Our Liverpool blogger Dave Tindall reflects on the club’s dazzling start to the new season, the Salah v Mane spat and the start of the Champions League defence… 

Only a fool takes notice of pre-season a friend once told me but I must confess to falling into the trap.

The exact moment was after the 3-0 defeat to Napoli (more on them later) which followed a draw with Sporting and defeats to Sevilla and Borussia Dortmund.

I know players were still shaking off summer rust but the back four in that game was our first-choice Alexander-Arnold, Robertson, Van Dijk and Matip while it was a proper midfield too.

In hindsight I was putting too much store in the ‘H’ word. Yep, I was bracing myself for something of a hangover after the party scenes at the Champions League final and that feeling continued in the first half of the Community Shield against Manchester City.

There were also some uncertain moments against Chelsea in the Super Cup win and even in the 4-1 opening victory over Norwich.

But here we are four games in and Liverpool FC just happen to be the only team in all four divisions with a 100% record!

Home to Norwich, away to energetic Southampton after a gruelling 120-minutes in Istanbul just a few days earlier, home to Arsenal and away to Burnley. A cautious view of that could easily have been something between six and eight points. I’d have been more than happy with 10. But 12! Forget the hangover. The Red machine is already whizzing down the track, leaving others in its wake.

It seems a bit arrogant and premature to be dismissing other teams at such an early stage but can anyone really see Arsenal, Man Utd, Spurs, Chelsea or even Leicester staying with us and Manchester City?

It could happen but if you want the bias taken out, check the title betting – 4/9 Man City, 12/5 Liverpool, 20/1 Spurs, 25/1 Arsenal, 28/1 Man Utd, 50/1 Chelsea, 200/1 Leicester.

A two-horse race say the layers and, to be honest, I think we’re not the worst bet at those odds! Yes, you might say I’ve had something of a change of mind since the dark days of pre-season!

The nagging concern back then and over the first few games was our defence. It didn’t look anything near as secure as last season but the bottom line is that, despite losing Alisson, only Crystal Palace have conceded fewer goals over the first four matches.

Up front we’re firing again with Salah, Mane and Firmino all in the goals and that brings me to this….

Salah v Mane – a selfish spat?

It seemed very out of character for this tight Liverpool squad to see a possible falling out when Sadio Mane went a bit nuts when being substituted with job already done at Burnley.

There did seem a hint of Salah trying to shoot form everywhere at the end of last season and it’s rolled into this but Reds legend Robbie Fowler leapt to Mo’s defence earlier this week.

Writing in his newspaper column, ‘God’ noted: “I look at Salah’s record and it tells me he’s going to keep doing it. You don’t score that many goals without being what people say is selfish. But what the hell do people want? ‘Do they want him to be a goalscorer or do they want him to be someone who’s always looking to pass? You can’t really have both.”

Fair point Robbie. Mane could have had a big chip on his shoulder had Salah outscored him by a single goal or two last season but that didn’t happen. They shared the Golden Boot. Both are now in the history books.

I put it down to something much more simple. Irritability. Any of us who’ve had kids know how grumpy toddlers get when they’re tired so I reckon this was just Mane needing a good nap following his lack of rest over the summer after playing in the African Nations.

The good news there is that both Mane and Salah have been putting their feet up in the international break due to their countries not needing them. They’ll sit the next one out too.

Two final things on the matter. First, if Mane did have a point, maybe someone should show him the assist stats which show that Salah lays on far more goals than he does.

Second, the third member of our deadly trident, Roberto Firmino, clearly has a career as a diplomat/marriage guidance counsellor when he hangs up his boots. Within seconds of Mane spitting out the dummy, the Brazilian peacemaker was calming him down with a soothing word and a knuckle touch.

Not only is Firmino a wonderful footballer, he’s a fantastic bloke too. Without ego and worth his weight in gold many times over.

And if you want empirical evidence, how about this stat from Liverpoolfc.tv.

LFC Under Jurgen Klopp – most times a player has assisted another in all comps

Roberto Firmino to Mo Salah 12

Roberto Firmino to Sadio Mane 12

Oh, and just for the record, Firmino had more shots on goal than any other player in the Premier League this season.

Bobby take a bow.

Spat? Forget it. We’ll all look back and laugh when Salah and Mane win the Golden Boot with 33 goals each this time.

Magpies up next

For a few hours on Saturday, our two-point lead at the top could become five.

And every Reds fan will be massively disappointed if that doesn’t happen with Steve Bruce’s Newcastle the visitors.

Salah.van_.Dijk_Liverpool.TEAMtalk

True, the Magpies went to London and turned Spurs over but that would be a Tottenham side which has lost last six of its last 13 Premier League games. Don’t want to sound big-headed or anything but we’ve won 13 of our last 13 – a club record winning streak.

They have plenty of injuries too and anytime we can put Salah, Mane and Firmino on the pitch you almost feel that scoring three goals in a home game is par for the course.

Add in our centre-backs both being on the scoresheet already this season and Gini Wijnaldum reminding us during the international break what he can do when pushed further forward and the firepower is enormous.

If Rafa couldn’t mastermind a gutsy point for the Magpies on his returns to Anfield, I’m not having it that Bruce can guide the Magpies to a shock result.

Man City, by the way, are at Norwich who appear to be the Kosovo of the Premier League. That is, massively refreshing, prepared to fly forward whilst leaving themselves hugely exposed to counter-attacks. If there’s not at least five goals at Carrow Road, I’ll eat my hat.

Champions League defence begins

Three days after the Newcastle game, it’s back to Europe and those familiar foes Napoli.

Liverpool Champions League TEAMtalk

As well as their 3-0 friendly win, they also beat us 1-0 in Naples in last season’s Champions League before we returned the compliment at Anfield – thanks Mo, thanks Alisson – to sneak out of the group.

The defeat in Italy was an absolute abomination of a performance so hopefully we won’t get a repeat of that. In truth, with Genk and RB Salzburg making up the group, it’ll hardly be a disaster to get off on the wrong foot but I have a feeling that Klopp and the players will be particularly keen to make amends for last season.

Incidentally, Napoli also seem to be from the Kosovo/Norwich school of end-to-end madness. Their two games in a Serie this season? A 4-3 win at Fiorentina and a 4-3 loss at Juventus!

So… much to look forward to. Only a fool would have worried about our sluggish pre-season. I’m happy to have been that idiot who is now being proved spectacularly wrong.

 

 

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