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2014/15 Flashback: Liverpool’s standout performances

The Boot Room

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The 2014/15 campaign was one of major disappointment for Liverpool, especially when comparing to the season before. However, there were still a few standout performances from Brendan Rodgers’ men, and these results should be the standards Liverpool hope to reach on a more consistent basis this season.

3. vs Swansea City (H) 29 December 2014

This victory came at the beginning of the Reds’ 13-match unbeaten run at the turn of the year, and was the first indication for Rodgers that his new found 3-4-3 formation was working. The manner of the result was not so much the amount of goals or types of goal scored, but more of the overall team effort that allowed the Reds to dominate the game from start to finish, something not seen during the season until that game.

Two slick team moves were rounded off by wing-back Alberto Moreno and attacking midfielder Adam Lallana, while an unfortunate own goal by former Red Jonjo Shelvey and a Lukasz Fabianski clearance that deflected off Lallana gave Liverpool their biggest margin of victory of the season – achieved without a certain Steven Gerrard, who did not even come off the bench.

The vindication of this performance led to Rodgers sticking to his unorthodox formula that allowed the Reds to go on that long unbeaten run, however it also blinded the manager to the flaws of his 3-4-3 formation that eventually derailed Liverpool’s late top four charge.

2. vs Tottenham Hotspur (A) 31 August 2014

 Winning at White Hart Lane by such a margin might have made the top, but such is Liverpool’s recent record at Spurs that a 3-0 victory could now be seen as routine. This early season victory did give Reds’ fans early optimism, or false hope, that their side might have been able to mount another title challenge. The quick, dynamic and lively movement of Liverpool’s front men, supported by Raheem Sterling at the tip of a midfield diamond, had seen off Mauricio Pochettino’s new side as easily as a Luis Suarez-led side had decimated Andre Vilas-Boas’ Spurs in the previous campaign to a wider margin of 5-0.

Mario Balotelli had a frustrating season for Liverpool but one of his best performances was at Spurs in a two-man attack with Daniel Sturridge.

Sterling’s early goal inside 10 minutes was reminiscent of the Reds’ blitz of the previous season, but it was the last time Liverpool scored that early until Emre Can’s 9th minute goal in a 2-1 home defeat to eventual champions Chelsea more than two months later. Alberto Moreno’s half-pitch sprint and powerful finish reminded most fans of a former favourite John Arne Riise, but was probably the new Spaniard’s only high in a difficult season for him.

The early promise of Daniel Sturridge combining with new signing Mario Balotelli was evident in this victory. On hindsight, the style which saw the Reds see off Spurs would have been replicated had it not been for an injury to Sturridge a week later, while on England duty. That was the start of Sturridge’s long layoff throughout the season which ultimately left the Reds, and Balotelli, wanting in the goalscoring department.

1. Manchester City (H) 1 March 2015

 At the height of the Reds’ unbeaten run at the start of the year, Rodgers’ side simply blew Manuel Pellegrini’s City side away. Riding high from a magnificent run thus far, Liverpool were all over City from the get go, harassing City’s stars and ensuring they didn’t have a moment to rest. This high pressure paid dividends for Jordan Henderson’s emphatic opener, as the Reds managed to hassle the ball off City’s midfield on the halfway line, drive forward in numbers and this gave Henderson the required room to launch his curling effort past Joe Hart.

Despite Sergio Aguero’s brilliance that set up Edin Dzeko for City’s equaliser, the Reds never relented and their efforts paid off in the second half. Player of the season Philippe Coutinho picked up the ball near the left side corner of the box, shuffled the ball to his right, before launching a stunning effort into the top corner of the net that meant Hart was again beaten from long range. The Reds resolutely held on, like they did 11 months earlier, and took all three points.

It was probably more of Pellegrini’s naive tactics than Rodgers’ 3-4-3, more of Pellegrini’s inflexibility playing into the hands of Rodgers’ energised side. This victory for the Reds was probably a double-edged sword for their manager, as it firmed up Rodgers’ belief that this formation would do well against all the top sides – which alas, did not happen.

Brendan Rodgers’ tactical flexibility reaped rewards but also caused difficulties for Liverpool last season

With the new campaign about to get underway, Rodgers will do well to look back on these three performances, taking both positives and negatives out. It is quite interesting that these three wins did not come out of Rodgers’ favoured formation, 4-3-3, but instead the 4-4-2 diamond and 3-4-3. This could show the flexibility the Reds have in switching between tactics and still gaining the required result. However it should also serve as a warning to Rodgers that he needs to settle on a main formation in time for the crunch opener against Stoke City.

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Chelsea

Willian could hold key to Tottenham landing Anthony Martial

If Manchester United land the Brazilian it would undoubtedly improve Tottenham’s chances.

