking he's a lot better than he is because a) he was a free and b) he's a good footballing centre half. His game, along with the entire back four, needs to improve massively.
Lovren - as I stated very early into this post, when we signed him I was made up. But he has gone dramatically down hill with the odd run of form here and there to think he's finally turned the corner. Only to revert back to old ways and show he hasn't. The performance against Watford demonstrated that with him as our first choice centre half, we're gonna struggle. On the plus side, what a ball to Firmino that led to our third.
Moreno - impressed during pre-season so maybe he warranted the starting birth against Watford. And while he didn't perform anywhere near as badly as we know he can, he still didn't convince me that he should be playing for Liverpool Football Club on a regular basis. You know there's a mistake there just waiting to happen. Unfortunately that's something you can label all our defenders with.
Henderson - always said I liked the lad. Never shied away from that, there's something there. But that something isn't there when he's expected to be the creative midfielder. He can move the ball around the park no problem and ensure we keep possession but too often he'll take the shithouse option rather than put his foot on the ball, look up and try a much much riskier pass with higher reward. It's why he was excellent in 13/14 because he had Gerrard beside him to do the creative work, it's why he looks so below par beside Can and/or Wijnaldum.
Can - I've often been critical of the German and while he was, clearly, the best of the three central midfielders against Watford, that f**king back heel that gave them the throw for the second goal is unforgivable. Just f**king clear your lines Emre. Leave the fancy dan sh*t for those who can do it or in an area that isn't so dangerous. But that seems to be the mindset of so many of our players, we must do a flick here or a bit of skill there for no reason other than to show off. Just do the simple things. That aside, I thought Can did a good solid job. That run where he carried the ball forty or fifty yards and won us a free kick for example, exactly what was required at the time. Kept it simple and drew a foul.
Wijnaldum - again he's a player I like. Does a lot of the donkey work in the middle of the park. Unfortunately though so do Henderson and Can. Having three in the middle who all do much of the same doesn't get you very far. We needed somebody to be the creative spark and none of the three did, which left our attacking play very average for most of the game. And of course Gini will take the blame for failing to clear a routine corner. Again, just do the basic things right. It was at a height where he couldn't of taken a touch and launched it up the field. But instead he's trying a little nice soft header, as I said earlier players nowadays don't want to go and attack the ball.
Mane - wonderful goal and some nice touches here and there. Nasty foul from him as well, which isn't nice to see but maybe what we need is a few more players with a bit of bite to them. His goal aside, wasn't anywhere near his best. But I really put that down to a lack of creativity from the midfield failing to find him and his attacking comrades on a regular basis.
Salah - winning a pen and scoring a goal on his debut, not too bad really. Few poor efforts on goal in positions he really should of done better but given how poor we were creatively, to find himself in those positions in the first place is a plus. And if he keeps finding himself in those areas, he's going to get a few goals this year. Grew into the game as he was quiet initially but looked a lot better by the time he came off.
Firmino - scored a pen and got an assist, so he'll get his man of the match votes from the usual suspects. Like the other two in the front three, he was below par due to the lack of creativity behind him. There were flashes of his ability but it was the exception as opposed to the rule. And for their first, again he didn't want to attack the ball. He makes a move towards it then stops stock still as the Watford forward bangs it in. Too quiet for too long but when he made a noise it resulted in goals, which is really what a forward is there to do.
Origi - did he actually touch the ball? (genuine question because I can't remember seeing it)
Milner - I'm guessing the idea of bringing him on was to use his experience to see the game through. That worked well didn't it? I've never been a James Milner fan, he's certainly not somebody I believe to be good enough for this club and I don't get excited when I see him coming on. He's another central midfield in the same mould as the three who started, all donkey work players so I don't see the point in him coming into the midfield.
Gomez - poor f**ker doesn't have a position does he? He wants to be a centre half but is being operated on either side of the back four whenever he gets a chance. I'd throw him in for the Palace game in place of either Lovren or Matip. Probably looked the most assured centre half of any during pre-season.
Overall, it's a bad result and an even harder one to accept. Throughout the build up, Watford's biggest problem was their inability to score. Their first choice forward is in the stands, injured and their record transfer fee forward is sat on the bench. Yet they still manage to put three past us. What's that say about our defence? Going forward we looked a shadow of what we did at times last year, yet still scored three so what does that say about our attack? And the midfield needs a huge f**king revamp if we're to ever sort out our problems at either end of the pitch.
But it's one game into the season and far too early to go slitting our wrists. There's going to be dozens and dozens of shock results this season, a few have already happened. We might return to this game later on in the season and say it was the game that finally made the penny drop and Klopp changed something drastically because of this one game. Maybe we needed this result to give us the kick up the arse we need.
Thirty-seven games to before we're crowned champions!!!