Liverpool’s win against Brighton at Anfield on Saturday afternoon may have been the least exhilarating of their first three victories in 2018/19, but is arguably the most crucial three points the Reds have earned so far.
It was a performance which left a lot to be desired. The ruthlessness and energy of the opening day destruction of West Ham United was missing, and the rapid counter-attacking and final third link-up play was absent too. The trio of Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mané, and Mohamed Salah struggled to influence the game to the level typically expected of them, while the so far impressive Naby Keita was quiet throughout.
And yet, it was still an eminently comfortable final result for Jurgen Klopp’s men. Despite their failure to run up the score and take the game away from the South Coast outfit, the lead built-up by Salah’s smart first-half finish never truly felt precarious at any stage. Even when Brighton changed their game plan towards the end of the game — from merely trying to contain and restrict the Reds, to attempting to find an equaliser with the introduction of Pascal Groβ, José Izquierdo, and Alireza Jahanbakhsh — they still were only able to fashion one goalscoring opportunity, with Glenn Murray’s header being comfortably saved by the indomitable Alisson.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) August 25, 2018
That the Reds played so middlingly but were able to go on and win the game while keeping the opposition at arms’ length at all times, especially on the same day that Manchester City dropped their first points of the campaign by drawing with Wolves at Molineux, is a huge psychological plus and is testament to their self-belief.
It is Pep Guardiola’s side who have been proven to have a chink their armour earliest, not Liverpool. It is Manchester City whose defensive weaknesses will be analysed by opposition manager’s, not the Reds’. It is them having to play catch up, not us.
The authority and control with which the Reds despatched the Seagulls suggests there exists an added sense of resilience and air of calm amongst the squad this season, which can quickly become entrenched and can make facing Liverpool an even more daunting task than it already is for the Premier League’s 19 other clubs.
This weekend’s trip to the King Power to play Leicester is crucial in terms of securing Liverpool’s status as the most impressive and feared team in the country. After that match comes a two-week international break, and if the Reds can add a fourth win in which they assert complete control over the opposition and keep yet another clean sheet, the mental power that will give them cannot be underestimated.
Managers, players, and supporters of every other club will spend the fortnight looking despairingly at the Reds’ points total, goal difference, and goals against column and wondering just what on Earth can be done to stop it. They will worry throughout the break about facing Liverpool more than anybody else.
Since Virgil Van Dijk signed for #LFC…
✅ Most Premier League clean sheets
✅ No goals conceded at Anfield since February
✅ No goals conceded this season pic.twitter.com/1MXbsvzeGI
— RedsBet (@Reds_Bet) August 28, 2018
Of course, Liverpool must maintain their form at the weekend in order for that to happen. An away visit to Leicester is no easy task, as Liverpool’s previous record there demonstrates, but the prospect is rendered a considerable degree more palatable by the absence through suspension of Jamie Vardy, who has scored seven goals in eight matches against the Reds.
Klopp could justifiably select the same starting eleven for the fourth game in a row. As the front three toiled against Chris Hughton’s side, the likes of James Milner and Gini Wijnaldum produced impressive performances which make it difficult to consider leaving them out. It’s hard to see a defence which has yet to concede a goal facing changes, while the sheer quality of the attackers and Keita means Daniel Sturridge and Xherdan Shaqiri will not be expecting a starting berth on Saturday afternoon.
The fact that Liverpool have been dominant so far this season while still having so many quality players in reserve is testament to the good work which was done over the course of the summer in the transfer market, as well as the improvement made by so many individual players throughout the last twelve months.
The likes of Jordan Henderson, Fabinho, Dejan Lovren and Shaqiri can all expect to play a much more significant role as the middle of September brings more games in both the Champions League group stage and the League Cup 3rd round, but for now it appears that Klopp made a decision in the summer that this would be the eleven that gets him through the first short portion of the season, and so far it has certainly paid dividends.
If this team can get him one more victory against the Foxes before the international break, then Liverpool will have struck a real psychological blow to their rivals already.