Burnley v Liverpool
A good performance just lacking a few more goals, which it fully deserved. Liverpool dominated Burnley from start to finish, in almost certainly the most one-sided game so far this season in the Premier League. Once again match officials took the lustre off the game with their ridiculous decisions. Gakpo’s goal should never have been disallowed for a non-existent foul, even after watching multiple replays I have no idea where the foul was. It was quite frankly the wrong decision. In fact, I tried to find a picture of it to use as the display picture for this article, but no one else knew where the foul was either, so there is not one outside of Stockley Park! Elliott’s goal, on the other hand, you would not normally complain about it being chalked off, if it was not for the excuses trotted out last time out for the abysmal call on the blatant Odegaard handball. The excuses given for that not being given were that you have to take into account other factors, such as Odegaard slipping, which meant the clear handball was not given. But this time out we are expected to ignore all the other factors, such as that the Burnley keeper was never saving the shot anyway as he was going the wrong way and that Salah was blatantly pushed into the offside position anyway. There is just no consistency or sense behind the decisions being taken.
Putting aside the officials and their bizarre decisions, the football itself was mostly excellent. Liverpool smothered Burnley, gave them no time and space, refusing to let them build up any good possession in a performance that was also notable for the intensity it was played at. It was more like the Klopp team that turned doubters into believers. At least for most of the game. There were times when it was being rolled slowly around the defence, however, for once, that was used as a deliberate ploy to tempt the Clarets to come out and close down higher up the pitch. When they did engage with the defence, it was pinged quickly forward, looking to exploit the gaps left.
What was also interesting about the tactics was how the set up was altered to counter Burnley’s defensive system and to make it easier to keep them penned in. The backline was mostly played as a back three, but, surprisingly it was not Gomez who sat back deep. Instead it was Alexander-Arnold who played mainly like a right centre-back, though sometimes he did drift into the centre and Quansah would drift out to the right instead. Gomez was bombing down the left flank, while Gakpo was cutting inside to give him the space to get forward. It worked really well and Burnley had no answer to the questions posed. The one issue from that game was the amount of good chances passed up (admittedly the officials helped on that front), Liverpool should have put that game completely to bed by half-time.
Burnley were very flat in every department, even the atmosphere, with very little coming from them until Elliott’s goal was ruled out. At that point you could feel the belief in the crowd and players rise, as they must have thought every was conspiring together to give them a chance to rescue something from an awful performance. Even then, despite them stepping it up a bit and the crowd getting behind them, they really offered very little. It must be said they did not help themselves at all, they were terrible in possession, constantly playing themselves into trouble and turning the ball over. Their goalkeeper, for all the plaudits he was given, is dodgy, one of those spectacular types that makes easy saves look like world beaters when they were almost straight at him. Also he is extremely susceptible to giving the ball away when put under pressure. He is often lauded as being good on the ball, but his passing range is poor, unless he is rolling it 5 yards to a centre-back alongside him, it often goes out of play, particularly if he is being hurried. I am not convinced by him at all and can see why Man City were happy to offload him. His arrogance is astonishing as well, referring to himself as a big name player whole playing in the lower leagues on loan. It is little wonder they are in trouble with him as the bedrock of their team – he is not learning from his mistakes and his positioning is extremely inconsistent.
The biggest problem they have is their head coach, Vincent Kompany. It is hard to understand how they strolled through the Championship last season. He has absolutely no idea how to tweak his tactics to get at opponent’s weaknesses, if he even bothers to look for them or figure out what they are. They just play the same way for 90 minutes, and hope it will click if they just keep going. At no point in the game did he make any kind of change aimed at exploiting gaps in Liverpool’s backline or look to alter the play to break the press. It was just so passive from him and disappointing. I really expected so much more of an intelligent guy like Kompany. I expected him to be constantly looking at ways to get at opponents, but he has settled on one way of playing and that is it.
Quick notes on the players:
Alisson – not quite at the races in this game, with his kicking being a bit off. That could have been pure boredom though as he never had a save to make all game.
Alexander-Arnold – had a very good game, solid defensively and pinged the ball about well in the “quarterback” role he was playing in. The freedom he was given suited him as well, he could raid down the flank or drift into the centre when he wanted. Admittedly it was ‘only’ Burnley, but he did well and you can only beat what is in front of you.
