- Liverpool would’ve beaten Real Madrid if that early Mo Salah chance went in…
- Andy Robertson should be Liverpool’s captain when Hendo, Virg and Milly are out…
- Make Nat Phillips the 4th choice CB next season…
- Mo Salah’s contract a priority, but LFC might not be able to afford it without Champions League football…
- The top four is Liverpool’s to lose – play like we did last night – it’s on…
- VAR has sucked the life out of football and turned refs into robots relying on technology…
This is the second in a series of columns Jose Enrique, Liverpool’s former left-back, is writing for Empire of the Kop.
In it, Jose writes about last night’s game and what the result means for Liverpool going forward, amongst other pressing Anfield issues.
Liverpool’s 0-0 draw with Real Madrid and what could’ve been
We cannot miss that many chances – it’s not possible! Imagine if Mo Salah had taken that early one? We actually looked very good – it’s the best we’ve played for a while – and now the job is putting that kind of performance into the Premier League. Our intensity was great, we just couldn’t score our chances. Gini Wijnaldum had a big one to score as well. It’s slightly worrying times though, because we now need the top four in order to help renew contracts and tempt new players into the club.
Real Madrid did nothing, apart from make a few half-chances. Our problem is that we used to need two chances maximum to score one goal, and we’ve lost that a bit. Salah normally scores that first one. He shot centrally, instead of to the left or the right. If he shoots to one side, and the goalkeeper saves it, you say, ‘fair enough,’ but he shot in the middle! I was screaming on the sofa. We score that, we beat them. We controlled their midfield completely – the brilliant Casemiro, Kroos and Modric did nothing. We dominated them with our pressing, so that’s a real positive.
James Milner was amazing, but we shouldn’t be surprised anymore. This is what he does. He is the kind of player all youngsters should aspire to be. I don’t think Jurgen Klopp was right to sub him off after the hour, because we got worse when he left.
The Thiago Conundrum
In games like last night, it’s no surprise to see Thiago on the bench. The players who can give Liverpool the intensity they need in midfield are James Milner, Hendo and Curtis Jones. So with two of those injured, we needed Milly. Thiago is world-class, but he’s a no.6, and Liverpool already have the best no.6 in the country in Fabinho. So he has a problem.
The best option for Thiago going forward is if Liverpool play with two holding midfielders – a double pivot – next to Fabinho. But I’m not sure that is the best for the team, as 4-3-3 is Klopp’s favourite shape and how we usually play. We’ll see what Klopp does – I can’t teach him anything – but in the second-half yesterday, when Thiago came on, we lost some intensity.
Andy Robertson should have been captain, not Gini Wijnaldum
I believe Klopp has given Wijnaldum the armband as an appreciation for what he’s done before. He is not signing a contract, so for me, he would not be my captain when Virgil van Dijk, Hendo and Milner are not on the field. I would give it to Trent or Robbo, but I’d probably go for Robbo. I believe the way he plays and the way he always gives 100% makes him truly deserving of it. He is a top character.
Gini is a legend of the club for what he’s done, but he’s leaving – I wouldn’t give the captaincy to someone who’s leaving. Obviously I respect Klopp’s decision, and there’s no question about Gini’s performance last night – he was great! He’s one of the best midfielders in the world, still – and I don’t mind him thinking of his future. All players do the same, as he has one big contract left now he’s in his thirties…
Thankfully we have Curtis Jones, who has the ability to grow into the team when Gini leaves.
Liverpool should keep Nat Phillips rather than spending £18m on Ozan Kabak, saving money for other areas
If both Phillips and Kabak were free this summer, I’d still go for Phillips. But with Phillips already ours and Kabak costing £18m, I definitely choose Nat. Next season, my four defenders would be Van Dijk, Joe Gomez, Joel Matip and Phillips. If Matip is sold, I’d bring in a new centre-back, but Phillips won’t cost us anything and has proven himself.