Jamie Watts

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Manchester United are reportedly preparing a £60 million bid to bring Chelsea winger Willian to Old Trafford this summer, according to reports from the Daily Mail, with manager Jose Mourinho having been linked with an approach for his former star for some time.

Chelsea were unwilling to sell at that time, but it is possible that Willian could be interested in a new challenge after apparently growing frustrated with life at Stamford Bridge, according to recent reports from Sky Sports. He managed a combined 25 goals and assists in 55 appearances in 2017/18, but only 20 of his 37 Premier League outings actually came as a starter.

Photo: Getty Images

Tottenham meanwhile, have become frustrated at United’s assertion that Anthony Martial will not be sold this summer (Sky Sports), after Mauricio Pochettino made the Frenchman his priority target last month (the Sun), as he looks to bolster the supply line to Harry Kane next term.

However, Martial’s revelation that he wants to leave the club could be vital for Spurs, as Mourinho has previously stated that he would never stop a player from moving if they really want the move and the money is right. And he’s backed up his words, selling two-time Chelsea Player of the Year Juan Mata to his current club in 2014.

Photo: Getty Images

The Red Devils are currently stacked in terms of depth for the left wing, with Marcus Rashford struggling to start games over January signing Alexis Sanchez, but wide-right is somewhat scarce and Willian would undoubtedly improve United’s balance for the better.

Although the manager would prefer the Frenchman went abroad, if he asked for the move to north London, Willian’s transfer to United would undoubtedly improve Pochettino’s chances of securing his key man. United will also be buoyed by their recent business with the west Londoners, having surprisingly secured the signing of Nemanja Matic from Stamford Bridge last summer.

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Everton

Gylfi Sigurdsson shows why Everton splashed £45m on his services

Everton fans will hope they see Sigurdsson in fine form next season.

Mathew Nash

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Iceland pulled off another shock at a major tournament, as they managed to hold out for a draw against Argentina. Alfred Finnbogason scored the equaliser after Sergio Aguero had given the Albiceleste the lead. Lionel Messi then saw a penalty saved as Iceland fully deserved a share of the spoils.

One man who was in sensational form throughout the game was Everton midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson. Only recently returned from a knee injury he was the beacon of quality that Iceland needed. When they needed a player to keep possession he was there and he was a constant thorn in the side of Argentina’s defensive generals.

It was a performance that will remind Everton fans just why they spent £45 million to bring him from Swansea City last summer. It also highlighted that, used correctly. The ‘Iceman’ could be Everton’s talisman.

(Photo by Lynne Cameron/Getty Images)

When Sigurdsson arrived last season he did so at the same time as two identical players. Davy Klaassen and Wayne Rooney also joined Everton last summer leaving them overbooked in that area of the field.

With Everton failing to bring in sufficient wide options, Sigurdsson also found himself playing wide left for much of his time at Goodison Park.

What is clear from the Iceland game is that Sigurdsson is best in the number 10 role, playing off of the front-man and hopefully next season that is where Everton will see him. With Cenk Tosun ahead of him, pace out wide and reliable generals behind him in midfield the Icelander will be free to roam and play his best football.

If Everton do that, then they will see more and more of the real Sigurdsson next season.

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Manchester United

Chicharito shows he’s capable of replacing Marko Arnautovic at West Ham in brilliant Mexico performance

The striker was unrecognisable from last season at West Ham.

Jamie Watts

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West Ham United striker Marko Arnautovic is still heavily linked with a move to Manchester United, although the club have attempted to deter interest by slapping a whopping £60 million price tag on the Austrian, according to the Daily Star.

Although the price is considerable, it’s conceivable United could match the fee, or something close and Manuel Pellegrini may have to begin lining up replacements, in case a switch to Old Trafford materialises. But the Chilean coach may very well have his man already on yesterday’s evidence, ironically, in the form of former United fan favourite, Chicharito.

Photo: Getty Images

Chicharito made a name for himself throughout his career for his impressive ability to improvise a finish in the penalty area, and his movement, which has led to countless poacher goals. However, his performance for Mexico yesterday could indicate a change of responsibilities for the striker in the future. And West Ham will be thrilled.

Against Germany, he did everything but put the ball away. Non-initiated viewers may have been shocked to find out that the striker went into the match one goal off a career tally of 50 for his country, as he plied for the 90 minutes as a forward linch-pin, connecting play in the final third for almost every counter-attack. His general touch, awareness of approaching defenders, vision to see runners and execution of passes were all sensational on the night.

Photo: Getty Images

It could be argued that his national pride conjured this new style. but now there can be no doubting he has the ability to play the Arnautovic-type role, and in emphatic fashion. And if Pellegrini can tap-into this style, he could already have the Austrian’s ready made replacement at the London Stadium.

Last term the 30-year-old struggled to break into the team on a regular basis under David Moyes, making 33 appearances in all competitions, bagging eight goals and an assist, but his contribution next year could be far more valuable.

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