Philippe Coutinho is the best player in the Merseysiders’ squad, Martin Skrtel’s haplessness is not bad luck and other things we learned from Newcastle 2 Liverpool 0
By Editor Wayne Veysey
Skrtel own-goal disease is not a fluke
The knee-poke that sent Georginio Wijnaldum’s angled shot past the helpess Simon Mignolet was the seventh own goal of Skrtel’s Liverpool career. Only Richard Dunne, with 10, has scored more. It is not a record of which Skrtel will be proud. Nor can such haplessness be attributed to bad luck. There is a desperate element to the centre-back’s defending, and it was prevalent when the ball was fizzed in to the near post after 69 minutes. He chose to go with the outside of his right foot, rather than with his left, but did not get enough power on the block. It was a bad mistake borne out of average technique. Not for the first time.
Coutinho and Sturridge are Liverpool’s aces
Liverpool’s improvement under Klopp has been swift and remarkable but they are not so strong that they can shrug off the absences of Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge. The Brazilian magician missed his fourth match in a row with a hamstring injury, and Sturridge dropped to the bench after his midweek brilliance. The duo are the aces up the manager’s sleeve, capable of turning matches in an instant with bursts of skill. It was no coincidence that they were the match-turners in the three famous away wins under Klopp – at Chelsea, Manchester City (Coutinho) and Southampton (Sturridge). The Merseysiders are far less threatening when they are not on the pitch.
Klopp will rotate his front five
In his 12 matches in charge, Klopp has tended to stick with a settled defence, and protect it with midfield anchorman Lucas Leiva. Further up the pitch, the German has been content to rotate his more creative players and, bar the injured Coutinho, none have yet emerged as nailed-on starters. Klopp made six changes from the side that annihilated Southampton in midweek, with Simon Mignolet, Nathaniel Clyne, James Milner, Jordan Ibe, Roberto Firmino and Christian Benteke replacing Adam Bogdan, Connor Randall, Adam Lallana, Divock Origi, Sturridge and the suspended Emre Can. The big surprise was not Sturridge’s demotion – his match minutes will be carefully monitored – but that of Lallana, who has been so impressive under the new reign. Klopp is keeping his charges hungry.
Ibe end product does not match his potential
This was the winger’s last match as a teenager – he turns 20 on Tuesday – but in football terms he is already an alpha male. Built like a middleweight, pacy and blessed with balletic feet, Ibe goes past opponents with ease. He was comfortably Liverpool’s most dangerous attacker in the first half and caused several nervous moments for the home side when he picked up the ball and ran at the Newcastle backline. But his end product was disappointing, with his final ball often poorly executed or the wrong decision.
Benteke and Firmino not on same wavelength
A second-half substitute at Chelsea and unused against City and Southampton, Benteke has not started Liverpool’s three stand-out performances of the season. Selected from the off after missing out at St Mary’s Stadium, the Belgian was a virtually invisible presence until he was replaced by Sturridge at the hour mark. In truth, the service to the spearhead was poor but Benteke did not appear to be on the same wavelength as Firmino, who had struck up such an exciting alliance with Coutinho before his fellow Brazilian’s injury.