Liverpool overcame their recent wobble to dispatch Middlesbrough 3-0 at the Riverside Stadium, ascending to second place in the Premier League table in the process.
Two goals from Adam Lallana either side of Divock Origi’s fifth in as many games (which Lallana assisted) gave Jürgen Klopp’s side the win they desperately needed, in a game that produced a number of talking points.
1. Klopp Needed a Response From His Team, and They Delivered
After one performance that fell apart after 76 minutes, and one that lasted around 15, Liverpool needed to have a strong 90 minutes against Middlesbrough. Klopp’s side were patient for the first half an hour, but when Lallana scored his first, the visitors ramped up the intensity and it stayed up.
They didn’t sit back, they looked for a second, and then a third, and there was never the same fear in this game than the paralysing terror that engulfed them against Bournemouth and West Ham. They didn’t have many shots, all things considered, but when they did shoot it usually paid dividends.
This was the Liverpool of before Bournemouth and West Ham – confident and deadly.
2. The Mignolet Gamble Paid Off Massively
Klopp took a risk in replacing Loris Karius with Simon Mignolet for this game. The under-pressure German had been underperforming, of that there is no doubt, but dropping a team’s first choice goalkeeper is always a gamble.
That said, it could be argued that the best way of protecting the 23-year-old was by taking him out of the firing line and reinstating Mignolet.
In an obvious effort to stake his claim on keeping the berth, Mignolet in turn gave a fine performance. The Belgian made several fine saves, most notably from Viktor Fischer which would have given Middlesbrough an equaliser just moments after Lallana’s opener.
After this showing, Mignolet has earned the right to start in the Merseyside derby next Monday.
3. Adam Lallana is Essential to This Liverpool Side
Adam Lallana is the most improved player in this Liverpool side since Klopp arrived a year ago. The midfielder is performing at a level far above even that which convinced Brendan Rodgers to sanction his £25m purchase in 2014.
The 28-year-old is the link between midfield and attack, and in Philippe Coutinho’s absence such creativity is essential – not to mention the fact that he has probably been the side’s most consistent performer this campaign.
His two goals and one assist in Wednesday night’s game made it six of each for the season, and the case for Lallana to be recognised as the best English player currently playing in the Premier League grows stronger every week.
4. Divock Origi is Pushing Daniel Sturridge Closer to the Anfield Exit Door
Where Daniel Sturridge was supposed to be the main beneficiary of Philippe Coutinho’s absence, a predictable injury to the England international has seen Liverpool turn to Divock Origi.
By the end of last season, Origi had become Klopp’s first choice striker but this was supposed to be the season where Sturridge kicked on and nailed down that spot for himself. Instead, he has had to bide his time on the bench while free-scoring Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané have kept him out.
He has scored four times this season (all in the EFL Cup), but when Klopp needed him he was nowhere to be found – an unfortunate victim of injury, but that is a pattern that the manager is surely becoming weary of.
Since coming into the team Origi has scored five goals in five games (as well as turning provider for Lallana’s second on Wednesday) and has become one of the best young strikers in the Premier League. Still only 21, the Belgian international has a huge feature in the game and could turn out to be one of Brendan Rodgers’ best ever signings at just £10m.
As for Sturridge, on his day he is still a phenomenal forward, but it is hard to see him still being at Anfield next season.
5. Ragnar Klavan is a Much Better Backup Defensive Option Than Lucas Leiva
Liverpool fans were understandably concerned when the teamsheet was delivered at 6.45, with Ragnar Klavan confirmed to be starting ahead of the injured Joel Matip. The Cameroonian international has become a vital cog in the Reds’ defence since signing from Schalke in the summer, and given how the team fell apart in his absence against Bournemouth, many were fearing the worst.
Since the exile of Mamadou Sakho, Klopp has used Lucas Leiva as a backup centre-half (most recently in that collapse at Dean Court) but Klavan has barely put a foot wrong since his own summer arrival.
The 31-year-old Estonian was an inexpensive signing from Augsburg in the summer, but showcased his abilities as a solid stand-in with a commanding performance at the Riverside.
With Joe Gomez returning from injury Klavan may find first team opportunities even harder to come by, but Klopp will be glad in knowing that injury to Matip or Dejan Lovren shouldn’t automatically mean a defensive horror show.
Read More About: adam lallana, aitor karanka, Daniel Sturridge, dejan lovren, divock origi, joel matip, jurgen klopp, Liverpool, loris karius, Lucas Leiva, middlesbrough, Premier League, ragnar klavan, simon mignolet