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Norwich City 0-3 Liverpool: Match Review

Liverpool overcame Norwich with relative ease, despite a number of first team regulars not featuring in the starting lineup, prompting the question as to whether more reinforcements are required during the transfer window

Amid much debate around Liverpool's summer transfer activity, or lack of, Jurgen Klopp was tasked with picking a side to kick off the season with at Carrow Road, and it's safe to say that the Liverpool Manager was not short of options.

The convincing 3-0 result suggested that it was business as usual for the men from Merseyside, but the starting eleven was far from a familiar one if last season's lineups were anything to go by.

The return of Virgil van Dijk was probably the most significant selection in the starting lineup. There was much discussion pre match as to whether Klopp would throw him in from the start or opt for Joel Matip alongside Ibrahima Konate who have played the most minutes in the centre of defence during pre season.

Virgil van Dijk

Virgil van Dijk enjoyed a winning return to Premier League action.

But the sight of the big Dutch defender's name in the starting lineup was a welcome sight for Reds fans worldwide who had not seen the former Balon d'or nominee play a competitive game for the reds since October 2020.

Klopp's midfield selection for this match was probably the most surprising for most Kopites with James Milner, Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain occupying the middle three positions.

All three had enjoyed fruitful pre season performances, with Oxlade-Chamberlain enjoying his first injury free pre season with the club and the ex-England man's pre season form had clearly been noted by the boss - but it's probably unlikely that this combination of players will start many Premier League matches this season.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain Todd Cantwell

Oxlade-Chamberlain featured in the starting line-up at Carrow Road

With Thiago Alcantara and Jordan Henderson returning late to pre season following their post Euro's break and the same going for Fabinho following Brazil's journey to the final of the Copa America, the Liverpool boss probably felt these three players were a little behind in their prep for the season to start this game.

In fact, Henderson and Thiago were not even in the match day squad.

During the opening exchanges of the match at Carrow Road, Norwich City seemed to be the more cohesive of the two sides, with the possession stats favouring them during the first 20 minutes of the match.

This probably owed, in part, to the buoyant home fans, on their return, providing the home side with that extra yard on the pitch, whilst the lack of familiarity within the Liverpool midfield three more than likely also contributed.

However, this lack of control in the middle of the park did not prevent Liverpool from creating opportunities, with the main supply line came from the fullbacks.

Kostas Tsimikas, standing in for the injured Andrew Robertson, whipped in a dangerous 10th minute cross towards Diogo Jota with Ben Gibson clearing the danger and 8 minutes later, it was Trent Alexander-Arnold firing in a low cross to Mohamed Salah.

The Egyptian striker's shot was straight at Tim Krul in the Norwich goal, but that supply line was one that would eventually bear fruit with Alexander-Arnold's low fizzing cross and Salah's miscontrol cushioning the ball into the path of Diogo Jota to open the scoring.

Diogo Jota

Diogo Jota celebrates his goal against Norwich City

Whilst James Milner, captaining the side in Henderson's absence, and Naby Keita put in an efficient and professional performance, many will be expecting more from Keita than what he had shown at Carrow Road this season.

Keita was brought to the club to provide guile and goals from the centre of the park and whilst Klopp's men had more than enough to overcome the challenge that Norwich posed, against the more stubborn defences, a fit and in form Keita will hopefully provide that creativity and drive from the middle of the park to give his team a different dimension.

Naby Keita

Naby Keita put in an efficient performance at Carrow Road

Whilst many had their eye on Van Dijk's return to the starting lineup, another central defender was also making his long awaited return in Joel Matip. 

The Cameroonian was making his first competitive start in 6 months having sustaining an injury against Tottenham back in January.

His performance was typically assured and possibly outshone Van Dijk as Daniel Farke's team clearly targeted the right hand side of Liverpool's defence as the weak spot, with much of Norwich's attacking play targeting Liverpool's right side.

But the Canaries were to get no change out of Matip.

Joel Matip

Joel Matip didn't put a foot wrong against Norwich

Van Dijk's return was a fairly comfortable reintroduction back in to Premier League football with the big Dutchman looking calm and assured on the ball as ever.

However, a chipped Todd Cantwell ball over the centre-back's head which saw Teemu Pukki advance on goal only to shoot straight at Allison, perhaps showed an element of rustiness in the defender which is, of course, to be expected after such a long layoff.

The 90 minutes will have done him the world of good and we will only see Van Dijk get sharper as the season progresses.

Up top, Jota was chosen ahead of Roberto Firmino, possibly for similar reasons as to why Fabinho had been left on the bench, with the Brazilian contingent returning to pre season later than most of the squad.

Whilst Jota''s performance was not one full of menace, as we have come to expect from him, he demonstrated that invaluable quality that any great striker has of being in the right place at the right time.

It was his anticipation that allowed him to capitalise on the miscontrol of Salah, latching onto the loose ball and firing it home low beyond the Norwich keeper.

A mazy run from the Portuguese in the second half, taking him past a couple of Norwich players that eventually had to be brought to a halt by a scything tackle by Cantrell, showcased the other side of his game.

Firmino replaced Jota after 61 minutes and got himself on the scoresheet too which bodes well for the completion for places up top.

Virgil van Dijk Roberto Firmino

Roberto Firmino celebrates with Virgil van Dijk after coming off the bench to score.

Klopp now has 4 forwards who can be interchanged and replaced without a compromise in quality and goal threat, as has been the case prior to Jota's arrival at the club. 

All 4 forwards played their part in the victory with Jota, Firmino and Salah all grabbing a goal each, whilst Sadio Mane was a constant threat to Max Aarons who had the unenviable task of attempting to keep Mane quiet.

Salah's goal not only wrapped up the game as a contest, but also broke a Premier League record. The 'Egyptian King' as he is affectionately known to the Liverpool fans, became the first ever player in Premier League history to score a goal in 5 consecutive opening day fixtures.

Mohamed Salah

Mohamed Salah wheels away to celebrate after his record breaking goal.

His goal felt like a statement of intent for the rest of the season and along with the performances of Jota, Mane and Firmino when he came on, Liverpool fans can be optimistic that the strike force which was once the most feared in Europe, could be firing on all cylinders again this season.

Tsimikas proved a worthy replacement for Robertson in his first Premier League start with marauding runs down the left, dangerous crosses into the box, and covering around when defending to clear dangerous back post crosses from Norwich's left.

Kostas Tsimikas

Kostas Tsimikas will hope to cut out mistakes after lapses in concentration against Norwich.

But a couple of lapses in concentration near the end drew cause for concern in Robertson's absence, but the lapses were probably more due to over confidence after an impressive start to this match from the Greek.

The options at Klopp's disposal also highlighted the fact that maybe the squad is not as thin on the ground as many have suggested when taking into account that the midfield 3 of Fabinho, Henderson and Thiago didn't start this game and Joe Gomez, Konate, Robertson and Curtis Jones will all provide further options in games to come.

Once Liverpool had weathered the early storm in this game, they never looked in any real danger and ultimately, the abundance of quality going forward proved too much for Farke's men.

A clean sheet and three different scorers from the forward line will surely breed confidence within the squad that can be taken into the next league match against Burnley at Anfield.