5 points from the game and they're better than LFC's 5 points (except their point on Assist King Robbo which was very good):
1) Ed Da Ball. Our other Dutch centre half, from Bolton. He heads the ball. Yes, Ed Da Ball heads the ball. Nominative determinism. Clever isn't it.
So Ed Da Ball headed the ball. A lot. He had a ropey first half hour, which other Reds have also noticed seems to happen in many matches, but then after getting in a couple of headers to settle his early jitters, and then a couple more headers, and several more headers, he grew into the game and in the second half turned in a one-man header machine performance reminiscent of a 1930s William Ralph Dean who scored 350 goals in 400 games for Everton. EDB Scored a goal at one end, saved one on the line at the other, and also headed the ball on other occasions. A lot.
Now I'm not a big fan of Ed Da Ball for various reasons, let's see now, what could they be:
i) He's from Bolton, and therefore genetically 90% Manc and shouldn't really be allowed anywhere near our club, or even Merseyside, on that basis. He should have to check in at the border on a daily basis, with some sort of permit signed by Joe Anderson or Derek Hatton. I have to admit, I really really really don't like Bolton, or people from Bolton. Gary Neville, Sam Allardyce. Need I say more. Actually I like Peter Kay but let's pretend he's not from Bolton otherwise it ruins the whole anti-Bolton thing.
ii) I don't like headers. As much as you have to respect William Ralph Dean for being the most famous person ever to be born in Birkenhead, and I do respect that, headers are all a bit Everton for me. I find the whole concept rather distasteful and I'd like to see children banned from heading the ball or they'll end up bald like Alan Shearer.
iii) I don't really like people who like headers. It's all a bit blue collar worker. It's all a bit White Van Man for me. Head the ball, head the ball, head the ball. I mean it's OK if you're a fan that's got a Ford Transit and uses it for a living, but it's really not for the likes of me.
But fair play to Ed Da Ball, he did have a storming last hour of the game and definitely ran Rhys Williams close for man of the match, although...
2) I did have to give it to Rhys as he did win more headers. At least double figures by half an hour into the game. I know the Sky fella said EDB won the most headers but I'm afraid Sky can't be trusted with stats, they think we've only won one league title, and there is the possibility that the Sky stats person needs to go to unconscious bias training. There's a lot of people who need that I'm afraid. By 30 mins in, Rhys had done loads of positive basic centrebackish things and was comfortably the better CB at that point. Bar a couple of indecisive moments he actually had a really solid game if you watch it back with an open mind.
Rhys also has good strong teeth that'd look great sunk into the shoulder of some poor Chelsea defender so that's a plus, especially as he flashed those gnashers on at least 3 occasions as the ball settled in the back of the Burnley net.
Aside from misplacing his first pass, his passing was spot on for the rest of the game, not easy when you're right-footed and you've been told to play the left centre back slot because Ed Da Ball can't coordinate his legs properly when he plays on the left, so yeah chuck the kid in at LCB, Juergen, and expect him to bail out a teammate 4 years his senior? Really, Juergen? Wirklich?!
Yes OK there were the usual couple of incidents of long balls being played in behind Rhys, and him being caught whether to turn and chase it, or snuff it out early, or try to play offside, but as good as Rhys is at offside - and he is good as he actually has a brain - it's pointless trying to play offside when you're partnering EDB who is from Bolton and thinks 'offside' is when you nip round to bang the sister-in-law while your brother's at work. Turning and chasing back clearly isn't Rhys' thing, and Juergen seems to be the only person in the whole world who hasn't spotted this, because it should be very easy to mitigate. 1) Drop the team back 10 yards; 2) Tell Alisson to stop thinking about heading the winning goal in the World Cup final for Melchester Rovers and get his arse off his line to come out and sweep up; 3) Tell EDB to stop thinking about heading the ball and play narrower and nearer to Rhys and to try to anticipate (big word for someone from Bolton) the striker running in behind Rhys. EDB actually did this once in the game and needs to do it more often. The worst of these incidents was really down to Alisson not getting off his line and waiting until Wood was about 9 yards out before sprinting out, too late, we got lucky. But yeah Rhys could have dealt with that a bit better I expect. Lessons for Rhys: Don't play offside unless you're partnering someone who understands it or is as quick as Joe Gomez; don't let the ball run through to Alisson while he's daydreaming about his Ali of the Rovers thing; do just try to get tight and stick the ball and/or striker into Row Z and if the ball and striker go past you then turn round and bawl out EDB for not covering your arse. Simple. Basic stuff which someone like Juergen Klopp should really be conveying more effectively than seems to have been the case, because it keeps happening and it should be easy to mitigate. It's not Rhys' fault he's slow. Juergen's tactics are hanging him (and EDB) out to dry. Rhys has actually done incredibly well considering the highest level footie he's played prior to this was in the National League at Kidderminster. Despite both of them doing far better than could be expected given the flaws in their games/physiques, EDB gets all the plaudits, while Rhys just gets ignored at best (even the long pass of the season 50 yards right onto Trent's big toe at Old Trafford got zero mentions) and vilified at worst. I hope that's not for any sinister reasons but you never know these days...
