Liverpool end of August review: How have the Reds fared in the opening month?

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A decent yet unconvincing start to the season ended up with Liverpool being sent crashing back down to earth at the end of August. Fortunate 1-0 wins over Stoke and Bournemouth was followed by an impressive showing at the Emirates. As fans and observers looked on in the hope of building on a solid start, manager and players alike fumbled against West Ham, with signs of complacency obvious among the ranks – worrying, as the campaign is only four games in.

Player of the Month – Nathaniel Clyne (average rating: 6.75)

The signing from Southampton has made a relatively good start to life at Anfield. Clyne seems to be focusing on the defensive side of his game first, as he settles into a new backline. Clyne’s focus on doing the basics right first already makes him a much better upgrade to the departed Glen Johnson.

The current England international showcased his tenacity and tactical awareness during difficult away games at the Britannia and Arsenal. In his first home fixture against Bournemouth, Clyne did show a little bit more intent going forward, which will only increase in time to come.

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Though Clyne was relatively subdued going forward against West Ham – especially when manager Brendan Rodgers deployed him in a wing back position in the second half – the fact was the entire team was severely under par on the day. Should Rodgers decide to persist with a defensive midfielder, Clyne will definitely have more freedom to bomb forward and support the attack, and that will be where he show his true ability.

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Flop of the Month – Jordon Ibe (average rating: 4.5)

After a barnstorming start to his first-team career at Liverpool during the early part of 2015, much was expected of Ibe for the start of this season, especially with the departure of a certain English winger. However, the England youth international has so far failed to dazzle.

Ibe started the first two games at Stoke and against Bournemouth, but was found wanting in the wide areas, providing little service into the box – something that striker Christian Benteke craves – and doing even less in possession. He was subsequently dropped for the next two at Arsenal and against West Ham, but did feature as a substitute in both games. Still, Ibe found it difficult to keep hold of possession against the Gunners and, though he had little time, was of no threat against a deep-lying Hammers side.

Admittedly, Ibe is still very young and is bound to have severe dips in form in the next few years. However, with Adam Lallana returning to fitness and Roberto Firmino gradually settling in, competition will be intense at Liverpool, and Ibe will need to step up his game in September if he is to keep his spot in the match day squad.

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Highlights:

The first half performance at the Emirates was definitely the pick for August, with Brazilian Philippe Coutinho in sparkling form but somehow failing to beat an in-form Petr Cech. The way the Reds defended in the second half against Arsenal should also be commended, as they held firm to come away with a well-deserved point.

Coutinho’s early season form has certainly made him the team’s new permanent talisman. His wonder strike against Stoke set the Reds underway, while he should have crowned a magnificent display against Bournemouth with a goal.

Joe Gomez’s start to his Anfield career has also gone very well, with solid displays in the first three games. He has impressed in an unfamiliar position, and will certainly be hoping for some game time at right-back or centre half once the Europa League and Capital One Cup gets under way.

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Areas of Improvement:

The defeat against West Ham has definitely dampened some of the early season optimism. The lack of effort and desire to rescue a result was very worrying for home supporters. Coutinho’s frustration was clear for all to see as well, as he lacked support from his team-mates, and this resulted in his red card, which now rules him out of the important game against Manchester United.

Two goals from four games continues last season’s poor strike rate. Even with an almost completely revamped strike force, only Benteke and Coutinho have found the net. Granted, Danny Ings only had a total of 20 minutes so far this season, while Divock Origi has yet to feature and Daniel Sturridge only resuming training recently. However, the number of chance created is below average, with most of Liverpool’s work being done in front of the opposition’s defence and midfield.

More has to be done to get in behind opposition’s defence, while Rodgers needs to find a way to deliver more crosses into the box, if Benteke is ever going to fulfil his full potential at Anfield. The Belgian striker has already showed his strength on the ball and aerial ability, and will certainly want more chances to do so in the opposition’s penalty box.

Grade: B-

Having to deal with a tough opening to the campaign, seven points from four games is a decent start. The low expectations due to the way the Reds ended the previous campaign meant there was little hope of getting anything from the Emirates, while a point would have been welcomed during the season opener at Stoke. The lack of goals is an obvious concern but one that should be rectified once Firmino fully settles and the team’s transition period gradually comes to a close.

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