Thoughts on the League Cup Thriller, Injuries and More
By Dave Turner – @DTurnerSports
Before Joe Allen emphatically sent Liverpool on to the League Cup Final in the seventh round of penalty kicks, it was Simon Mignolet who was the hero at Anfield.
The same Simon Mignolet who has been constantly berated for his inability to aggressively defend corners or punt the ball with intent and accuracy.
But, with the bad Mignolet, we’re also treated to the good aspects of the Belgian national’s game, where the fact is; he’s a very good shot blocker.
The 27-year-old keeper has been much maligned at times, despite the fact that, among other things, he led the premier league in clean sheets for the calendar year of 2015. Sometimes preserving a clean sheet has way more to do with defending well and less about forcing the keeper to make breathtaking saves, but that record should have some merit.
Considering the avalanche of injuries that have plagued this club throughout the 2015-2016 campaign, Mignolet’s presence has certainly been welcomed, just for the fact that Rodgers and now Klopp didn’t have to go to Adam Bogdan for any elongated stretch.
The take away on Mignolet is this: while he certainly has his deficiencies and he’ll be scored upon from time to time in ways that make you think, “what in the world is he doing taking that angle to the ball,” he has the ability to come up big for this club when it matters. For those who might be foaming at the mouth to replace him, there are other areas where the club would be much better off spending it’s money, whether before February 1 or during the summer.
You couldn’t help but get a bad feeling about this match from the offset. Considering that Liverpool is still dealing with massive amounts of injuries, it would be tough for Klopp to find the right XI to protect the slim 1-0 aggregate lead they took into the second leg. For Stoke, this was a huge opportunity to get themselves into a match that would see them in rarified air for their side. Stoke had only been to the League Cup final twice, losing to Leicester City in 1964, before besting Chelsea in 1972.
Liverpool are no strangers to playing in the final of the now corporately named Capital One Cup. (yuck) The Reds have more appearances (11) and wins (8) than any other side to ever enter the competition.
The point is, history will say, this is Liverpool’s trophy. Though the importance of both the League Cup and FA Cup has dwindled with the Premiership crown and even more so the Champions League title meaning much, much more to any current side, there’s something to be said about taking home some hardware.
Considering that this team hasn’t been winning with the frequency they’d like, this trophy still means something.
It means getting back to the Liverpool way, where winning the League Cup was expected almost every season, because from the 80’s spanning into the last victory in 2012, Liverpool had claimed said title in four different decades.
No one will try to use this tournament to feel better about the team’s current Premier League standings or current place in European competitions, but what it does is get back to winning ways.
For Jurgen Klopp, that taste of victory, giving the supporters something to cheer about is huge. Though it’s not the prize that everyone seeks, the importance of showing well in the domestic cups is still important.
It’s all about restoring the glory of this club and though in the great scheme of things, winning the League Cup won’t banish the demons, it’ll go a long way towards climbing the ladder back into the spotlight.
As for the final against Manchester City
We all would have preferred a Derby final against Everton. I’m sure we also would have preferred if Raheem Sterling stayed in bounds when helping to score goals for teams that are not named Liverpool.
So the opponent is Man City and Liverpool should be worried. Though the match at The Etihad shocked the home side, don’t expect that to happen again. City will be wanting revenge for that embarrassment and will certainly have watched a lot of tape on Liverpool to try and slow down the counterattack.
Considering that the match is a month away, Liverpool should have a good amount of the currently injured players back, which should make for a great final at Wembley.
Speaking of injury woes
If anyone would have told you the list of injuries that this team would currently be facing in early 2016 back in August, you would probably have laughed and thought it couldn’t be possible for THAT many pivotal bodies to be out.
Well, that’s the case and although some of those injured players seem to be on their way back, now all there is to do is ponder where they would be sitting in the Premier League table if they had some semblance of a healthy squad over the last two months or so.
As far as Daniel Sturridge goes, it’s simple. Though he is one of the best finishers, not just in England but the entire world, he has to be on the pitch to do so. His injury woes have to lead him to being sold. Though the club probably won’t get what they want for him, there’s no way that this game of rare, exceptional performances can be bookended by months on the sideline. Sorry to say it, but Sturridge has to go.
There is no injury that impacts this club more than the one to Philippe Coutinho. While he has at times been frustrated by opposing defenses this season (perhaps due to not having a familiar striker ahem, Daniel Sturridge) to play the ball on to, he’s also had his share of wizardry, with some incredible goals.
He’s the engine that makes the Liverpool offense fire at all cylinders. Without him, they’re a side that will struggle to get much going offensively against good competition.
As for the injury to Martin Skrtel, there’s something to be said about the central defending tandem of Mamadou Sakho and Dejan Lovren. Though both of them have their warts, they tend to play relatively well together. Whether Lovren can’t compete in the shadow and intensity of Skrtel’s game, or they just don’t communicate well on the pitch, Lovren has always seemed to struggle with Skrtel. There are many that will say that Skrtel himself is the major liability on defense. While going that far might be overstating the issue, there’s no doubt that Skrtel might be beginning what is a sharp decline.
Losing Divock Origi has also impacted the club. With Christian Benteke’s relative inefficiency for large portions of this season, Origi was a breath of fresh air. He seemed to have both the pace and the finishing ability to get the most out of Klopp’s system. When he’s back, he’ll most likely get his chance to be featured once again, of course unless he returns for the one or two matches that Daniel Sturridge might play in.
Sizing up the transfer window
Usually, transfer window banter is nothing but hogwash, but due to injuries, it does deserve some merit. The club would probably do well to go and sign another defender, because if they need to start Kolo Toure for any long stretch, they can kiss away any slim chance of finishing top four.
Liverpool has been very well linked to current Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder and Brazilian national Alex Teixeira. The 26-year-old could bring some much-needed scoring prowess and of course the Brazilian connection is there.
Reports are that Liverpool has had bids of £24, £28 and £31 million all turned down by Donetsk, as the club has set the price to £38 million and hasn’t budged. If the two sides are just £7 million off, then Liverpool needs to up the ante. Considering that a player of his caliber could help this team finish top-four with a good run late in the season, they’d make that money back quite easily.
I’ve thought this for a long time, but Ilkay Gundogan, who played for Klopp at Dortmund will be a Red at some point soon. Maybe I’ll be quite wrong, but there’s the obvious connection and the talk has been there as well.