Six positives to take from Liverpool’s win at Leicester

In the pick of last night’s Premier League action, an out of form Liverpool visited an even more out of form Leicester City at the KC Stadium.

In a typical Premier League clash, featuring four goals, a red card, goalkeeping gaffes, an effort against the bar and plenty of controversial moments, the Reds came away with a 3-1 win, recording back-to-back league victories for only the second time this season.

After what has already been an incredibly turbulent campaign for the Anfield outfit, there were plenty of  positives to take from last night’s performance.

So without further ado, here’s SIX.

[ffc-gallery]CLICK ON BRENDAN RODGERS TO REVEAL THE SIX

Rodgers[/ffc-gallery]

Three goals

Liverpool v West Bromwich Albion - Barclays Premier League
Leicester City boast the second-worst defensive record in the Premier League, with their 24 goals conceded only trumped by QPR (27).

But let’s look at the 3-1 result from Liverpool’s point of view – this is only the third time in any competition this season, and the first time since October, the Reds have netted three times in a match.

The first instance came in a visit to White Hart Lane back in August – easily the best performance Liverpool’s campaign thus far – and second was during a needlessly complicated 3-2 win against QPR.

The Reds’ woeful defending has attracted plenty of punditry attention this season but goalscoring has been a major problem too; last term, the Anfield outfit reached a century of Premier League goals, but this year they’re averaging just 1.4 per match. They also have the lowest top scorers in the league – Steven Gerrard and Raheem Sterling – both on three goals.

So hopefully the three strikes against the Foxes exorcised some demons and proved to the players that they’re still capable of the multi-goal score-lines that Liverpool were synonymous with last season.

Gerrard’s role

Gerrard
In the build-up to the King Power clash, how Brendan Rodgers would utilise Steven Gerrard was one of the punditry focal points.

Liverpool’s Captain Fantastic excelled in his unique quarterback role last season but has struggled to create the same impact this year; the likes of Aston Villa, West Ham and Crystal Palace all used the simple ploy of man-making Gerrard in possession before attacking the space behind him on the counter-attack to nullify the midfielder during their respective wins against the Reds. In a nutshell, Premier League opposition have worked out Gerrard in that capacity.

Resultantly, there have been huge calls for the former England skipper to be pushed further forward and against Leicester – in fact, originally tested against Ludogorets last week – Rodgers duly obliged.

Like the lung-bursting, goal-scoring Steven Gerrard of old, the Anfield icon arrived late in the box to net this strike just before the hour mark:

That was Gerrard’s first open play Premier League goal for Liverpool in his last 19 – the rest have all come from the penalty spot or dead-ball situations.

By no means his only contribution however, the aged midfielder recorded the joint-most attemps at goal, the joint-most shots on target, the joint-second-most touches of the ball and the second-most chances created of any Liverpool player:

gerrard vs leicester

Some held concerns that the 34 year-old lacked the mobility to support a strikeforce, but the Leicester performance proved this is a tactic Brendan Rodgers can – and should – use again.

It’s clear that Kolo Toure is the best partner for Martin Skrtel

OUT: Kolo Toure:
Dejan Lovren and Mamadou Sakho are both very talented defenders – talented defenders that cost Liverpool a combined £35million, in fact.

But amid their 35 collective Premier League outings for the Merseysiders, neither have proved particularly effective partners to Martin Skrtel.

In my opinion, there’s no question that the Slovakian international deserves to be a near-permanent fixture at the heart of defence; just look at his stats compared to Liverpool’s other centre-back options:

skrtel vs

So in search of a solution, Brendan Rodgers fielded Kolo Toure alongside Skrtel last night – the centre-back partnership that helped the Reds escape the Bernabeu last month with just one goal conceded.

And following on from his impressive showing against European champs Real Madrid, Toure produced yet another convincing performance.

It wasn’t particularly outstanding but the 33 year-old did the simple things well, winning three aerial duels, two tackles and recording a pass completion of 94% – which was actually the best rate of any Liverpool player:

Toure passing

It’s certainly not a long-term solution, considering Toure’s age and how much Liverpool spent on Lovren and Sakho. But until those two return to confidence and form, the former Arsenal and Manchester City defender is a more than capable and highly experienced stand-in – as he proved against the Foxes.

Lambert and Lallana proving their worth

Rickie Lambert (Liverpool)
Liverpool just aren’t the same team without Daniel Sturridge and that could see them fare rather badly over the next few weeks when facing Manchester United and Arsenal in the England international’s prolonged injury absence.

But when it comes to the Premier League’s more rank and file opposition, Rickie Lambert and Adam Lallana both proved against Leicester City yesterday evening that they’ve got the quality to get the Reds over the winning line.

Lambert didn’t have too much fun in front of goal – in fact, he didn’t actually record a shot against the Midlands outfit – but he ran the line well, occupying the Leicester City defence with his power, aerial ability and footwork before forcing Foxes skipper Wes Morgan into this red card on the hour mark:

And Lambert’s prior duelling with Morgan directly lead to Lallana’s 26th-minute equaliser:

Both have largely struggled since swapping Southampton for Anfield during the summer, at a combined cost of £31million, but through consistent performances against sides like Leicester, the duo can start justifying their transfer fees.

Jordan Henderson in general

Jordan Henderson
With Steven Gerrard sitting out against Stoke City at the weekend, there’s been plenty of talk about how the Reds will cope when their Captain Fantastic eventually retires.

But I see a genuine successor in fellow midfielder Jordan Henderson, who was yet again in exceptional form for Liverpool as they took on Leicester City yesterday evening.

The England international was at the heart of all the action, creating the most chances and second-most passes of any Liverpool player:

henderson passes

Before popping up with this simple finish on 83 minutes to secure Liverpool a victory:

Many have questioned Liverpool’s leadership, industry and quality this season, but I see all three in Henderson.

Consistently improving by the game and emerging as one of Liverpool’s most media-friendly players over the last few months, there’s no question that Henderson’s made of the right material to become the next Anfield skipper.

A simple, gritty win

Lucas Leiva (Liverpool)
It’s almost as if Liverpool have been overcomplicating things this season, but much like their victory over Stoke City at the weekend, against Leicester they went back to basics – securing the win with organised defending, efficiency going forward and grittiness.

Indeed, the Reds completed 29 tackles and won 30 aerial duels – a vast improvement on their defeat to Crystal Palace a few weekends ago:

liverpool vs palace

They also netted three goals from just three shots on target. But in terms of how well they defended against Leicester – with the exception of some penalty box chaos for the Foxes’ goal after 22 minutes – Lucas Leiva and Martin Skrtel were the heroes of the hour.

The former recorded the most tackles and interceptions of any Liverpool player by quite some distance:

lucas leiva tackles

And the latter made an incredible 20 clearances and four blocks, earning him whoscored.com’s Man of the Match award. But as viewable below, every player put in a solid defensive shift:

skrtel clearances

If Liverpool are to get their campaign on track, performances like this will be vital.

And now that the Reds have rediscovered their quality when it comes to the nuts and bolts of the beautiful game, they can build upon that to start reproducing some of their stunning performances from last season.

 


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