On Monday, Liverpool had to face an inform Burnley under difficult circumstances. The Reds who earned a hard-fought win against Leicester only two days ago had to go to Turf Moor without Mo Salah and Philippe Coutinho.
Sean Dyche’s side frustrated Liverpool in the reverse fixture and earned a point at Anfield. That alongside a rotated squad and a packed holiday schedule made the task even harder. However, The Reds still managed to grab all 3 points at the end of the 90 minutes.
This is exactly the type of game Liverpool would’ve lost last season. Being away from home, facing a ‘smaller’ side and not having two star players are all indicators of struggle. But Klopp’s men dug deep and managed to grind out a result.
In the first half, Burnley did well to restrict Liverpool from creating clear-cut chances and it paid off. The away side looked frustrated and it seemed as though that will continue throughout the game.
Sadio Mane had other ideas, though. The Senegalese broke the deadlock with a sumptuous left-footed strike. Mane has 2 goals and 3 assists in the last 4 away Premier League games according to Opta.
But this was not the whole story. Burnley managed to level the score following another lapse in concentration by Joe Gomez at the far post.
It looked as though another defensive frailty would cost Liverpool a precious 3 points. That was until Ragnar Klavan’s 93rd-minute goal. The defender headed home a flick from Dejan Lovren to secure a resounding victory for his side and to become the first Estonian goal scorer in the Premier League.
Last season, Liverpool suffered when one or two players were out of the team. Injuries to Coutinho, Mane and Joel Matip at one point or another cost them significant points. However, even with Roberto Firmino on the bench and the other 2 members of the ‘Fab Four’ sidelined, Mane and co. stepped up.
Corners and Set pieces were also a problem for Klopp’s side last season. Although they are still prone to the occasional individual errors it is quite clear how they have improved in dealing with dead ball situations. The arrival of record signing Virgil Van Dijk will offer assurance to the back line and further improve this aspect of their game.
This season Klopp has tailored his team’s pressing to specific situations, unlike last season’s relentless pressing which led to the team being exhausted when the New Year arrived leading resulting in numerous injuries and drop in form. Liverpool players are now well aware of when to press and when to sit back.
The German manager is not only playing less intensely but also using his squad players to greater effect. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlin is slowly making an impact and the return of Adam Lallana is a welcome sight in that regard. Youngster Dominic Solanke is enjoying more playing time and it will be a matter of time before he starts making an impact as well.
While the improvements are there, Liverpool is still a work in progress.
They still need to secure a commanding defensive midfielder who can offer a reliable protection to the back line. The possible departure of Coutinho calls for a suitable replacement, although the front line is still formidable without the Brazilian. And finally, the Goalkeeper issue remains a big question mark.
According to Opta Liverpool have now gone 16 games in all competitions without defeat (W11 and D5), which is the longest run under the tutelage of the former BVB manager.
Klopp is slowly but surely building something special at Liverpool. Although he ultimately will be judged by the number of trophies he wins, the improvements of his team are quite clear. He is addressing the weaknesses and further bolstering the strengths.
As he promised on his arrival he is slowly changing Liverpool fans from doubters to believers. Liverpool fans should be excited. Something special is happening at Anfield.
Written by Brook Genene
Follow Brook on Twitter @brookge
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