Analysis from Ian Doyle after Liverpool’s clash with Aston Villa in the Premier League.

Centre-back concerns won’t go away

Besides the ongoing Mohamed Salah speculation, there was one other concern nagging away at Liverpool fans when the transfer deadline passed on Friday.

And the failure to reinforce Jurgen Klopp’s centre-back options was brought into sharp focus when the teamsheet against Aston Villa confirmed the injured Ibrahima Konate remained on the sidelines along with the suspended Virgil van Dijk.

But while Liverpool shipped 10 goals in four games when Joe Gomez and Joel Matip were partnered at the heart of defence last season, here they were responsible for helping the Reds keep only a fourth clean sheet in 14 games and their first of this campaign.

Gomez – making his 200th senior career appearance – in particular impressed, decisive and composed in his defending and not cowed by Ollie Watkins, against whom he had a personal nightmare in the 7-2 loss at Villa almost three years ago. And Matip was much more convincing in the demanding right-sided role than he had been in pre-season.

However, with Trent Alexander-Arnold set for scans on a hamstring problem, a lengthy absence for young Conor Bradley means Gomez may now be required at right-back, further limiting what Klopp can do at the centre of defence. The furrowed brows remain.

Szoboszlai makes statement

Dominik Szoboszlai was under no pressure to further ingratiate himself at Anfield. But that was never going to stop the summer signing delivering another statement performance.

“I don’t think that anybody can complain if Dominik shoots with his right or left foot,” said Hungary national team boss Marco Rossi when asked last month to ponder the midfielder’s strongest attributes.

Certainly, there were few grumbles among the Liverpool fanbase when, after less than three minutes, Szoboszlai thundered in a memorable first goal for the club here.

Whereas on his home debut against Bournemouth it was a right-footed drive that proved too hot for Neto and allowed Diogo Jota to seal a 3-1 triumph, this time the other peg arrowed a thunderbolt into the bottom corner after Trent Alexander-Arnold’s outswinging corner dropped invitingly into his path on the edge of the area. Aston Villa goalkeeper Emi Martinez didn’t even move.

It’s easy to see why Szoboszlai has proven an instant hit with the Kop, his strong work ethic, constant pressing and ability on the ball again all on vibrant display.

And it was a happier second home outing for Alexis Mac Allister, employed in the number six role ahead of the third summer signing, Wataru Endo

Mac Allister dispossessed Villa dangerman Moussa Diaby early on to huge cheers and was as tenacious out of possession as he was productive in it. This outing should banish any lingering nerves.

Gravenberch gets idea

A whirlwind few days for Ryan Gravenberch continued as he took his seat behind the home dugout for his first taste up close of English football.

And the Dutchman will have swiftly been made aware the competition for places in the Liverpool midfield is no less fierce than it was at his former club Bayern Munich.

Fit-again Curtis Jones was handed a first start of the season and quietly demonstrated why he had previously been a regular during that unbeaten run that has now stretched to 15 games.

Then came another energetic cameo from the bench by Harvey Elliott, who cannot be knocking any louder for a starting role following the international break.

Happy 300th, then, for Jurgen Klopp who reached the landmark for Premier League games by claiming his 188th win in the competition. Having taken seven games to reach 10 points last season, the Reds have done so in almost half the time this campaign. Liverpool FC Reloaded continue to fire.



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