- Liverpool would have beaten Real Madrid if this first chance for Mo Salah had happened …
- Andy Robertson is expected to be Liverpool captain when Hendo, Virg and Milly come out …
- Make Nat Phillips the 4th CB of choice next season …
- Mo Salah’s contract is a priority, but LFC might not be able to afford it without Champions League football …
- The top four is Liverpool to lose – playing like we did last night – that’s for sure…
- VAR sucked the life out of football and turned referees into technology-powered robots …
This is the second in a series of columns that Jose Enrique, the former Liverpool left-back, writes for Empire of the Kop.
In it, Jose writes about last night’s game and what the result means for Liverpool going forward, among other pressing Anfield issues.
Liverpool’s 0-0 draw with Real Madrid and what could have been
We can’t miss so many opportunities – it’s not possible! Imagine if Mo Salah had taken this first? We actually looked great – it’s the best we’ve played in a while – and now the job is to put that kind of performance into the Premier League. Our intensity was excellent, we just couldn’t score our chances. Gini Wijnaldum also had a big score. It’s a bit of a worrying time though, as we now need the top four to help renew contracts and attract new players to the club.
Real Madrid haven’t done anything except give it a few half chances. Our problem is that we needed a maximum of two chances to score a goal, and we lost it a bit. Salah normally scores this first. He shot in the center, rather than left or right. If he shoots to one side and the goalie saves him, you say “good enough”, but he shot in the middle! I was screaming on the couch. We mark that, we beat them. We were in complete control of their midfield – the brilliant Casemiro, Kroos and Modric did nothing. We dominated them with our pressing, so that’s a real positive point.
James Milner was amazing, but we shouldn’t be surprised anymore. That’s what he does. He’s the kind of player every youngster should aspire to. I don’t think Jurgen Klopp was right to submit him after the hour, because we got worse when he left.
The Thiago enigma
In matches like last night, it’s no surprise to see Thiago on the bench. The players who can give Liverpool the intensity they need in midfield are James Milner, Hendo and Curtis Jones. So with two of those injured, we needed Milly. Thiago is world class, but he’s No.6, and Liverpool already have the country’s best No.6 at Fabinho. So he has a problem.
The best option for Thiago going forward is if Liverpool play with two waiting midfielders – a double pivot – next to Fabinho. But I’m not sure it’s the best for the team, because 4-3-3 is Klopp’s favorite form and the way we usually play. We’ll see what Klopp does – I can’t teach him anything – but in the second half yesterday when Thiago came in we lost a bit of intensity.
Andy Robertson should have been captain, not Gini Wijnaldum
I believe Klopp gave Wijnaldum the armband in appreciation for what he has done before. He’s not signing a contract, so for me he wouldn’t be my captain when Virgil van Dijk, Hendo and Milner aren’t on the pitch. I would give it to Trent or Robbo, but I would probably go for Robbo. I believe the way he plays and the way he always gives 100% makes him truly worthy. He is a leading character.
Gini is a club legend for what he’s done, but he’s leaving – I wouldn’t give the captain job to someone who leaves. Obviously, I respect Klopp’s decision, and there’s no doubt about Gini’s performance last night – he was awesome! He’s still one of the best midfielders in the world – and I don’t mind him thinking about his future. All the players do the same, because he has a big contract left now that he is in his thirties …
Fortunately, we have Curtis Jones, who has the ability to become the team when Gini leaves.
Liverpool should keep Nat Phillips rather than spending £ 18million on Ozan Kabak, saving money for other areas
If Phillips and Kabak were free this summer, I would still pick Phillips. But with Phillips already ours and Kabak costing £ 18million, I definitely choose Nat. Next season my four defenders would be Van Dijk, Joe Gomez, Joel Matip and Phillips. If Matip is sold I would bring a new center-back, but Phillips will cost us nothing and has a proven track record.
Phillips is strong and amazing in the air. Kabak would be better for a possession team, a Barcelona, but in the Premier League, with all the long balls, I prefer Phillips for our style. I think next to van Dijk, Gomez or Matip he could do the job. He is still quite young and is getting better and better. He deserves an opportunity next season – that means the money can be spent elsewhere. Obviously if we had £ 300million we could just bring in Kalidou Koulibaly or anyone but Liverpool will have to be smart this summer. Klopp likes big center-backs who are quick. Phillips is not fast, but he is tall and brilliant in the lead.
I don’t think Klopp watched Ben Davies much before he arrived. As a player, I can tell you that managers only have time to focus on the players in their own league. Klopp won’t be watching league games, so he would have relied on his scouts. The fact that he hasn’t played means I can’t judge him, but there’s obviously a reason why he – and Kostas Tsimikas – aren’t playing.
Liverpool may need top-four finish to keep Mo Salah
I really hope Mo Salah stays in Liverpool. In fact, I don’t think this season has been his best in terms of performance, but he still gets the goals – the most important thing in football. When we didn’t play well, he still scored. The fact that we are still fighting for the top four is because of him.
But without the Champions League next season, there is a risk that Liverpool cannot afford the contract they are probably asking for. I really believe that if Liverpool put the right money on the table they will sign – but the best players want the Champions League and big salaries – and big salaries come with Champions League football …
If we finish in the top four, he’ll sign a new deal – I believe him. After all, where can he go better than LFC? He can complain about the weather – that’s all.
However, many players need new contracts. Fabinho, Virgil van Dijk… We can make money by offloading Origi and Shaqiri, but then we have to spend it to replace them.
But really, who can afford Salah? Real Madrid and Barcelona are in financial trouble and PSG will want to spend their money to keep Kylian Mbappe and Neymar. Real Madrid spent more than £ 100million on Eden Hazard, who was 28/29, and regrets it.
Liverpool’s chances of making the top four this season
I have to be positive. I am a positive person so I believe we will get there. I’m not afraid of West Ham or Chelsea or anyone – it’s about us. If we perform like we did yesterday in the first half, we will be successful.
We missed chances yesterday, but if we’re playing with this high intensity it’s the LFC we know. So I only worry about our performance. Leeds are a very difficult team to face on Monday so it won’t be easy – but that’s for us to decide. Klopp will say the same thing: it’s about the team. If we play at our level, we’ll get there – if we don’t, we won’t. Simple.
The horror of VAR and how every footballer, past and present, hates it
If the technology was 100% correct, I would agree with it. The goal line technology is awesome. There are no mistakes. It works. You have to say that it makes the game fairer and better. If VAR were the same I would stick with him, but that only brings more controversy. How can you say that’s fair, based on the craziness of this season? Jota’s offside against Aston Villa was ridiculous. It’s not football.
I’ll give you the best example… I’m now going to compare refs and VAR to what technology has done to taxi drivers, with the greatest respect I have for them because they work so hard. Before, drivers had to know the roads – know exactly where to go – the streets, the landmarks. They were experts! Now, with Google Maps, anyone can be a taxi driver, without having to think about it. They just rely on technology. This is what umpires can do now, so in a way the skill of being an umpire has diminished. The referees are qualified, they are passionate about the job, but can’t anyone referee on the pitch now with the VAR making all the big decisions? Whenever they are unsure they go to VAR, but that only adds a layer of doubt as the VAR type may not be safe either! This is not a taxi driver search – they work very hard – but the job is different now!
If you surveyed all the managers and players in the top leagues, 90% of them don’t like it. They don’t want it. It didn’t improve the game. It made it worse. You took the excitement away from the celebration and just added the controversy – for the sake of an offside nail. And it always depends on where they put the blurry line… The best thing about football is the goals, and they take it from us.
It’s not something I would keep. But whatever happens now will be controversial.