What Did We Learn From Liverpool's 1-0 Win Over Stoke City?
Liverpool’s opening day victory over Stoke was less than a vintage performance; that’s not to say that exorcising the ghosts of 6 Stoke goals wasn’t a great way to open a new campaign.
Additionally it was a more than impressive way to do so, with Coutinho picking up where he left off with a strike that won’t be forgotten for some time. But aside from the goal, there was a performance that will no doubt be equally applauded a scrutinized.
If we’re going to start with applause, the main compliment many will give the Red’s for Sunday’s game would be this; they let in 6 less goals than last time out. Of course nobody was expecting a repeat of that travesty, but it’s still an achievement worth noting; a clean sheet at the Britannia that is. Now this could be put down to a number of things; personnel, formation, tactics, and more.
But focusing primarily on the first of those, I think the performance of Dejan Lovren cannot be overlooked – where many expected him to falter he stood up to the physical demands of a fixture such as Stoke away. Will he continue to improve and have a resurgent season? Only time will tell.
Lovren will not be the only second season player under the microscope in the coming weeks; but there are some coming into their second term who may not even have a chance to prove themselves; herein lies the second change that became evident at the weekend.
Rodgers, it would seem, is looking to control the squad with more authority this term; reports of Balotelli’s exclusion in training were supported by his omission from the match day squad – the same is also true of Lazar Markovic, who seems further than ever from the first team.
Another player who seems to be dangerously close to a Melwood exile is Spaniard Alberto Moreno. After a more than promising start, the fullback gradually lost his early season form, until it appeared the only reason he stayed in the first team was the lack of alternatives. That however, is no longer the case; Joe Gomez, having been brought in over the summer, showed immense potential during preseason.
Of course it’d be premature to judge a player on preseason alone, and the same could still be said after the first competitive game, but Gomez already looks a solid player at the age of only 18. And with Clyne on the opposite side, perhaps another change at Anfield this season is the introduction of reliable fullbacks.
Reliability, or rather unreliability was something that plagued the Liverpool back line last season, not least between the posts. Mignolet was a portrait of nerves around Christmas last season, and this seemed to transfer throughout the defence and to some extent the entire team. That hopefully, will be all change this time out, and the first day went some way to suggesting that this will be the case. With a multitude of set pieces to deal with Mignolet coped well, and asserted his control well.
So, the first day of the season was a testing one for Liverpool, but it was a test that revealed a little about what we can come to expect over the next few months.