Football Features

Four pillars of Liverpool’s ‘Fortress Anfield’ record who deserve a bit more credit

By Chris Smith

Published: 12:17, 17 April 2019

Liverpool’s charge to their first Premier League title took another step on Sunday with their 2-0 win over Chelsea.

That triumph extended Liverpool’s incredible home unbeaten run in the league to 38 games, dating all the way back to May 2017, when a Christian Benteke double inspired Crystal Palace to what is the most recent away win for any Premier League side at Anfield.

It’s not quite Chelsea’s 86-game, recording-holding run. But it’s still mightily impressive.

As has often been the case under Jurgen Klopp, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah grabbed the goals and the headlines on Sunday, delivering the killer blows to Maurizio Sarri’s side to send the Reds back to the top of the table.

Roberto Firmino, Virgil van Dijk and Alisson have also had their fair share of the plaudits this season, too, as did Philippe Coutinho before he left for Barcelona last year.

But we’ve decided there are several others who deserve a little more credit.

1. The Architect – Jurgen Klopp

I know what you’re all thinking: “Jurgen Klopp gets loads of credit, all the time.”

Sure, he does. That’s easy when your front three is Mane, Salah and Firmino, while you have a huge, Van Dijk-shaped mountain in your defence.

Look under the surface, however, and you really start to see Klopp’s true credentials. During this Anfield run, the German has fielded the likes of Loris Karius and Simon Mignolet between the sticks for a combined 21 Premier League games, and these teams have still been solid enough to keep 14 clean sheets.

Ragnar Klavan and Alberto Moreno have also been deployed in Klopp’s defence. The limited duo – error-prone, even – have played their part in six clean sheets across nine appearances and five in seven, respectively, during the ‘Fortress Anfield’ run.

These impressive defensive statistics speak to the levels of organisation Klopp has coached not only into his star names; but also the whole squad.

The fact that this unbeaten run stretches so far back, given that Klopp’s team only really clicked into gear during 2018 is an overlooked aspect of Liverpool’s rise.

2. The Engine(er) – Andy Robertson

Since his arrival, Van Dijk has taken all the credit for ‘sorting out’ Liverpool’s defence, while Trent Alexander-Arnold was nominated for Fifa’s 2018 Golden Boy award and is often lauded as the world’s most promising full-back.

However, on the left-hand side of Liverpool’s defence, Scotland international Andy Robertson keeps plodding away, quietly being phenomenal with just the odd tip of the cap to show for it.

And even if you have an exceptionally high opinion of Robertson, we’re here to tell you it should be even higher.

A look into ‘Robbo’s’ stats reveals some truly remarkable numbers. Who has made the most tackles during this unbeaten run? Robertson, 55. Who has made the most recoveries? Robertson, 196. Who has had the most touches of the ball? Robertson, 2680. Who has created the most big chances? Naby Keita. Only joking! Of course, it’s Robertson with 14.

Robertson is everywhere, as highlighted by Jose Mourinho’s comments after a 3-1 Anfield defeat in December that ultimately sealed his fate with Manchester United.

“He makes 100-metre sprints every minute,” he said, before stating that his own players were incapable of matching the intensity of Robertson.

Of course, the 25-year-old was understated in his response, insisting it’s all just ‘part of his game’. But don’t let that fool you. Robertson motors down the left side for Liverpool like Jeremy Clarkson test-driving a Ferrari across mainland Europe. Unlike a Ferrari, though, Robertson was a bargain at just £8m.

3. The (real) handyman – Jordan Henderson

Jordan Henderson has secured a few headlines recently, bagging a goal and an assist in his last two league games after being pushed into the more advanced role he admits to having privately insisted is his more natural position.

What? You mean to say the midfielder that has made more interceptions (35) and made more successful passes (1586) than any other Liverpool player in his position has in fact been playing out of position for most of this run?

That’s what Klopp said.

“He’s played so many positions – which I forced him to do – and he was still very, very important. There was not one part of him that was not important,” he told Sky Sports at the weekend.

If Henderson is capable of generating these numbers when out of his favoured No.8 role, just imagine what he’s going to do now that he has been pushed forward.

Klopp also hailed his ‘fantastic’ leadership skills after the win over Chelsea. Captain fantastic, indeed.

4. The stand-ins – Joe Gomez & Joel Matip

OK, so if Joe Gomez wasn’t so injury-prone, he would almost certainly be a starter, not a stand-in – just look at his form at the start of this season.

Unfortunately, though, it appears he’s made out of glass and has thus spent large parts of this run laid up alongside Dejan Lovren.

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Nevertheless, in the 17 games he has featured in across this 38-match run, Liverpool have shut the opposition out totally in 11 of them, while Gomez has managed 45 tackles during that time – more than Van Dijk (21) – and 23 interceptions, just two fewer than his Dutch counterpart.

And when Gomez is injured, who has filled the void next to Van Dijk this season? Joel Matip. He may not have the ball-playing skills that Gomez or Van Dijk possess, and he’s certainly nowhere near as flash, but Matip performs his duties to the excellent standard you’d expect from a fourth-choice centre-back.

The Cameroon international has made more blocks (15) than any other Liverpool player during this run, while no centre-back has made more tackles than Matip (46), despite him being behind Van Dijk, Lovren and Gomez in the centre-back pecking order.

Over in Manchester, Pep Guardiola has the riches of Vincent Kompany, John Stones, Aymeric Laporte and Nicolas Otamendi to call upon at centre-back, all signed for a combined £140.65m.

Yet, this season, Liverpool have conceded 20 goals to City’s 22, thanks largely to the efforts of Matip and Gomez.