Friday, December 15, 2017

Newcastle United 1-1 Liverpool: Five things we learned as the Magpies held the Reds

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Newcastle battled to a very good point against Liverpool as Rafael Benitez held his former side to a draw at St James’ Park. For Jurgen Klopp, it was yet another disappointing result as both Manchester clubs moved further from their reach.

Philippe Coutinho’s stunning strike opened the scoring before Joselu’s fortuitous goal levelled the tie, and that was that. The visitors had 17 shots in total, but just two on target as the Magpies more than held their own recording five shots on target. Ultimately, it was yet another display of profligacy from Liverpool.

The result means that Newcastle finish the seventh Premier League match-weekend in the top half of the table with 10 points, while Liverpool are two points and two places above the Magpies in seventh.

Following this evening’s game, here are the five things we learned:

Philippe Coutinho shows his class

While he was the subject of massive interest from Spanish side Barcelona in the summer after a number of failed bids, Philippe Coutinho’s return has been nothing but positive for the Reds. While some did wonder whether he would be able to work his way back into the team and give his all to Liverpool, he is proving that this is anything but the case.

The Brazilian has been in fine-form considering his absence during the early part of the season. He is able to add a superbly gifted presence to Liverpool’s midfield that they have been bereft of recently. Obviously their front-line is incredibly creative in of itself, but Coutinho’s presence has only added another dimension.

Against Newcastle he was superb. His vision, ability on the ball and quick-feet meant he was undoubtedly the Red’s most important player on the day, while his goal was further testament to his ability. He was given too much time and space outside of the box and he sent a stunning strike past Newcastle goalkeeper Rob Elliott to give the visitors the lead.

Coutinho has now scored 17 goals from outside of the box in the Premier League since his debut in February 2013, three more than any other player. Newcastle gave him space despite knowing his scoring ability and they paid for it.

Liverpool continue their wasteful streak

At the start of the season, if someone were to say Liverpool, it would cause most fans to think of scintillating play, quick forwards and their heavy-metal style. Now, however, they are becoming synonymous with wasteful displays and an inability to put the ball into the back of the net.

Their profligacy was exposed against Spartak Moscow in the Champions League in the week as they drew a game they really should have won. Against Newcastle, this run of being wasteful in front of goal continued.

Coutinho’s sensational strike aside, Liverpool were awful in front of goal and it will not help the pressure that is growing on Jurgen Klopp and his team. In total, Liverpool were able to record just two shots on target from a total of 17 attempts after keeping 68% possession away from home.

While Klopp clearly has Liverpool playing a very possession-based and creative game, he is struggling massively from not having a world class striker to lead the line. It will be of the utmost importance to Klopp that he finds a way to rectify his team’s inability in front of goal, and fast.

The Ox can’t buy a win at the moment

Following his £30 million move from Arsenal to Liverpool, many saw Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s switch as one that would allow him to progress his career. While with the Gunners, he clearly felt that he was not getting chances in the right position as he felt his future lay in centre-midfielder, while Arsene Wenger utilised him on the flank as a winger or a wing-back.

While he is getting the chance to play in midfield, it is mostly as a substitute and, interestingly, his presence has coincided with a tough patch for Liverpool. In his final game for Arsenal, the Reds hammered the Gunners 4-0, and since then, Liverpool have won just one game in all competitions, drawing four games and losing twice.

While their dip in form cannot be solely put down to the Ox’s presence, he will feel as though the slump that had hit Arsenal has followed him over to Merseyside. Unfortunately for Oxlade-Chamberlain, he does not seem to be at the forefront of Klopp’s mind when it comes to his midfield three. Indeed, the superb Emre Can lost his place in the midfield to Philippe Coutinho meaning competition for places is very high.

It seems as though the Ox will have to bide his time on the bench, something he was doing at Arsenal too.

Joselu’s goal exposes Liverpool’s poor defence again

The through ball was superb, the timing of the run was seemingly perfect and the finish found the bottom corner. These are words that would paint a picture of an unstoppable goal, but Joselu’s equaliser was anything but inexorable. Jonjo Shelvey’s pass was perfectly placed and weighted through for the striker, but Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren were too far away from one another which allowed Shelvey to exploit the space.

Had Joselu been a very quick striker then Matip would have had no chance but, despite the forward’s touch being good, the defender was able to get shoulder-to-shoulder with Joselu and get a foot on the ball. However, in true Liverpool-defensive style, his attempted clearance bounced off the striker and it beat Simon Mignolet and rolled into the bottom corner.

Klopp will be furious with every stage of Newcastle’s goal as it was entirely avoidable. So much of the talk over the summer regarded Liverpool’s weak defence and its inability to perform at the highest level. While Newcastle aren’t a bad side, they are hardly the most incisive attacking side in the world, and should the Reds come up against better opposition, then they will surely pay for it.

Matt Ritchie shows his class

When Matt Ritchie secured his switch from Bournemouth to Newcastle last summer, many wondered whether that would be the last they would see of the Scottish player in England’s top league. After all, he was a regular fixture in the Cherries team but he chose to take a step down to the Championship.

While he was a mainstay in the side last year, critics once again questioned his ability at the highest level, but he is proving them wrong with each passing week. Indeed, his performance against Liverpool was the culmination of this improvement.

Across the course of the game he made 31 passes, took 49 touches, made six crosses and ran 10.7km, the furthest of any Newcastle player. He was a constant menace out-wide, giving the Magpies an outlet on the flank as Liverpool looked fairly compact in the centre of the park.

While Liverpool are not the most solid side defensively, Ritchie had to be good enough to take advantage of the gaps that appeared, and he certainly was.

Newcastle United: Elliot 7 – Yedlin 6, Lascelles 7, Clark 6, Manquillo 7 – Shelvey 7, Merino 7 (Hayden 6) – Ritchie 8.5, Perez 7 (Diame N/A), Atsu 7 – Joselu 7 (Gayle 6).

Unused subs: Darlow, Murphy, Lejeune, Gamez.

Liverpool: Mignolet 7 – Gomez 6, Matip 6, Lovren 6, Moreno 6 – Wijnaldum 6, Henderson 7, Coutinho 8 – Salah 7 (Oxlade-Chamberlain 6), Sturridge 5 (Firmino 6), Mane 7 (Solanke 6).

Unused subs: Karius, Milner, Klavan, Can.

Referee: Craig Pawson.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Benjamin Darvill


Ben is an English and creative writing graduate that is now working his way up in the world of sports journalism. Having been writing for the last four years, Ben has written for a number of websites specialising in sport, with football a particular passion. He is a long-suffering England fan and eternal optimist when it comes to the Three Lions.

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