Here’s some analysis from last night’s superb victory over Villarreal, which saw us progress to the Europa League Final, which will take place in just under two weeks’ time.
1) Emre Can is Liverpool’s future skipper
Straight back from an injury which was supposed to rule him out for the entire season, Can put in a true warrior’s performance in the middle which set the tone for the victory. The German, still only 22, was dynamic, disciplined and classy – all rolled in to one superb centre-mid. Since March, Can’s been simply incredible – and it’s so important that he’s back fit.
2) Daniel Sturridge is still an enigma
On the pitch, Sturridge did everything asked of him having been given the nod by Jurgen Klopp. He scored, played a part in both our other goals, and would have bagged a few more if it wasn’t for Villarreal’s keeper. But following the game, he uploaded a weird Instagram video in the changing room – complaining that his team-mates had left him to celebrate on his own following a drugs test. Why…?
3) Alberto Moreno proves to be a defensive weak link yet again
We eased to a 3-0 win last night, but if the referee was being slightly harsher, it’d have been a different story. With the score at 2-0 Alberto Moreno foolishly pushed over Denis Suarez, and was very lucky not to give away a penalty. It’s this kind of brainless defending which has annoyed Liverpool fans so many times this season. If they’d have got the penalty and scored it, the tie would have been poised at 2-2 with Villarreal qualifying on the away goals rule with 20 minutes to go.
4) Our captain is no longer an automatic pick by any stretch of the imagination
We’d argue that the front six on display last night is the strongest possible, even if everyone was fit. Coutinho, Adam Lallana and Roberto Firmino behind Daniel Sturridge is as good as anything in the country. Behind them in the midfield pivot, Emre Can and James Milner were phenomenal. If we continue with the 4-2-3-1 formation, there’s only two central midfield spots, and Can and Milner currently have a right to them. Jordan Henderson will be desperate to return, but unless something changes, he doesn’t get in the team right now.
5) Buying Firmino and selling Sterling was super business
Many Reds were wounded by the departure of Raheem Sterling, whether we were willing to admit it or not. For £20m less than we sold him though, we acquired Roberto Firmino – a Brazilian only familiar to most at the time via YouTube compilations. But last night, the former Hoffenheim forward put in a sublime Man of the Match performance, displaying skills and traits simply not in Sterling’s locker. This term, Firmino, fresh to the country, has reached double figures for goals and assists in all competitions. His movement, work-rate and cleverness against the Spaniards really was something else, while Sterling flopped his own European semi-final for Manchester City – where he’s turned into a substitute. Well done Liverpool.