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Liverpool 2-0 Newcastle United: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain growing into role under Jurgen Klopp

Jake Jackman

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Liverpool
Photo: Getty Images

Liverpool were comfortable winners in their home match against Newcastle United, a victory that saw them climb to 2nd. They were frustrated in the first half, as they dominated the possession, but struggled to break down a resolute visitors’ defence.

The Magpies were always likely to set up deep and look to counter-attack. This has been their gameplan against the top-six teams and it has led to a lot of media criticism of the tactics.

For the home side, they managed to find a way through and that will be an encouraging sign for Jurgen Klopp. At the beginning of his reign, they struggled in matches such as these and dropped lots of silly points. That is no longer the case as they look devastating in attack and capable of breaking down teams with a negative gameplan.

Here are three talking points from Anfield…

(Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is growing into his role at Liverpool

The England international was given the start again in the advanced midfield role and he played superbly, as he supplied the creativity to put his side in front.

It came at a crucial time as Newcastle would have been encouraged had they got to half-time with the scores still level. The 24-year-old received the ball in central midfield and played a superb ball to release the deadly Mohamed Salah.

The Egyptian doesn’t need to be asked twice in his current form and slotted past Martin Dubravka with ease. It was a great display of vision and technical skill from Oxlade-Chamberlain.

During the match, he completed one dribble and made one key pass. However, his influence was much more than that, as he was often playing forward passes that put his side in dangerous positions.

In terms of work rate, he has slotted into Klopp’s tactical plan well as he runs relentlessly for his team. He completed three tackles and made two interceptions, which shows his tenacity in the middle of the park.

As the season heads into the run-in, Oxlade-Chamberlain should be a regular starter for Liverpool.

(Photo by Lindsey Parnaby/Getty Images)

Rafa Benitez has been constrained at Newcastle

There has been a lot of criticism of Newcastle’s style of play this season as they regularly set up to defend against the top sides with little motivation to attack.

They come across trying to keep the score down rather than win the game. That is probably an unfair criticism as they will want to take a positive result, but there is no doubting they are focused first on defending.

It was seen as a great occasion as Rafa Benitez returned to Anfield for the second time as Newcastle manager. However, the performance shows how his job has now changed, as he is managing a side fighting relegation rather than challenging for trophies. His team had less ability than the home side and that led to the tactics employed.

Benitez remains a very good manager and days like this one show the size of the job he is being asked to do at Newcastle. The owners were not willing to back him in the transfer window and that has left him with a limited squad.

If they are to compete, they need to employ defensive tactics, otherwise, they will be played off the park. They limited Liverpool to only 14 shots and managed to have seven themselves. The tactics worked to an extent, but the lack of talent meant they still couldn’t take anything from the game.

(Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Virgil van Dijk has made Liverpool better defensively

Throughout the first half of the season, it was clear that Liverpool’s main weakness was their defence and that was going to prevent them from challenging at the very top of the game.

The problem is far from fixed, but the addition of Virgil van Dijk has gone a long way to solving them. He has provided an assured and confident figure at the back that can organise the defence.

 

His dominance was evident on Saturday as he completed four ball recoveries and won six aerial duels. Liverpool can now defend an aerial threat with ease and that was useful yesterday as Newcastle were targeting set-pieces as a way to threaten.

In addition to his quality at the back, Van Dijk is very confident on the ball and that suits Liverpool’s style of play. He can step out of the back four and launch attacks with a good passing range. Against Newcastle, he completed 88% of his passes and was forever looking to make positive contributions on the ball.

Jake is a journalist based in the South East. He is a Newcastle United fan and has a keen interest in Dutch football. Jake can be found on Twitter here - @jakejackmann.

Crystal Palace

Khouma Babacar would be underwhelming solution to Crystal Palace’s striker problem

The 25-year-old isn’t exactly a prolific goalscorer.

Max Cohen

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Babacar
Photo: Getty Images

According to the Mirror, Crystal Palace are close to completing a £12 million move for Sassuolo striker Khouma Babacar.

The Senegalese forward scored just six goals in the league last season and would represent an underwhelming solution to Crystal Palace’s striker problem.

Last season, the Eagles struggled massively for goals, with only central midfielder Luka Milivojevic reaching double figures in the league. As for strikers, Christian Benteke scored just three goals in a hugely disappointing year, and Alexander Sorloth failed to score in his four appearances.

