Liverpool defeated Manchester City on New Year’s Eve. The 1-0 final represented the uncharacteristic match the two put on display. Here are a few talking points from the crucial Liverpool win.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) December 31, 2016
Liverpool Can Win Physical/Grinding Matches
This statement is something many fans have yet to hear in recent times. Towards the end of Brendan Rodgers’ managerial campaign and for the majority of the 2015/2016 season, Liverpool would be the victim of physical, slower paced matches.
This season has been different, though, and the victory over City has solidified Liverpool’s newfound ability to win these games.
Normally, any match between Liverpool and Manchester City will be an exciting one to watch. The 3-2 thriller from 2013/2014 and the 4-0 thrashing at the Etihad last season are just a couple of examples.
This match was different from the first whistle, though. The game was fought in the midfield and Liverpool scored their only true goalscoring chance of the match when Georginio Wijnaldum won the ball back, made a sublime run into the 18-yard box, and calmly headed an Adam Lallana cross into the back of the net in the 8th minute.
Wijnaldum’s goal would be the only true goalscoring chance either side created. Manchester City had the possession and shot totals on their side, but they were never able to do much with it. They lacked in the final third and never tested Simon Mignolet.
This win means so much more than three points to Liverpool. They have proven that they can win the tough midfield battles and are capable of winning grind-it-out matches. James Milner’s post match interview summed up this feeling.
When asked about the match, Milner stated that it was “arguably one of our worst performances in how we want to perform in a match this season, but a different performance.”
This could not be a more true statement. Liverpool was never really on the front foot and instead had to sit deeper, defend in numbers, and grind out the win.
It will be a very motivating result nonetheless, though, as Liverpool stayed six points behind the leaders Chelsea and opened up a three-point lead on Arsenal, now in third place.
???????? Starting the New Year with a spring in our step! pic.twitter.com/hiXvHU6nZr
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) January 1, 2017
Mignolet May Still Be Better Than Karius
When the transfer window closed and Liverpool had signed Loris Karius for around 4 million pounds, which is still a bargain, mark my words, fans thought they had found their new keeper for the next 10-15 years.
The young German has never looked comfortable, though. His performances against Bournemouth and West Ham United sum up what has been a difficult start for him.
Am I writing him off? Absolutely NOT. He will become Liverpool’s number one again in the near future but will have to be patient and mentally strong.
The reason? Simon Mignolet. The Belgian has looked sharp and ready for action since taking over as Liverpool’s number one.
He has also seemed to calm his defense down as well. Before Karius was dropped, it was clear that the German was also having a negative impact on his back four, highlighted by the goals they conceded during that span.
Liverpool and Mignolet have only conceded once and kept three clean sheets in the last four matches, which included an away trip to Middlesbrough, the Merseyside Derby, and the Manchester City rivalry.
What this game has shown is that Mignolet is and should be the number one for the near future. He has performed better than Karius and has rightfully earned his spot back.
Maybe a little competition was all he needed to develop after all into the keeper many thought he was at Sunderland. He was never really going to be dropped during the last few seasons with Brad Jones behind him.
Delight for Mignolet who has kept 3 clean sheets & conceded 1 goal since has come back into the team ???? pic.twitter.com/mhrRQROs6S
— Anything Liverpool (@Anything_LFC) January 1, 2017
Mane Probably Won’t Be Missed THAT MUCH in January
The win most likely represented Sadio Mane’s final game before he heads off to play for Senegal in the African Cup of Nations, although he could still be involved in Liverpool’s next match if Klopp chooses to do so.
Sadio Mané has been officially been called up to the Senegal squad for the AFCON. He will leave on January 2nd after the Sunderland game. pic.twitter.com/X6TgzJcqFR
— Anfield HQ (@AnfieldHQ) December 30, 2016
What the match, and recent matches, have shown is that he probably won’t be missed too much. Yes, the Senegalese winger will be missed, as his raw pace and ability are unique to his position, but the performances of players like Adam Lallana, Divock Origi, Daniel Sturridge, and even Wijnaldum should help ease the impact of his loss in this New Year.
People also forget that Philippe Coutinho is close to his return from his injury last month.
January will be a hectic period for the club, with the two-legged final of the EFL Cup, the FA Cup, and the Premier League all in full swing, but Liverpool’s depth should see them through.
Will Mane’s brief departure revive Daniel Sturridge’s Liverpool career? It is surely a possibility.
— Anything Liverpool (@Anything_LFC) January 1, 2017
A Liverpool-Chelsea Title Race Is A Big Possibility
Liverpool’s win was a statement of intent. Had they lost, or even drawn, Chelsea would have had an 8-10 point advantage at the top of the table. While that kind of lead is never irreversible, it would have been a devastating one, given Chelsea’s current form.
In fact, Liverpool and Chelsea have looked the most likely so far to go toe to toe. Arsenal is picking up form, but are always susceptible to a slip-up, as are Liverpool to be fair, and Manchester City, Tottenham, and Manchester United all look like battling for fourth, not the title as of now.
A race between Chelsea and Liverpool would be an exciting one, to say the least. Liverpool defeated Chelsea at Stamford Bridge earlier on this season and are yet to host the leaders. That game could be a season decider/changer.
Will it be a battle between Liverpool and the team that ruined their title run back in 2013/2014?
— Premier League (@premierleague) December 31, 2016
Next up for Liverpool is a trip to Sunderland tomorrow as the holiday period continues to go at full speed. Jurgen Klopp has hinted at the possibility of a Daniel Sturridge-Divock Origi front two for the match as changed galore should be in store for both sides.