Simon Mignolet: Migs has kept more clean sheets in 2015 than any other Premier League Goalkeeper. Let that fact sink in for a moment, eh? More than Cech. More than Courtois. More than Lloris. More than Butland. More than Artur Boric. I know, it’s amazing isn’t it? We are all aware of the matches where he hasn’t kept a clean sheet, and the reasons why he didn’t keep a clean sheet, but credit where it is due, that’s a fair achievement. He’s achieved it under two different managers and a multitude of different defenders ahead of him. If he keeps more clean sheets than anybody else in 2016, and cuts out the errors that make me want to carve voodoo dolls of him, then I’ll be a happy man. That’s a big ‘If’, admittedly.
Oh, he had very little to do tonight. A couple of smart saves, and no flapping…ish. That’ll do Simon, that’ll do.
Nathaniel Clyne: It’s not easy coming up with witty, smart and different reviews for all these players twice or three times a week you know. Yes, that is a violin you hear playing the background. One player I’m really struggling with for new angles is Patsy. I mean, he’s solid, dependable, doesn’t do anything wrong (mostly), but doesn’t do anything great (mostly) either. He unleashed a howitzer from 40 yards tonight that made me sit up straight, so that was nice. He keeps getting in good spots down the right wing…and then…nothing. Before you start, no he didn’t contribute an ‘assist’ tonight. That was a pass to Firmino that was deflected into Benteke’s path. Mind you, it was an attacking, threatening pass from Patsy, so that’s a start. A 2016 resolution? Add danger to your attacking play.
Mamadou Sakho: Herr Klopp implored his central defenders to stab him in the heart to kill him, rather than play risky passes. I’m imploring Klopp to stab me in the heart rather than let Martin Skrtel back in the team, if it can at all be helped. Once more Sakho found himself playing alongside a centre-half that he had confidence in (I never thought I’d be writing this halfway through 2015), and it showed. I love Mamadou’s passion and his commitment. When he goes for a ball, he really goes for it. I know that his ‘bandy leg’ look gives many fans the heebey-jeebies when he’s on the ball, but they saved his career tonight. That ‘tackle’ by Lens was a leg-breaker and a potential career killer. Yet Sakho took it and finished the match. I’m not sure how…
Dejan Lovren: A second man of the match performance in a week from Dejan. As Lovren and Sakho alternated in the defence through injury or selection, alongside Skrtel, we all wailed and gnashed and pulled our hair out at our defensive woes. Now I can report that Sakho/Lovren have played together 7 times and we have kept 5 clean sheets. Now I’m no Anne Robinson (contrary to those disgusting rumours), but I think it’s becoming apparent who the weakest link might be…
Alberto Moreno: The boy has pace to burn. Real, electrifying pace. He reminds me of the Roadrunner. He dashes forward….*meep meep*…he dashes back…*meep meep*. He could be the first professional player to don ‘Acme’ boots in 2016. Of course every Roadrunner has a Wile E Coyote on his tail, but Bertie is fortunate that his goes by the name of Jose É Enrique. José is more hapless than the coyote in the cartoon. In fact last week an anvil fell on his head at Melwood. See?
Ah nuts. Just when it seemed like Jordan got his groove back, he limps off after an hour at the Stadium of Light with a suspicious looking foot injury. Career-threatening? Incurable? A slight knock? Who knows? All I know is that his partnership with Emre Can was looking tasty – full of energy, verve, vigour and work-rate. To be honest during this time of overindulgence and sloth, it made me feel uneasy, but it’s exactly what we’ll be looking for through January and February. Cross your fingers and pray it’s not serious.
Emre Can: Blimey, talk about action-packed. This guy expends more energy in his warm-up than I do in a week. I’ve seen some laud his performance as being excellent, but I’m not going that far. It does however show an immense amount of promise. He’s clearly going to be an eye-catching player with his all-action style, but that only means that his weaknesses are also easier to spot. However we need to remember that he’s only a year older than Jordon Ibe, so he’s got time to mature like a fine wine.
