Gary O’Neil has to make some moves.
The balance of the team isn’t right. We predominantly enjoy possession in safe areas of the pitch, are still largely ineffective in attack and – increasingly these days – open for business at the back.
On top of that, there remains a lack of physicality in the team – not enough height or strength, which gives most teams the upper hand before a ball has even been kicked.
Crystal Palace exposed those deficiencies and we’ll be sitting ducks tomorrow if changes aren’t made.
The good news is that there are options at the manager’s disposal to address these shortcomings if he chooses to use them. More on that below.
There will be no shame in losing to Liverpool, but if we do end up on the wrong side of the result, I hope it’s after seeing a smart approach coupled with the right application from the players.
There was a five-minute window in their game at Newcastle when I was mulling over whether Jürgen Klopp would be around for much longer at Liverpool.
Then they came back to win in the most Klopp way possible and since then, the dynamic has shifted. They smashed Aston Villa, added that much-needed midfield signing (Ryan Gravenberch) on deadline day and suddenly things are looking rosy again.
Can they sustain the level of performance and results to make a title challenge? I think that’s a big ask for a team still looking for the right combination in the engine room, but if they get that right, they’ve got the quality.
I can’t see them taking the Europa League seriously, in the early stages anyway, so a lot of the big guns will be spared midweek football and that might give them the legs to keep foot to the floor in the league.
Virgil van Dijk misses this game after talking his way into an additional suspension, but the Reds should otherwise be operating with a full deck as they look to avenge the 3-0 whooping we gave them last season.
I think it’s either got to be a back three or at the very least, a change in personnel. The shrewdest thing Lopetegui did in his short tenure was bring Toti in at full-back. He recognised teams were punishing our lack of power and he invented a solution. That’s what top coaches do.
For all the recruitment, I’m staggered we didn’t prioritise a more defensive-minded left-back. We’re overloaded with options (which was probably part of the recruitment problem) but all prefer the ball at their feet.
Ait-Nouri has done well against Salah in the past, which may justify his selection tomorrow but I thought he was awful at Palace. And if he’s so good going forward, where is the output?
I also saw a stat about Nelson making more tackles than nearly any other player in the league, but if that’s the case it’s probably because he has the most opportunities. He embodies the problem of the team – good between the boxes but poor at either end.
If you’re not going to bring Doherty in or use one of the centre halves at left-back, I think a back three or another more defensive-minded option in midfield is a must. Basically, we’ve got to do something.
And again, Sasa to start up front. Surely he can give us an hour at least? If you’ve got the Austrian up top and one of Doc, Toti or Santi Bueno in the defence, I think that’s more like the physicality required to be competitive in the Premier League.
I’d have thought Tommy Doyle and Jean-Ricner Bellegarde would also be in consideration, with the latter more likely due to his ability to fill the void left by Matheus Nunes down the right. The above is the type of team I’d put out anyway.
3-2 didn’t seem like an obvious scoreline at Palace and so it proved with nobody getting it correct. Well done to Sheffieldwolf though who is top of the leaderboard at the end of Gameweek 4.
If we get anything tomorrow it will be a fantastic result, but I don’t see it. Liverpool have just got too much firepower and I think they’ll score enough goals to win with a degree of comfort. I’ll say 3-1.
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Up The Wolves!