A 1-0 win at home to Bournemouth hasn’t been met with widespread adulation from Liverpool fans, especially considering the fact we were actually pretty lucky to come away with the three points.
Granted, we had most of the clear-cut chances, but even the most ardent supporter would admit that under the new regulations Christian Benteke’s goal shouldn’t have stood due to Coutinho being offside when Jordan Henderson whipped in his delivery.
But three points is three points – and we’ve got six in total. If you consider our gruesome run of upcoming away fixtures, this was actually an absolute must from the first two games of the season. It would have just been a little nervy to admit as much before the campaign’s inception.
But while the media will tediously debate Dejan Lovren being felled for Bournemouth’s disallowed goal, or Martin Skrtel’s impressive ability to never get caught pulling shirts, it was ten minutes from Alberto Moreno that most interested me.
The Spaniard has been unequivocally dropped for Joe Gomez, an 18-year-old who’d never made a top flight appearance before nine days ago. Moreno cost serious money for a fullback, around £12m, and has caps for Spain as well. At 23-years-old, he’s one of the best left-backs of his age group in Europe.
But defensively, Gomez has the edge right now. He’s naturally better positionally, is taller – but most importantly – has very few attacking instincts, whereas Moreno has surging left-wing gallops running in his blood. This makes Gomez’s job as a left-back easier, in that he only worries about stopping goals, while Moreno worries about creating them as well.
With Liverpool not firing on all cylinders, it makes sense for Brendan Rodgers to opt with the better defensive option. So long as we’re keeping goals out, we’ll have chances to nick wins early on this season, and our first two results proves that theory.
But Moreno is going to play an important role this term, even if he can’t get in the side on the left of defence. Last night proved that Rodgers is aware of firstly his versatility and secondly his strengths, as well as his weaknesses. He came on for flag-bearer Coutinho with ten minutes to go, and took a position ahead of Gomez on the left flank.
It gave the side genuine width and shape, and was reminiscent of Rafa Benitez’s regular European selections down his left side while in charge of Liverpool. Versus AC Milan in the 2005 final, Djimi Traore played 120 minutes at left-back, while the more offensively minded left-back John Arne Riise played 120 minutes at left-wing.
Traore never tried to bomb on, and was charged solely with his defensive responsibilities, while Riise’s natural defensive mindset meant he tracked back, covered Traore and was totally aware of his duties when the Italians had the ball. Granted, neither of them did especially well during the first-half, but Benitez’s instructions to them were clear.
Jose Mourinho often did a similar thing with Ashley Cole and Wayne Bridge while at Chelsea. To deploy two left-backs is to shore up one side of the pitch, to maintain a rigid shape. It warns the opposition: ‘If we score once, you won’t.’
It’s arguably a safe option, but in some circumstances this term it could be a sensible one for Liverpool.
Moreno looked very comfortable in the role, which was essentially as an old-fashioned left-footed left winger, a far cry from the inverted wing-forwards bereft of defensive responsibility we often see nowadays.
He showed relentless energy, made one exceptional run, and ultimately helped us see out the game.
In bigger matches this season against exceptional sides, winning ugly might be our best bet, and the option of Gomez and Moreno down the left should be considered. We already know Gomez can be trusted to do a job in a back-four, but by deploying Moreno ahead of a defensively trusted partner, we’re maximising his attributes.
With away trips to Arsenal, Man United, Chelsea and Man City coming up, the option of Moreno on the left instead of Adam Lallana or Jordon Ibe should perhaps be contemplated.
Jordan Chamberlain – Editor of Empire of the Kop – @Jordan_AC90