3) Midfield. First slight gripe of the game: Fabinho. He's been disappointing (by his standards) the last few games. Now I like Fab, he's probably my player of the season, but he just hasn't cut it the last few games. He's offering no real protection to the centre backs so this idea that sitting him in as a DM in front of the centre backs offers them protection is correct in theory but not when he's not performing. He looks jaded, too many games, season end can't come soon enough. Personally I'd stick him back in at CB for the last game. He's brilliant at spotting danger and he's of no use as a defensive shield if he's not shielding the defence. It's vital he plays well at the weekend wherever he plays. He's likely to be key to a good result. One thing I do agree with other Reds on is that Fab at DM has allowed Thiago to concentrate a bit more on looking forward, and that's great, but Fab's own game is not up to scratch at the moment so we've kind of gone one step forward and one back. Just tiredness though I'm sure. Fab seems to be a player that does need the occasional week off to recharge his batteries.
Gini: Another efficient recycling game, keeping it simple, breaking the press, actually playing forward a bit more and at least looking for a forward option, and then brilliant game management as the game went on, possession possession possession run the clock out, and then a deserved rest as he looks shot as well as Fab, games games and more games.
Thiago: Good again, has hit form at the critical point of the season, doing lots of good Thiago stuff, the little shimmies, the disguised passes, and the thing I've only really just noticed is that he's brought Bobby back from the LFC waste player basket, given him a sort of footballing kiss of life.
4) 'The front three'
That's as lively as I've seen that front three for ages, it seems. All of them looked up for it, all of them look to have found energy from somewhere despite 2 of them looking completely jaded for much of the season. Bodes well for the weekend. No need to rush Jota back.
As said above, Bobby seems to have come back to the fore in recent matches and I'm sure it's because of Thiago's presence at 8. Our football in recent years has all got very computer game, as though it's been designed by these maths boffins that Klopp recruited, and I'm sure it has been. Two 8s in Gini and Jordan that keep things simple and midfield and don't really need to think about much more complex than passing the ball out to Robbo and Trent so they can whip crosses in.
Thiago varies his play up a lot. Yes he can ping long passes out to the advanced fullbacks but he also likes disguised passes into the middle of the park. Bobby seems to have spent the last couple of years watching as crosses flashed across goal 5 yards in front of him, and he became quite peripheral to the team, almost a waste him being out there to an extent. But Thiago involves Bobby in the game more, and when Bobby's more involved in the game our attack seems so much more dynamic, loose, free-flowing, call it what you will. Mané then seems to make himself a nuisance in the centre instead of just being 'stuck' out wide. There were times last night when it was almost like watching the swashbuckling moves of 2017/18, and I'll admit I thought those days were gone. Not to same extent that earned them the plaudits of 3 years ago but signs of life and signs is better than no signs.
There's always going to be a need for structure to our play, and nobody should be complaining about getting back-to-back near-100 point seasons with very structured pre-planned football, but Thiago defo provides us with the ability to mix things up. If the pre-planned stuff is getting bogged down, Thiago offers us a sort of brain on the field to find a different way through.
Our record against the bottom 6 this season has been an absolute disgrace, and in total contrast to Klopp's previous seasons. We seemed to have solved the problem, and then this season came along. 'Normal' results against those sides and I expect we'd have run City close to the title.
Hats off to FSG, they've pulled off a masterstroke. They tried the super league, bringing fans the highest quality of league football the world has ever seen, but nah, fans not happy. Oo. That was unexpected.
Instead, they've come up with a new concept of play that involves a lorra lorra heading of the ball. You don't need expensive players for that, in fact you don't need players that have cost anything at all. Any old ork from a Lancashire mill town can do it. And guess what, the fans love it! Ronnie Radford jumpers for goalposts head the ball head the ball head the ball head the ball head the ball head the ball head the ball
and it won't cost FSG a cent of their own money
the fans are happy, FSG are happy
Now that's magic!