Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool sit top of the Premier League table with Mohamed Salah’s first half strike being enough to see them past a determined Brighton Hove & Albion.
Although Liverpool failed to display the clinical attacking football that defined the latter stages of their last season, their combative performance against Brighton justifies all the talk of the Reds being crowned champions.
With Sadio Mane putting a shot wide early in the first half and Firmino forcing Mat Ryan into a marvelous save shortly after, Liverpool held control of the match early on.
Although Brighton looked threatening at times, especially in the second half, they never looked likely to recreate the magic seen last weekend in their 3-2 win over Manchester United.
Brighton were organised in defence throughout the match which frustrated Liverpool’s efforts; however, the second half made clear that Brighton’s attack was not nearly as fluid or focused and Knockaert wasted what was likely Brighton’s best chance to go level.
Trent Alexander-Arnold almost found the goal he was robbed of in the first half after combining with Andy Robertson, but Mat Ryan was fortunate enough to see the ball roll just past the post.
Liverpool’s inability to add a second goal encouraged Brighton, and in the dying moments of the second half Pascal Groß had his header pushed away by an alert Alisson.
Liverpool’s performance can hardly be described as beautiful, but Klopp and his men will be satisfied with three points, as they continue their campaign in a league where every point is considered a luxury.
Klopp learning from Conte?
In previous seasons Liverpool has dropped points in plenty of matches against teams which they should have had no problem beating. Liverpool created chances but failed to capitalise. Yet, the Liverpool seen against Brighton was different, and although opportunities were missed, the result was a win.
During their 2016/2017 title winning campaign, Conte’s Chelsea produced plenty of pragmatic wins; however, these wins—regardless of how ugly they might have been— were points Chelsea could not afford to lose. Conte’s pragmatism and “abandonment” of beautiful football was what pushed Chelsea to glory.
It seems as though Klopp may have realised that Liverpool cannot always be the protagonist and the sole proprietor of eye-pleasing football in every match. Indeed, “what works, works” and Klopp, who put out the same starting XI for the third consecutive time, seems to have realised to a certain degree that pragmatism pays. Klopp has seen his stubbornness cost him before, but it seems he is beginning to see that winning is not always beautiful.
Liverpool and the year of the full backs
There will always be players that are the poster-boys for their team. For example, in Liverpool’s case it is Mohamed Salah, for Real Madrid it was Cristiano Ronaldo, and for Barcelona it has been Lionel Messi. Yet, there are also players in every team that pull-strings that few even know exist; these players are full backs.
Liverpool have found two excellent full backs in the form of Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold, and although both are young, they are displaying an enormous amount of maturity, discipline and talent. Even more importantly, the pair have been crucial in shaping Liverpool’s attack and defence.
Against Brighton, Robertson orchestrated several of Liverpool’s more dangerous moves, and Alexander-Arnold almost scored on two occasions. Full backs are redefining football in the Premier League, and it is an absolute joy to watch the Liverpool terrorise both defenders and attackers on any given day. They have been pivotal in all of Liverpool’s wins and will continue playing key roles in Klopp’s plans and aspirations for the Premier League title.
Mohamed Salah: One Season Wonder
There were doubts over Salah this season, and many believe that he will fail to replicate the incredible performances of last season. It is true that it would be difficult for Salah to recreate the impossible once more; however, Salah is under no obligation to score another 32 goals this season as long as Liverpool continues winning matches.
Salah has been instrumental in all of Liverpool’s wins, and although he has yet to produce a performance such as the one seen against Watford last season, he has been consistent for Liverpool which is all that matters. The Egyptian has no need to be flashy or flamboyant, and he seems to realize this as he has not been selfish with penalties or goal opportunities.
Indeed, the question that should be asked of Salah is not “can he replicate the talent seen last year” the question that should be asked is far more serious, “can Salah use the talent seen last year to push Liverpool onwards to Premier League title.” Personal accolades are wonderful, but perhaps fans are failing to see what Salah is aiming for which is a great season for Liverpool which is not synonymous with a great season for Mohamed Salah.
Man of the Match: James Milner
Milner was the fulcrum of Liverpool’s performance, taking the role of creator in the majority of Liverpool’s opportunities to score and winning the ball that led to Salah’s goal. Furthermore, his resilience in defence was much needed against a physical and resolute Brighton.