Quansah – it was a decent enough game for Quansah, though his passing was poor, with a number of attempted long-range balls failing to hit the mark.
van Dijk – once again excellent, using the crossfield pass really well to beat Burnley’s attempts to press. Also, he is beginning to drive out from the back once more, when the opportunity presents. That is something he has not done enough of since returning from injury. It is good to see it return to his armoury, as it can make a real difference as he rarely loses the ball when he brings it out from the back.
Gomez – had a surprisingly effective game, driving down the flank like Robertson would. What helped him out is his willingness, and ability, to deliver with his left foot, as the Burnley defence were set to stop him cutting inside on his right. That left him able to easily just go outside and cross. When they reacted to stop that, he just cut inside and drove into the box. He has the confidence and quality that made him so important in the title-winning season a few years ago, though he still has that potential for a loose pass at the wrong moment. However, overall he is playing some excellent football right now and just needs to stay fit now.
Elliott – was exceptional, the kind of performance we normally see from him when he comes off the bench. So unlucky to have his goal ruled out as well, as that would probably have seen him pick up the man of the match award. He was everywhere, full of energy, but also quality.
Gravenberch – he was the one major disappointment in this game, as he was poor. Early on he even pulled out of a tackle, allowing the Burnley player to win the ball when he was favourite for it. He did go in for challenges later in the game, I have no doubt he would have got an earful over that moment of cowardice. However, it is not just that which let him down. His first touch was poor, except for one moment which ended up with Berge getting booked for fouling him. When he runs with the ball he reminds me of Jack Wilshere, the ball is always just a bit too far away from his body for full control. That worries me as it contributed to Wilshere’s string of injuries as he was always stretching slightly when running with the ball to keep it under control. That left him always at risk of hyperextending ligaments when tackled. That should be not as much of a problem for Gravenberch, due to his better lifestyle choices, which means he will be fitter and stronger. It is still something he needs to look at, it is much easier to manipulate the ball if you have it slightly closer to you and it would improve his control when striking the ball for a shot or pass. His passing has been a real letdown at Liverpool, just keeping the ball in a better position to strike it from would help with that immensely.
Endo – another in a string of impressive performances from the Japanese midfielder. He may not be the quickest player across the ground, but he is clever and gets himself positioned well to interfere with the opposition when they try and attack. He is like that really annoying fly that constantly buzzes round you whenever you try and relax. Even when he is not actually stopping you, he is putting you off and taking your focus away by being there niggling away.
Salah – hit the bar with a shot and really should have scored but his game will probably most be remembered for being shoved bodily into an offside position to give the officials an excuse/reason to rule out Elliott’s goal. Not that he had a bad game, in fact he looked a bit more like himself in this game than he has done recently, it was a step in the right direction towards him returning to form.
Gakpo – he was the other player that could have arguably got the man of the match award if all had been equal. He worked hard, played a good pass for Nunez to score, and had a goal ruled out for a foul that nobody but the VAR booth people could see. It was possibly his best game in a Liverpool shirt.
Nunez – the actual winner of the man of the match award and he was excellent. His early goal was an excellent first time finish from a lovely weighted pass from Gakpo. That has been the only thing missing from his recent performances. Now he just needs to build on it by scoring consistently.
Szoboszlai – replaced Elliott in the 66th minute. He came on as part of a triple substitution just as Burnley raised their game and played a big part in just shutting the Clarets down and snuffing out their threat.
Diaz – took Gakpo’s place in the 66th minute. Looked a little more at the races after coming on, than he has of late. There were a few good signs, though it must be borne in mind, like with all the good performances, that Burnley did pretty much play into Liverpool’s hands.
Jones – was brought on as Gravenberch’s replacement, also in the 66th minute. He is growing into such a good player right now. Where Gravenberch was offering nothing, he came in and immediately closes down, tracks back, as well as getting forward and being heavily involved in the build up play.
Jota – came on for Nunez in the 84th minute. He does what Jota usually does when coming off the bench, he scored. You cannot ask for any more than that of a man entering the pitch in the 84th minute!
Written by Tris Burke December 29 2023 05:54:15