It is clear the south Londoners desperately need a prolific centre-forward in order to succeed in 2018/19, yet Babacar simply is not the right choice.

(Photo by Mario Carlini / Iguana Press/Getty Images)

At 25 years of age, he has already been around Italian football for a long time, making his debut for Fiorentina in 2009 as a 16-year-old. Yet he struggled to nail down a starting spot and spent time on loan in Serie B and La Liga before enjoying a breakout season for Fiorentina 2016/17.

In that year, he banged in 10 goals in 22 league appearances while also netting four times in the Europa League. Yet disappointingly, he scored just four times in the first half of 2017/18, before being shipped off to Sassuolo on loan where he found the net on just two occasions in 13 appearances.

Far from an outstanding goalscorer in Italy, it is unclear where Babacar would fit in at Palace, and it is unlikely he could turn around the fortunes of the club’s struggling strike force.

Roy Hodgson would do well to pass on the signing of the £12 million Senegalese international and focus his efforts on a more proven striker with a better goal record.

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Everton

Three free agent goalkeeper options for Everton to add depth

Everton should consider adding depth to the goalkeeping department this summer.

Mathew Nash

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Everton currently have a fine goalkeeper in Jordan Pickford. Signed last summer from Sunderland he was the club’s player of the season last term and is now England’s number one stopper.

But it could be argued they are lacking in reserve. The veteran Maarten Stekelenburg has been an injury concern in recent times. Meanwhile, Spaniard Joel Robles has left the club at the end of his contract. It leaves youngster Mateusz Hewelt as the club’s current third-choice.

Considering his inexperience and Stekelenburg’s injury troubles, surely Everton should consider bringing in another goalie this summer?

Of course, they will not want to pay top dollar to do so.

So here are three free agent stoppers that Everton could target this summer…

Tim Krul

The Dutchman has struggled to find his way back into first-team football since a horror knee injury in 2015.

He spent last season as back-up to Mathew Ryan at Brighton and is now looking for a new club.

Since that knee injury, Krul has remained fit and would be a great back-up to Pickford.

(Photo by Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images)

Rafael

The first-choice keeper under Rafa Benitez at Napoli in 2014-15 the Brazilian found himself pushed down the pecking order over the past two seasons by Pepe Reina.

Undoubtedly a talented stopper with three Brazil caps to his name, he would be a solid option in reserve.

(Photo by Dave Thompson/Getty Images)

Miguel Santos

One Everton fans probably have not heard of, but perhaps the most likely addition.

Fresh from helping Fortuna Sittard to promotion to the Eredivisie the Portuguese talent will be known to Everton boss Marco Silva.

They worked together at Estoril when Silva was the manager. Santos, at the time, was a promising youngster but left for Benfica in 2012.

He had a spell at Port Vale in 2016 and a move back to England as Everton’s third-choice would surely appeal to the 23-year-old.

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Liverpool

Steven Gerrard called incoming Liverpool star Alisson ‘world-class’ in April

Liverpool will complete a world record move for the Brazilian this week.

Mathew Nash

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Liverpool are set to give the fans what they want by signing a new goalkeeper. A world record fee has been agreed with AS Roma for Brazilian number one Alisson this week. Liverpool will pay the Italian side £67 million for the 25-year-old. Sky Sports report he will undergo a medical this week and a deal will then be finalised.

It is a bold move from Liverpool, who for a number of seasons have suffered with mediocre goalkeeping performances from Loris Karius and Simon Mignolet.

Alisson is considered one of the best keepers in Europe and keeps Manchester City’s brilliant Ederson Moraes on the bench for his country.

He is certainly highly-rated by one former Liverpool player and legend. Steven Gerrard is a big fan of the player.

He spoke highly of the goalie whilst working on BT Sport as a Champions League pundit last season.


“This fella does deserve the praise he is getting of late. He makes world-class saves, he’s up quick, he makes second saves. A world-class keeper no doubt.”

– Steven Gerrard talking of Alisson’s quality in April 2018

 


Of course, Liverpool came up against Alisson and his Roma side in the competition. Over the course of two legs, the Reds put seven goals past the Brazilian. It led some fans to question whether Alisson was actually the right man for Liverpool.

 

But Liverpool needed a keeper with pedigree. Karius is simply too error-prone and his confidence must be at an all-time low after his Champions League final woe.

Liverpool fans will hope Alisson can live up to Gerrard’s ‘world-class’ tag and his price-tag next season.

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