Liverpool may have started their 2019-20 Premier League campaign in style by hitting four past new boys Norwich, but there were signs under the Anfield floodlights that defensively, Jurgen Klopp has problems to solve.
The Reds boss may have dismissed any post-match queries over the organisation over his back line but Liverpool were at times disjointed and rusty against the division’s newcomers and concerns will unquestionably have been compounded by goalkeeper Alisson being forced off with a first-half injury.
Indeed, Jamie Carragher even said Liverpool could have lost the match had they been facing more esteemed opponents.
Jurgen Klopp watched on as Liverpool took an opening 4-1 victory against Norwich at home
But the German boiled over at certain points after watching his men get undone at the back
‘Yes Liverpool have won this game handsomely but I still think there will be big questions asked in a team meeting tomorrow morning, not about going forward but certainly defensively,’ Carragher said in the immediate aftermath.
‘It may seem like a strange thing to say of the back of Liverpool winning 4-1 with 10 minutes to go but against a better side who are more clinical, Liverpool could have lost this game.’
‘On another day there’s no doubt Norwich could have had three or four goals,’ fellow Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville chimed in.
‘We’ve seen Liverpool play such a high line here and against more clinical sides they’re going to pay if it’s like that,’ he added.
Despite going behind early on, Daniel Farke urged his side not to abandon their ethos
Liverpool’s increasingly high defensive high offered hope to the well calculated Canaries
Encouraged by spells of slick passing, Norwich started to gain success down the left flank
Shots: Liverpool 15 | Norwich 12
On target: Liverpool 7 | Norwich 5
Touches in opponents box: Liverpool 37 | Norwich 17
Possession won in final third: Liverpool 9 times | Norwich 3 times
Expected goals (xG): Liverpool 1.45 | Norwich 0.91
Carragher and Neville were right, and it wouldn’t be going too far to suggest Liverpool came straight out all guns blazing, as opposed their more measured selves which so expertly managed games from start to finish last season.
It is credit to Daniel Farke’s men that they did not relinquish their ethos at any point in the contest and, like a captain going down with his ship, stuck to their finely polished attacking approach which reaped such success in the Championship last season.
Liverpool were too good on the occasion for the Canaries, with Neville likening the match-up to two boxers of vastly different weight divisions slogging it out in the ring.
Thankfully for the Reds, Divock Origi’s early trickery to force Grant Hanley into an embarrassing own-goal set the wheels in motion, before a stroke of Mohamed Salah genius added the necessary momentum.
To the observant eye however, and particularly the eye of Klopp, Norwich managed to threaten the Liverpool back line to a degree in which they were not always comfortable.
Aside an opening victory therefore, Liverpool have gained an early case study in how to deal with bold, confident sides in the final third. Here at Anfield, they can learn from their mistakes.
Norwich sought to get among the Reds with Emi Buendía and Marco Stiepermann on the ball
The presence of Virgil van Dijk was enough to make the Canaries squander some chances
Early impetus from the marauding full-back Max Aarons asked questions of the Reds back line, with Trent Alexander-Arnold bettered by his opposite number in the early stages.
Farke set up his side to quickly move the ball around the midfield, with the likes of Emi Buendía and Marco Stiepermann capitalising upon the expert movement of Teemu Pukki and threading balls through the lines.
From the early moments, the exceptionally high defensive line of Liverpool looked to be a permanent feature, allowing the visitors to flirt with the idea of getting in behind and potentially wreaking havoc.
With Liverpool’s quick turn of play on the counter, Norwich were able to use this to their advantage in the brief moments of regained possession, and this was seen early in the first half when Pukki was slotted in after rapid build-up on the left flank.
An intricate piece of play saw Teemu Pukki slotted through on goal, only for Alisson to save
Alisson departed in the first half due to a freak injury, which caused concern among fans
Klopp has already confirmed the Brazilian will miss Wednesday’s Super Cup final showdown
The onrushing Alisson saw away with the danger after making himself big and averting the ball with a solid shoulder, but the alarm bells were ringing and Klopp certainly knew it.
Danger was averted, but for the reigning European champions it was hassle that would much rather have been avoided. Still, it will be used as an exercise for progression nonetheless.
Worry was heaped upon Klopp’s side however when Alisson – who played such a pivotal role in last season’s triumphs – fell to the turf grimacing and holding his calf after a routine clearance.
His immediate departure provided a shock debut for Spanish stopper Adrian, just five days after signing for the club, which had a few nerves jangling as Norwich refused to lie down.
Despite only playing five times for West Ham last season (all cup matches) after losing his place to Lukasz Fabianski, Adrian eased himself into the fixture with a few routine saves. Blame also cannot be attributed for his surrendering of a debut clean sheet, after Pukki’s bottom corner finish was delivered with expert precision.
Pukki managed to beat debutant Adrian after a fine finish capped off a neat piece of play
But thanks to Mo Salah magic plus Divock Origi and Virgil van Dijk goals, Liverpool were clear
Klopp confirmed his No 1 stopper would be out of next week’s Super Cup final regardless of what verdict the soon-to-be-taken scans return with.
‘It’s a calf injury. He felt as if something hit him from the back he won’t be ready for Wednesday, I can say that already,’ Klopp admitted.
‘At first he felt like something had hit his calf. He felt like this but it didn’t actually happen. When you’re a sportsman you know something like that is not good,’ he went on to elaborate.
After having time to consider the performance, and speaking to his players in the dressing room, the German manager was considered in his post-match comments but made his slight dissatisfaction clear.
Ever the perfectionist, Klopp chose the tactic of highlighting his side’s lesser desirable moments by praising the plucky opposition.
‘Staying that cheeky and staying that lively… that’s impressive,’ Klopp told Sky Sports.
Klopp praised Norwich in his post-match comments but admitted he desired more control
‘[They have] so many good young players in that squad, I like it but we could have controlled the game that’s clear.
‘The main problem today defensively was the reaction on the second ball. We won all the headers but we didn’t win any of the second balls in the second half.’
‘We have got to learn some things, not completely new, but we should have controlled and kept the ball more. It’s normal when you’re not psychically at the highest level and lose concentration. We deserve the three points.’
Klopp and his men will fully digest the sublime, the average and the ugly of this encounter, but their focus will soon turn to Wednesday when they come up against rivals Chelsea in Istanbul.
The two sides, who triumphed in both European cup competitions last season, meet in Besiktas’ Vodafone Park Stadium, with an early piece of silverware on offer. Kick-off at 20.00.