Fresh off their victory against Manchester City, Liverpool have dropped two key points away to Sunderland.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) January 2, 2017
The Reds looked tired and sluggish as they tried to grind their way to a critical three point, but it was not to be. Here are a few key talking points from the Liverpool’s first match of 2017.
Should Klopp Have Made More Changes?
After a break shorter than 48 hours, many were a bit perplexed to see a Liverpool team put out with only one change, which was Daniel Sturridge in for the injured Jordan Henderson.
It showed. The team was sluggish and generally lacking in their quality, which is understandable. Yes, they are pros, but not superhumans. The Manchester City match was a physical and tight 90 minutes and the fatigue showed.
So, was Klopp wrong to leave his side generally unchanged? It is important to note that Sunderland had the same short break, but Moyes made enough changed to keep his side going for the full ninety.
Unfortunately, we can not go back in time as of now, so Klopp and Liverpool will have to accept the decision and result.
Sturridge Does Well On His Chance
One positive from the overall disappointing match was the performance of Daniel Sturridge.
The Englishman was given his first Premier League start since October, and he took his opportunity with a wonderful performance.
He gave Liverpool the lead with a smart header back across Manone’s body and tested Sunderland’s keeper on multiple occasions. The goal was Sturridge’s second in the Premier League this season.
— Liverpool Gifs (@lfcgif) January 2, 2017
But as has often been the case with the Englishman, he went off injured on 78 minutes. While the injury did not look too bad live, Liverpool fans will definitely be hoping Sturridge is in good health.
As this performance has shown, Sturridge is still Liverpool’s best striker when healthy.
With Mane set to depart for the AFCON, Sturridge could have a huge impact this month if he is fully fit.
Careless Penalties The Difference
Sunderland never did enough to truly test Mignolet from open play, but they definitely took their chances from the penalty spot.
Ragnar Klavan was the first culprit. The Estonian, who had a rough game overall, carelessly tripped N’dong, who had ventured into the 18-yard box in the 25th minute.
Jermaine Defoe stepped up and calmly slotted his spot kick into the corner. Defoe would again come back to haunt Liverpool as he so often has in recent seasons.
Sadio Mane had given Liverpool the lead with a smart finish in the 72nd minute but then made an egregious decision a little more than 10 minutes later when he carelessly stuck his arm out and handled a Sebastian Larsson free kick that probably would not have tested Mignolet.
— Premier League (@premierleague) January 2, 2017
The Senegalese winger received a yellow card and Defoe slotted home the penalty.
Maybe the fatigue played its part, but without the lazy decisions of Klavan and Mane, Liverpool would have taken all three points back to Merseyside.
Gift To Chelsea
Chelsea plays Tottenham Wednesday, and a win for Conte’s men would see them go eight points ahead of Liverpool at the top of the table.
Now, if Chelsea are to drop points, Liverpool have gifted them a bit of leisure as they still command a five-point lead, regardless of the result.
This Sunderland match represents a possible slip up by the Reds in this early title race and a late Christmas gift to the London club.
Henderson’s Importance To The Team Highlighted
Jordan Henderson may no be the flashiest player on Jurgen Klopp’s team, but his importance to the team was shown in his absence.
Emre Can was slotted into the holding midfield role Henderson has thrived in and put forth a pretty abysmal performance.
The midfield was missing Henderson’s tireless running and passing abilities.
In addition, the midfield and team was missing his newfound leadership. James Milner had the captains armband, but was subbed off at halftime for Alberto Moreno.
Liverpool’s sluggish, uncharacteristic, and ildisciplined performance shows that Jordan henderson is a key part of Klopp’s early success at the club.
His injury should not keep him out for too long, but he was definitely a real miss for the team today.
In addition to Henderson, Liverpool could have done with the likes of Philippe Coutinho and Joel Matip on the day. The two should instantly improve the side upon their return.
Next up for Liverpool is a home fixture against Plymouth in the FA Cup followed by a midweek trip to Southampton for the first leg of the EFL Cup semifinal.