Liverpool showed their strengths yet again to come back from a goal behind with two goals within five minutes of a double-sub that changed the game.
Liverpool 3-1 Norwich
Anfield, Premier League (25)
February 19, 2022
Goals: Mane 64′, Salah 67′, Diaz 81′; Rashica 48′
The response of title challenges
The second half looked like it might be all about how Liverpool would break the 0-0 deadlock, but instead, it became about how they could come back from a goal down.
They soon levelled the scores through Sadio Mane after Milot Rashica’s opener, and straight from the kickoff after the equaliser was scored, there was an inevitability about the Liverpool comeback.
Little more than one second had passed before the Reds won the ball back and began mounting attacks once again.
Anfield erupted and the players responded.
It’s a sign Liverpool might still be in this title race — a sign they still want to be in this title race — despite Man City’s dominance and the belief in many quarters that the 2022 Premier League is already theirs.
It wasn’t long before wondering whether Liverpool could win the game became wondering how many goals they could rack up once they had completed the comeback.
Subs worked again
Substitutions have been a big topic this week. Klopp used them so well against Inter in the Champions League last week, and in his pre-Norwich press conference went on to mention why five subs are important for player welfare.
The Liverpool boss didn’t have five changes available to him for this fixtures but still managed to change the game with those he had at his disposal.
Thiago and Divock Origi replaced Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and immediately brought a new dimension to the game. New things for Norwich to worry about.
Origi’s presence created more space for the likes of Salah, Mane and Luis Diaz, while Thiago added an element of control™.
Regardless of who they are, the subs are doing the job for Liverpool and Klopp deserves huge credit for the way he has utilised them.
A change in formation
A change in personnel also brought a change in shape, and it might be one to look out for in the future.
Diaz, Mane, and Salah remained on the pitch despite the introduction of Origi, giving Liverpool four goal threats.
The shape in defense was 4-2-2-2 with Henderson and Thiago deep, Salah and Mane wide, and Diaz and Origi through the middle in attack.
With the ball, it became a 4-2-4 as Salah and Mane joined the same line as the two central forwards.
Post-match, Klopp praised the coaching team for the change and noted that it was Pepijn Lijnder’s idea to go to “442.”
Gomez hung back on the right, adding the extra insurance to make up for the lack of another central central.
Seeing new signing Diaz operate in his central role was especially interesting, and it brought him his first Liverpool goal.
Will we see it again in the future? Or hopefully it won’t be needed!
Oxlade-Chamberlain has played well this season when given a run of games in the team, but here for a one-off game, he looked off the pace.
He often lost the ball or sent passes astray, and one mis-hit set-piece at the start of the second half sent groans around Anfield.
The competition for places in the Liverpool side currently, means any player who gets a chance to play needs to perform.
Klopp has recently spoken about the attitude of the players who aren’t regularly in the starting XI, and though this wasn’t an attitude problem for Ox, there was maybe a lack of confidence and belief.
He looked disappointed as he sat down on the bench having been replaced in the second half, and will no doubt be eager to get out on the pitch again soon to improve on this display.
Looking to Leeds (and Chelsea)
Though there was plenty of rotation for this game against Norwich, there may be a more familiar line-up for the game against Leeds on Wednesday.
If Klopp wants to build momentum ahead of playing a strong team in the EFL Cup final against Chelsea next weekend, he could opt for a similar XI to that which will start at Wembley.
This Liverpool side tend to play well when they are in the swing of a run of games with familiar faces playing familiar roles.
The depth of the squad thanks to the number of fit players and a couple of new signings this season has changed that dynamic somewhat, but though Klopp has worked wonders with his subs in recent games, he would no doubt prefer winning displays from those who start .
This is why we could see a lineup closer to the perception of ‘full-strength’ in the next Premier League game. The luxury at the moment is that Klopp might not know what that XI is.