Liverpool extended their unbeaten Premier League run to 39 games by beating Manchester United 2-0 on Sunday.
Virgil van Dijk opened the scoring thanks to a bullet header, before Mohamed Salah scored in the last minute of the match. The Red Devils did have some opportunities, but the Anfield outfit were the better side – they had 53% possession and 16 shots compared to their opponents’ nine.
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After the match, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made some interesting comments that didn’t go down well. He claimed that Liverpool are the most direct team in the league.
“They’re the most direct team in the league. They do put teams under pressure. Play them long balls, second balls, corners.”
Despite falling 30 points behind Liverpool, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was encouraged by Manchester United’s performance at Anfield. pic.twitter.com/XLdECVQq7A
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) January 19, 2020
There were many Reds fans who took this as an insult, and the word “deluded” appeared to be a recurring theme in the responses from the supporters.
He’s deluded always got to have a dig hope they keep him
— Gareth (@glawth) January 19, 2020
Haha absolutely deluded, he also made a comment about we didn’t cut through them… Must have been watching another game then!! Oh well I’ll happily take the 2-0 win 👍
— Jamie Coppack (@mrjcopps) January 19, 2020
— Kieran Patel (@KiZzYP10) January 20, 2020
It is not surprising that there would be uproar in regards to these quotes – the “most direct” team surely can’t be the side who lead the Premier League table by 16 points?
Well, you may be surprised to hear that the stats do add a weight of legitimacy to what the Norwegian said.
This season, only Manchester City (26) have made more crosses per game than Liverpool’s 24 in the top tier, whilst only Sheffield United (75) and Burnley (72) have played more long balls per match than the Reds’ 66. In that particular aspect, the Citizens are second-bottom with just 50 per match.
However, it does not need to be taken as a insult, but rather as a compliment. Whilst they may be a very direct side, the stats also show that isn’t their only way of playing – they have averaged 58.2% possession per match, which has only been bettered by Manchester City (60.9%), and they also have the third-most short passes per game (546).
What Jurgen Klopp has managed to do is take what is a traditionally English style of playing and couple it with a more modern passing style. There seems to be a certain snobbery in football about playing directly, but that really shouldn’t be the case – as Liverpool have proven, there is still a place for it in the modern game.
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So, in this case, the supporters should cut Solskjaer some slack.
Their style of play appears to be doing the trick so far, anyway.