Liverpool beat Stoke City in the first leg of the Capital One Cup semi-final to take a one goal lead back to Anfield and get a step closer to Wembley. The Reds’ put on an extremely assured performance, a stark contrast of what was showcased at Upton Park some days back.
Here are three things we learned.
Joe Allen is an intelligent player
Allen has been a little bit of a victim of Brendan Rodgers’ rating him so highly, even going to the lengths of cringingly calling hi the “Welsh Xavi”. Surprisingly, for a man who rated him so highly, he hardly used him in the position he was brought in to occupy. Allen was bizarrely mostly used as a defensive midfielder, when he does much better a little forward where he can use his intelligence to also tick things forward. To be fair to Brendan Rodgers, perhaps he meant to use him like that but because Liverpool were so vulnerable defensively, Allen had to focus on the defensive side of things making his contribution on the pitch, basically useless.
Against Stoke, initially in a midfield trident of Emre Can, Lucas Leiva and Joe Allen, the Welshman didn’t have to shield the defence on his own and he was seen putting on a wonderful performance. He was intelligent in possession, equally intelligent off the ball and was seen intercepting, tackling and making life difficult for Stoke in the middle of the park. He drove forward and was constantly seen lurking in and around the box. He knit some clever passes to create opportunities for his team-mates, a notable one coming where he sent a brilliant througball and launched Coutinho forward. He played a brilliant pass to Jordon Ibe, from which the youngster scored. The fact that many are still vehemently saying it was a mis-hit, despite the fact that Allen was seen looking at Ibe and assessing his position before he got the ball and after he passed it, goes on to show you how much he is underrated at Merseyside.
Hamstring going to be “s**t word” of 2016 as well
After the win over Leicester which saw Origi come off prematurely with a hamstring issue, the Liverpool boss said “hamstring” was his “s**t word of the year”. The win over Stoke came with some ill-effects as well. Philippe Coutinho and Dejan Lovren both left in the first half with the same issue and Kolo Toure was seen clutching at his right at the end of the game. These players join a lengthy list of absentees on the sidelines. The reasons for this could be Klopp’s intense style of play, third game in a week’s span and the overexertion of the festive period but that is certainly not important. What is important is that if Jurgen Klopp has aspirations for this season, say a trophy and a top 4 finish, he absolutely has to invest in the winter. The German boss admitted after the game that the current centre back situation (with Liverpool having no fit central defenders) might make the side invest in the coming window. Perhaps the German brings in some reinforcements in the other department as well.
Klopp’s angry words come with rewards
After the humiliating loss against West Ham, Jurgen Klopp was said to have given his players an earful. The German told them that his patience is not limitless and the side would have to step up. Sure enough, against an in-form Stoke City, his Liverpool side gave it all. The pressing in the opening part of the game was top-notch, there was more urgency in the side and every player demonstrated character, from young guns like Emre Can and Alberto Moreno to the experienced veterans like Kolo Toure and Lucas Leiva. Klopp wants his players to give everything and that was perfectly on display against the Potters.