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Liverpool’s ‘weak links’ stand tall on biggest day of season so far

With Liverpool, it’s so often about Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino or Sadio Mane.

It’s quite often about Virgil van Dijk, or Trent Alexander-Arnold, or Andy Robertson.

It’s even fairly often about Alisson or Fabinho.


LIVERPOOL TO WIN THE TITLE: REDS ARE NOW 2/5 TO WIN PREMIER LEAGUE WITH BETWAY


A momentous result

PA:Press Association
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A momentous result

It isn’t that often their success is credited to Jordan Henderson, Gini Wijnaldum and Dejan Lovren, but their seismic win over Man City on Sunday upset the status quo.

Liverpool’s supposed ‘weaker links’, the less heralded members of their glittering squad, stood out on the biggest day of the season so far.

If Joel Matip had been fit Lovren may not have even made the squad, but the maligned Croat produced a mature and composed display to keep Sergio Aguero largely quiet.

No Anfield goal for Sergio again

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No Anfield goal for Sergio again

Aguero got the better of Lovren in City’s pivotal 2-1 win last January, nipping in front of his marker for the opening goal at the Etihad.

But Lovren, who is more than calamity prone, got the basics right this time around, dominating the aerial battles and registering five clearances and two blocked shots.

Aguero’s wait for a first goal at Anfield goes on.

Lovren barely put a foot wrong

Getty - Contributor
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Lovren barely put a foot wrong

Further forward, Liverpool’s midfield have been labelled ‘stodgy’ and ‘unfashionable’ amid accusations of a lack of creativity.

There were groans from some Reds fans when Jordan Henderson was again given the nod ahead of the in-form Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Gini Wijnaldum is both a constant and an enigma, particularly on the road where he has earned the nickname ‘Ghost’ after disappearing in several contests.

Wijnaldum is the man for the big occasion at Anfield

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Wijnaldum is the man for the big occasion at Anfield

But both Henderson and Wijnaldum produced telling displays to quash the influence of Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan.

The biggest credit to Liverpool’s captain, besides his sumptuous assist for Sadio Mane’s goal, was how much City grew into the game after he was substituted.

Henderson is 29 yet he still has his detractors. Maybe he doesn’t score or assist enough for a midfielder.

But his leadership and discipline levels are growing by the season and he perfectly embodies Jurgen Klopp’s ethos. Plus, if De Bruyne had produced that assist we’d be talking about it for weeks, wouldn’t we?

Just before Henderson’s cross

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Just before Henderson’s cross

Wijnaldum was arguably the star of the show, producing one of those home displays which make him immovable from Klopp’s starting XI.

He is the man for the big occasion at Anfield and this was a performance right up there with that dismantling of Barcelona last May.

He registered a 97% pass completion rate, jinked away from Gundogan and Rodri several times and produced some sublime long raking diagonals.

If it’s control and tempo you’re after – which in these encounters is a must – Wijnaldum is your man.

Wijnaldum dominated the City midfield

AP:Associated Press
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Wijnaldum dominated the City midfield

Sunday emphasised something we’ve know for a while; Liverpool are far greater than just their fabled front three.

This season they have been forced to grind out results, relying on late shows of immense spirit to get over the line.

In fact yesterday’s victory was their first by more than a one-goal margin in the Premier League since mid-September.

They have already had 15 different scorers in all competitions.

Liverpool’s squad members have stepped up

Reuters
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Liverpool’s squad members have stepped up

The likes of Henderson, James Milner, Fabinho and Adam Lallana have all made vital contributions in front of goal in recent weeks. Divock Origi’s cult legacy is secure after his many moments of magic.

They are more unified and holistic than ever with match winners in every position.

The Reds’ squad will be pushed to new extremes over an unprecedented Christmas schedule, but right now they seem to have an answer to everything thrown at them.

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