By Jordan Carreno
Matchday two sees our mighty Reds head down to London to face Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park for a bit of Monday Night (afternoon) Football. Kickoff is 3 pm EST.
Monday’s are genuinely crap, but at least you’ll have something to get you moving towards the end of the day. Below I examine 3 talking points going into the match.
Hopefully I can provide you some conversation fodder to help you while you’re watching at one of our pubs (peer pressure works 9/10, passive aggressive peer pressure is undefeated). All three locations of LFC Tampa (London Heights, Pokey’s, and Horse and Jockey) will be open for business. So tell the boss you’re coming down with a bit of Red fever and the only cure is a pint, a chant, and some football on the television.
The first two and a half seasons under Klopp has been, to a certain extent, about changing narratives. From the second Jurgen took the job he preached about “turning doubters into believers.” Football is a game of narratives, and whilst sometimes it feels like they have more control over the club than the other way around, the fact is teams are the ones who write and shape those narratives.
If the Reds are to accomplish the things expected of them this campaign, and make a stronger challenge for the title (possibly win it), then they need to rewrite a few of these narratives. One of the loudest being — we don’t know how to break down teams.
Roy Hodgson isn’t known for his expansive beautiful play, and neither is Crystal Palace for that matter. Their last four managers before the de Boer experiment were Ian Holloway, Tony Pulis, Alan Pardew, and Sam Allardyce… the creme de la creme of English dinosaurs. So, it would be fair to expect that they hunker down against a formidable Red attack. Klopp hinted at such by calling Palace “well organized” in his presser, which is just a nice way of saying they’ll probably park the bus.
In the past this has been our achilles. We seem to have no problems with teams that come at us full force, but we’ve struggled to find ways to break down “organized” teams. We’ve also been far too easy to beat on the counter in the past (another narrative worth changing). Add in that Crystal Palace have been a bit of a bogey team in recent years, and you can see how winning this match (and comfortably without having to come from behind) will do a lot to change some narratives about the club.
Trent v. Wilfried Part 2
The last time Liverpool played Crystal Palace was at the end of March. A couple weeks prior, Trent Alexander-Arnold had been targeted and exposed at Old Trafford. At that time, Liverpool fans weren’t exactly brimming with the same confidence we now have in Trent and the media focused on it as proof of the shortcomings of Liverpool’s defensive unit.
He had gotten pulled out of position and allowed Marcus Rashford to sneak in too easily to score one of United’s goals. It felt like deja-vu when Zaha snuck behind an out of position Trent leading to a penalty and subsequent goal for Palace. Trying to go at Trent was the focus of much of Palace’s attack for the match.
Four days later Pep Guardiola employed the same tactics and tried to overload Liverpool’s right side hoping to get at the same perceived weakness — we all know how well that went.
Trent is drastically improved and more confident since that last meeting. Given that Klopp remarked in his first six months how he “can not forget this f****** loss (sic) against Crystal Palace,” I’m sure he will be reminding Trent of his own misfortunes last time out against this opposition. The grudge match will be a key part of the final story of the match.
Without a doubt Trent will want to make things “right” and show that he has improved. Zaha will be looking to show nothing has changed and with Gareth Southgate in attendance, Zaha may also be wanting to prove a point whilst outdoing one of England’s brightest young stars. Factor in that Gomez will likely be playing the right side of the centerback pairing, and there is a high chance Roy will fancy his chances down that side of the pitch.
Towards the end of last season, predicting Liverpool’s starting XI was an easy task. And whilst much of that had to do with injuries, a lot of it was also down to lacking legitimate options. Henderson, Gini, Milner was the nailed on midfield for around 2 months. They performed admirably, but a few more options couldn’t have hurt.
Now, we are rich with options in the midfield due to new additions and fitness, which also means we are rich with options for how that midfield plays. Klopp spoke in the preseason about being able to play different midfield set-ups now that he had the tools. He even quite explicitly mentioned how he would be able to play Henderson in a box to box role with Fabinho as a 6 or drop Henderson next to Fabinho and plays two 6’s, depending on the scenario.
Given the likelihood that Palace will sit back, it will be interesting to see the triumvirate Klopp chooses to deploy. Keita will undoubtedly feature as his ability to drive forward and create in the attacking third will be necessary against a team like Palace. However, who takes up the other two positions and what roles they play are anyone’s guess. If I had to lend a prediction, I imagine we will see Fabinho and Henderson come into the starting 11.
Henderson’s ability to close down and win the ball up the pitch will be useful against Palace who could be trying to knock long balls in. Stopping the long ball before it happens will also help Liverpool to create those quick chances they prefer to have. Fabinho possesses all the necessary attributes and traits to drop in between the centerbacks to defend counters and to take advantage of the space in front of a packed in defense.
With all that said, Milner and Gini showed they were more than capable in those roles against West Ham. Klopp has been known to operate on a bit of a meritocracy. I wouldn’t be surprised if one of them (most likely Gini) keeps their spot.
It will be fun to see if i I get this drastically wrong and how well I’ll be able to explain how my prediction was actually really close to happening if not for some outlandish conspiracy/bad luck.
If you’ve ever watched a match with me in the past, especially in the recent past, my standard line is “we’re going to smash them.” Sometimes it is said with a bit of cheekiness, sometimes it is spoken with genuine belief. But it has never been recorded in print where, if necessary, people can clearly prove how wrong I was. Which is usually never.
So, we’re going to smash them. Genuinely. And start to change a few narratives that have been attached to this team. 3–0!