Phillips is strong and amazing in the air. Kabak would be better for a possession team, a Barcelona, but in the Premier League, with all the long-balls, I prefer Phillips for our style. I think next to van Dijk, Gomez or Matip, he could do the job. He’s still quite young and is getting better and better. He deserves an opportunity next season – that means money can be spent elsewhere. Obviously if we had £300m we could just bring in Kalidou Koulibaly or whoever, but Liverpool will have to be smart this summer. Klopp likes tall centre-backs who are quick. Phillips isn’t quick, but he’s big and a brilliant header.
I don’t think Klopp watched much of Ben Davies before he arrived. I can tell you from being a player that managers only have time to focus on players in their own league. Klopp won’t be watching Championship games, so he would have relied on his scouts. The fact he hasn’t played means I can’t judge him, but there is obviously a reason why he – and Kostas Tsimikas – are not playing.
Liverpool might need to finish top four to keep Mo Salah
I really hope Mo Salah stays at Liverpool. I actually don’t think this season has been his best in terms of performance, but he still gets the goals – the most important thing in football. When we’ve not played well, he’s still scored. The fact we’re still fighting for the top four is because of him.
But without Champions League next season, there is a risk Liverpool won’t be able to afford the contract he is probably asking for. I really believe if Liverpool put the right money on the table, he’ll sign – but top players want Champions League and big wages – and big wages come with Champions League football…
If we finish in the top four, he’ll sign a new deal – I believe that. After all, where can he go that is better than LFC? He can complain about the weather – that’s it.
There are a lot of players who need new contracts, though. Fabinho, Virgil van Dijk… We can make money from offloading the likes of Origi and Shaqiri, but then need to spend it to replace them.
Really though, who can afford Salah? Real Madrid and Barcelona have financial issues and PSG will want to spend their money to keep Kylian Mbappe and Neymar. Real Madrid spent £100m+ on Eden Hazard, who was 28/29, and regret it.
Liverpool’s chances of a top four finish this season
I have to be positive. I am a positive person, so I believe we’re going to make it. I’m not scared about West Ham, Chelsea, or anyone – it’s about us. If we perform like we did in the first-half yesterday, we’ll make it.
We missed chances yesterday, but if we play with that high intensity – that’s the LFC we know. So, I’m only worried about us performing in the way we can. Leeds is a very difficult team to play against on Monday, so it’s not going to be easy – but it’s up to us. Klopp will say the same: it’s about the team. If we play to our level, we make it – if we don’t, we won’t. Simple.
The horror of VAR and how every footballer, past and present, hate it
If technology was 100% correct, I’d agree with it. Goal-line technology is brilliant. There’s no mistakes. It works. You have to say it makes the game fairer and better. If VAR was the same, I’d stick with it, but it only brings more controversy. How can anyone say it’s fair, based on the madness of this season? That Jota offside v Aston Villa was ridiculous. That’s not football.
I’m going to give you the best example… I will compare refs and VAR now to what technology has done to taxi drivers, with the utmost respect I have to them because they work so hard. Drivers used to have to know the roads – know exactly where to go – the streets, the landmarks. They were experts! Now with Google Maps, anyone can be a taxi driver, and they don’t have to think. They just rely on the technology. That’s what refs can do now, so in a way, the skill of being a ref has diminished. Refs are skilled, they’re passionate about the job, but can’t anyone referee on the field now with VAR deciding all the big decisions? Every time they’re not sure, they go to VAR, but that just adds a layer of doubt as the VAR guy might not be sure either! This isn’t a dig at taxi drivers – they work really hard – but the job is different now!
If you did a survey of all managers and players in the top leagues, 90% of them don’t like it. They don’t want it. It hasn’t improved the game. It’s made it worse. You’ve taken away the excitement of the celebration and just added controversy – for the sake of a fingernail being offside. And this still depends on where they put the blurry line… The best thing about football is goals, and they’re taking that from us.
It’s not something I’d keep. But whatever happens now will be controversial.