Wayne Rooney’s landmark goal earned Manchester United a vital win over their rivals Liverpool at Anfield, as Reds’ poor set-piece defense continues to beleaguer them.
Klopp made one change to the team that started against Arsenal, Lucas coming in for Jordan Ibe. The system was pretty much the same with Firmino as false 9 and Milner playing further forward, introduction of Lucas in midfield relieved Can of his more defensive duties.
Let’s take a general look at the Reds’ shape against Red Devils and also will analyze how poor marking in set-pieces are mortifying Liverpool week in week out:-
Firmino was again effective in that ‘floating number 9’ role, he caused few problems for Smalling and Blind because of his movements in and around that area, sometimes operating from wide areas too. His hold up play has been good which brings midfield runners to run beyond him and conjure a good effective chance.
Lallana again had a game to forget, his anonymous effect on the game doesn’t help the cause, the best chance of the game fell to him in which he took a horrible decision not to chip it over the keeper. Milner also had an average game, his movements were alright but misplaced passing more than few times doesn’t help the fact that he is one of the senior pros on the pitch. Both Englishmen swapped their flanks after 20 minutes but their movements were not causing any alarming threats to the opposition even after that.
Skipper Henderson was tidy as far as possession and tracking defenses is concerned, passing was a bit straying few times, he was helping Clyne in closing down Martial and Darmian. His other flank partner Can had a decent game in the midfield, he was not defending back much as Lucas was there as a cover, German’s forward movements were impressive, Firmino’s hold up play allowed him to run beyond the Brazilian and create a chance. Once again his strayed passing in crunch situations makes him a half-finished product.
Now let’s tickle our way to analyze set-piece marking of Liverpool which has not been up to the mark more than half way through the season. We all know United’s main strength lies in set plays just because of aerial threats lying in the heads of Fellaini and Smalling particularly. The corner via which the goal arrived was marked poorly by Klopp’s men, the tallest man on the pitch Fellaini was marked by one of the smallest, Henderson; Smalling was rightly marked by either of Sakho or Toure but the question quests back to the marking of the Big Belgian Fellaini. To begin with, corner was taken short and Mata was given all the time in the world to whip in a good ball that meets the head of the Belgian, Henderson failed to attack the ball as Fellaini used his strength and height to out-smart the Englishman. The ball ricochet off the bar and Rooney was unmarked in the box surprisingly.
The other problem of their corner marking is the absence of players on both the posts which means in-swingers has to be dealt by the keeper himself who has been embarrassingly out of form and struggling to make a mark.
Klopp should be worried about the fact that it was Liverpool who played the football for 90 minutes and have nothing to show for it. Finishing is an aspect which has embarrassed Liverpool before too and it’s a continuum problem for them. Defensive problem(especially set-piece markings and defending) seems to be a hereditary one and doesn’t look positive enough to improve till this summer.
On the other hand, as far as United and Van Gaal are concerned, this is a priceless win for them even though its been largely an undeserved one as they had only one shot on target which was a goal. De Gea came to their rescue once again making two three crucial saves especially in the second half to frustrate the Reds.
In the end one must realize that in football, it doesn’t matter how much you create and keep the ball, it’s all about finishing and making the game out of opposition’s reach.
By Mizgan Ahmed on 18th January, 2016 @mizgans