I sat down (virtually) with Mark Kastner (@mkstnr) from our SB Nation friends at The Liverpool Offside for an update on what the Reds have been up to since their Community Shield humbling at the hands of the mighty, mighty Gunners. Check out my answers to their questions here!
TSF: It was all “Liverpool haven’t added anyone” (no disrespect to Mr. Tsimikas, but a backup right back doesn’t move the needle) then boom, Thiago Alcantara and Diogo Jota. How are they settling in and slotting into the formation?
TLO: Signing Thiago and signing Jota happened for two very different reasons for Liverpool. Thiago is a world class midfielder, probably one of the 5 best players at his position, but he’s 29 years old. Signing him is very much for the here and now. He’s the style of player that Liverpool don’t have, especially in the middle of the park. In terms of profile, he’s one of the biggest signings in Liverpool’s Premier League history. No doubt, they’ve had world class midfielders like Steven Gerrard, Xabi Alonso, and Javier Mascherano. Even the current crop of Jordan Henderson, Gini Wijnaldum, and Fabinho are very good. But those players started at Liverpool well before their peak and didn’t leave the current European Champions to join the Reds.
Thiago only broke the Premier League record for number of passes in a 45 minute half on his debut. It was against a 10 man Chelsea side, but still. Talk about setting the standard.
Diogo Jota was brought in to be second fiddle to the front three. Liverpool have Mo Salah, Sadio Mane, and Roberto Firmino starting up top most weeks. It’s hard to find better players up top. Jota is cover. Sometimes those guys get tired or injured (see Sadio Mane last season), and this year’s congested, condensed schedule won’t help that. That’s not to say Jota won’t be a success at Liverpool, I think he will be. But expectations aren’t set at “be the best player in your position in the world” just yet for him.
TSF: Liverpool haven’t looked quite the same juggernaut side to start the season as we’d grown to expect. It’s early days, but why the slowish start?
TLO: Look, if I tell you that for the next seven months, nothing you do at your job matters and you’re still the best in the league (or world) at your spot, you’d probably slack off, right? That’s Liverpool right now. They went six months without playing a truly meaningful game, and I think it shows. I also think that observation has something to do with the ridiculously high standards we’re using to measure Liverpool. Of course, those standards were set by themselves — they won TWENTY SIX of their first TWENTY SEVEN matches last season. That form is unheard of and I wouldn’t be surprised if I die before I see it happen again.
That said, they’ve won their opening two fixtures and are favorites to win their third. I think the performance in the first half against Chelsea (before the sending off) was a sign that this team isn’t hungover. And hey, maybe every Leeds match ends 4-3 this season.
TSF: Piggy-backing off the second question, Virgil van Dijk made some uncharacteristic errors against Leeds United and didn’t cover himself in glory against Chelsea. Worrying trend or just a blip?
TLO: I think he made one error against Leeds that was really his fault, but that’s splitting hairs. The error he inexcusably made against Arsenal during Project Restart was more of a “WTF????” moment, if I’m being honest. I’m not worried about his form at all. My mom always used to tell me “You can’t win ‘em all” when things went wrong, and I think maybe we’re just seeing some weak spots. He’s still Virgil van Dijk after all.
Thanks again to Mark! As I was putting together the post to publish, I realized I totally should have asked him about Mikel Arteta’s
TOTAL DOMINANCE OF 2-0 record against Jurgen Klopp. Oh well. I’ll save it for Three Questions ahead of the Carabao Cup 4th round tie in *looks at schedule* less than a week. It’ll be 3-0 to Mikel by then and an even bigger talking point, right?