Philippe Coutinho: Eeeeshhhh. That was not good, was it? In fact the next three reviews are all going to be similar in nature – talent not matching the outcome on the pitch. However, I am going to add a caveat to each of these reviews. I believe that the lack of movement in front of them limits what they themselves can do in the roles they are asked to play. That’s not excusing the lack of quality in the overall play of Philippe, but if he is being asked to pick the lock, it helps if the lock has a keyhole in it to work with. This is a four-pronged attack and if one prong is broken the other three can’t work properly. There you go, locks and prongs. Simple really.
Adam Lallana: So much effort and endeavour, so little end-product, yet again. Now he did flick the ball into the path of Benteke, and I’d like to give him the credit for that, but I’d also like to give myself the credit for Ireland’s economic recovery recently. I’ve worked hard and paid my exorbitant taxes, but in reality I’m just a cog in a machine which relies on luck to succeed. Therefore like me with the economy, Adam can’t get the credit for that assist. My economics blog should start in May 2016 (not really). However I again point to the lack of mobility in front of him as a mitigating factor. Just.
This guy is becoming a puzzle wrapped in an enigma, shrouded in a mystery, deep-fried in a conundrum and served on a quizzical bun. He was overall as ineffectual as his LFC (Lallana – Firmino – Coutinho) counterparts, but he did at least attempt to spark things into life. His first 15 minutes was as bad as anything I’ve seen this season, yet he did improve and his effort in the 1st half would have been a stunning goal if it weren’t for the fingertips of Mannone. Once more, and finally, the lack of movement ahead of him gives him some defence against the sub-par performance.
Christian Benteke: Match-winner. Three more points thanks to the big man. 6 points in a week thanks to the big man. The third time he’s scored the only goal in a 1-0 win for Liverpool this season. He also got our goal in a 1-1 draw this season. Therefore he’s directly responsible for a third of the points Liverpool have amassed this season. And yet….it’s not good enough. Not really. He’s being asked to lead the line not as a target man, but as a mobile, running the channels, running in behind the defence striker. He’s simply not doing it. It’s this lack of runs ahead of L-F-C that stymie their ability and impact on the match. Also, let’s address those two late open goal misses from the past two games, shall we? Our goal difference is Zero. Nada. Nilch. Nichts. 0. Nowt. We need every goal we can get between now and the end of the season. Those misses, while ‘funny’ (when the final whistle blows), are appalling and unacceptable. You didn’t even have a goalkeeper in front of you for one of them, for f*ck sake.
Lucas Leiva: Introduced following the injury to Hendo, assumed the Captains armband, and professionally completed the job he was asked to do. He didn’t give Lee Cattermole and atomic wedgie, so I’m docking a point for that. Anybody who has a chance should at least attempt it – the odious toad deserves it.
Jordon Ibe: Given seven minutes on his return from illness yet he seemed to be struck down by the ‘can’t hit a cows arse with a banjo’ virus that is sweeping the Liverpool attacking line since their trip to the South Coast. Missed a guilt-edged chance late on to calm the copious nerves of the Liverpool faithful.
KOLO: Introduced in stoppage time and kicked everything that moved: The ball, the opposition, a scrap of paper blown across the pitch…everything. Classic KOLO
Manager: Jurgen Klopp: His hands are somewhat tied when it comes to his team selection right now. So much so that he’s recalling as many Liverpool players out on loan as he can right now. Welcome back Kent and Illori. Had his first run-in with Big Sam, and told him to ‘Calm down, it’s Christmas’. He should have just handed him a leg of turkey to chew on. Of course if the tackles by Lens was any worse, he could have handed him Sakho’s leg to chew on. Big Sam called him a ‘Soft German’ as a retort. Now, I’m not sure if Sam knows how the ‘insult’ game works, but calling Klopp a soft German must be considered a compliment, no? I mean, we know what ‘hard Germans’ are like, right? And nobody likes being compared to that bastard.
Note: If you enjoy the guff on this blog, you can find me on Twitter (@NiallHawthorne). I’m also regularly contributing to ByTheMinSport.com. Finally I’m a co-host for the best weekly Premier League Podcast in the whole world – @ByTheMinEPL Podcast, which can be found on the website. If you’ve read this far, pat yourself on the back. Xxx.