You could have seen it coming as Liverpool began life in 2017/18 with many similarities to their strengths and weaknesses only last season. Set piece calamities and quick movement in attack summarising their play as Watford produced an admirable display to take a well deserved point.
It took just eight minutes for Stefano Okaka to score with a powerful header from a free kick as Liverpool left him unmarked. Sadio Mane pulled the scores back level with an impressive run, lay off from Emre Can and finish.
Once again though, the Reds’ forward was let down by shoddy defending allowing Abdoulaye Doucoure to find acres of space in the box as the likes of Georgino Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson in midfield failed to track back.
The second half saw something of an improvement. It even gave Liverpool a comeback as debutant Mohamed Salah won a penalty which was duly dispatched by Roberto Firmino. Firmino then turned provider for his fellow forward as his lobbed shot was going wide of the target until Salah poked home, giving Liverpool the lead only two minutes after being behind.
A late corner again showed Liverpool up though and Simon Mignolet could only deflect the ball towards his own net and allowed Miguel Britos the opportunity to head in from what looked like an offside position almost on the goal line deep into injury time.
Here is what The Boot Room learnt from the game…
Liverpool cannot defend set pieces
Now, this point may not fit in an article titled “three things learnt”, given that most Liverpool fans could have pointed this out to Jurgen Klopp in October 2015. However, now kicking off his second full season in charge, the German has still not resolved Liverpool’s biggest weaknesss.
The zonal marking set up failed completely as Stefano Okaka merely walked through the penalty box unmarked to power a header home as Emre Can and Joel Matip looked on. Watford’s third goal again came from a set piece with Simon Mignolet only getting a weak hand to push the ball in the direction of his own goal.
Watford could surprise many under Marco Silva
Whilst Liverpool were below par, Watford far exceeded expectations. Watford were strong and refused to be pinned back, looking to counteract Liverpool’s pressing with pressing of their own as they looked to bully the Liverpool midfield and defence into submission. It worked effectively.
There have been many who have doubted whether the number of changes made this summer would allow for a successful season at Vicarage Road, but the display was a promising one.
Alberto Moreno is not the answer
Given the nod at left-back ahead of James Milner and Andrew Robertson, the decision may have come as a surprise. Moreno enjoyed a wonderful pre-season which seemed to give him a new lease of life on Merseyside and gave him a shot at reviving his Liverpool career. This performance may have put that back in jeopardy.
The Spaniard failed to win a single tackle in the first half out of four attempts and was dragged out of position time and time again. He was given the run around by the Hornets and it seems inevitable that he will find himself back on the fringes of the squad after that display.
Andrew Robertson the most important Liverpool summer signing
The Scottish left-back has plugged a gap that has existed at Liverpool for some time.
Mohamed Salah rightly received all the praise yesterday, after Liverpool put Watford to the sword in the Premier League.
Liverpool beat the Hornets 5-0 at Anfield, with the Egyptian scoring four of the goals.
It is hard to argue with Salah being the club’s best signing in the summer. His tally of 37 goals in 43 games certainly highlights that fact.
However, the most important signing might have been that of Andrew Robertson.
The Scottish left-back joined from Hull City in a deal, reported by the Independent, to be worth around £8 million. That price-tag is now looking an absolute bargain.
Liverpool have had problems at left-back for a number of seasons.
Alberto Moreno looked like being the solution. However, the Spaniard’s defensive work and decision making made him a liability.
Jon Flanagan, who was Brendan Rodgers’ regular left-back, has not reached similar heights since a series of knee injuries decimated his promising career.
Last season saw James Milner fill the role. The experienced midfielder played well out of position but long-term, was not the solution.
Now, Liverpool have Robertson. The Scotland international has made the step up from his time at Hull with ease.
The 24-year-old Glaswegian is not only a threat going forward, but defensively he is exceptional.
His delivery into the box is undoubtedly exemplary, but he is equally adept at stopping opposing players from getting near Liverpool’s.
Liverpool have managed to bring in a player perfectly suited to Jurgen Klopp’s style of play.
Heavy-metal is the way Robertson plays in both attack and defence and the fans at Anfield already love him.
At just £8 million and only 24-years-old Liverpool picked up the bargain of the summer in the Premier League.
If Robertson can continue to progress and play with the same level of consistency he already has, then a decade of dominance at left-back could follow as Liverpool’s left-back.
Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah within touching distance of all-time Premier League goal-scoring record
The Egyptian international has 28 Premier League goals this term.
Anfield witnessed a truly special moment in the second half of Liverpool’s 5-0 thrashing of Watford on Saturday. Winning 3-0, Liverpool were running riot in wintry conditions, and Mohamed Salah collected the ball just inside the box on a hat-trick.
What followed was absolute magic, emblematic of a dream debut season in the north-west for the Egyptian. Salah was mobbed by three defenders, but left all three in the dust with one deft cut-back.
Then, with two more Watford players crashing in on the ball, Salah remarkably managed to poke an improvised finish into the far corner past the helpless Orestis Karnezis.
As Salah wheeled away in celebration, tongue stuck out and arms extended, Anfield reveled in history in the making. That goal marked Salah’s 27th of the Premier League season and he would go on to score his 28th just eight minutes later.
The Egyptian is on course to smash the Premier League scoring records in emphatic fashion. The current record is 31 goals, a tally achieved by Alan Shearer in 1995/96, Cristiano Ronaldo in 2007/08, and fellow Red Luis Suarez in 2013/14.
With seven matches remaining, including fixtures against the likes of West Brom and Stoke, few would bet against Salah demolishing the 22-year-old record.
The achievement would place Salah in the illustrious company of Premier League legends, an incredible feat for a player who many in England wrote off during his short spell at Chelsea.
Thanks to Salah, Liverpool have barely missed a step after the departure of Philippe Coutinho in January, advancing to the Champions League quarterfinals and cementing their top-four position.
The prolific winger is proving all of his doubters wrong in audacious fashion, and with a Premier League Golden Boot and goal-scoring record seemingly on the way, he is one of the most in-form players in the world.
The early-April European clash with Manchester City will provide Salah with, perhaps, his biggest stage yet. Expect the top goalscorer in England to rise to the occasion.
Jugen Klopp wanted him in 2016, Filip Kostic set for cut-price exit
The Serbian is set to be relegated with Hamburg.
In the summer of 2016 Liverpool were being linked with the signature of Serbian winger Filip Kostic. The Independent reported that Liverpool, and Tottenham Hotspur, had both watched the player, but had missed out. Hamburg instead signed Kostic from Bundesliga rivals Stuttgart for £12 million.
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp would have known all about Kostic through his Bundesliga links and seeing him move elsewhere would have been frustrating. But, nearly two years on from Kostic’s Hamburg move, Liverpool may feel they dodged a bullet.
This summer, if Liverpool still wanted Kostic, they could get him cheap. The reason why? His performances have not lived up to his ability since the Hamburg move. Now, the Bundesliga side look doomed to relegation. The result will be a firesale in the summer, as HSV look to meet financial demands. Kostic, being one of the most valuable players and highest-earners at the club, will be available.
Based on his form for Hamburg, Liverpool would be unlikely to take an interest in the player.
But, rather than dodging a bullet, perhaps this situation could work out perfectly for Klopp and Liverpool.
Whilst Kostic has had a rough time at Hamburg, a lot of that is down to the running of the club.
For the Serbian national team the 25-year-old has still been in good form and Liverpool might just be able to bring Kostic in at a cut-price.
With the World Cup coming up this summer, Kostic will look to shine. A deal for Liverpool before then may prove to be a masterstroke.
Liverpool can look at Kostic in two ways. One, a transfer failure they should be happy with. Two, an opportunity for a bargain this summer.
Either way Klopp and Liverpool cannot really lose.
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