By Daniel Moxon – @dmoxon_
The first international break is upon us and, let’s be honest, we’re all extremely unhappy about it.
It’s annoying every season, especially after only having played a handful of league games, but it’s especially intrusive in this campaign given the Reds’ lightning start – four wins from four is all you can ask for at this stage of the season.
One of the talking points that many people on social media seem to have turned to in this period of intense boredom is who has actually been our best player so far this season, with a number of candidates for that honour.
So, to keep you all occupied, we decided to take an individual look at each player’s season so far, from the old guard to the new boys, to see how everyone has been getting-on…
Alisson – Certain candidate for one of the best so far. Came with a massive fanfare and a huge price tag, but clean sheets in his first three matches and a few important saves has shown that he is more than capable of becoming one of the best around. That one in injury time to deny Pascal Gross against Brighton was particularly impressive. His moment of madness against Leicester City is a blot on his copybook, but it didn’t cost any points so as far as I’m concerned it’s water under the bridge. Great start from the Brazilian. 8/10.
Simon Mignolet – Little point in keeping him around, really. Hasn’t made an appearance yet this season and not looking like he will any time soon. Pulled out of the Belgium squad because of a hand injury, meaning one of the youngsters, either Kamil Grabara or Caoimhin Kelleher, could be called upon to benchwarm in his place come Spurs on September 15. Might as well sell as soon as possible for as much as possible. N/A.
Trent Alexander-Arnold – Picked-up pretty much where he left-off at the end of last season, via a massive experience for him at the World Cup with England. Started strongly against West Ham on the opening day and hasn’t really put a foot wrong since. My only criticism, if I did deep to find one, is that his crossing can sometimes be a little erratic, but that’s being incredibly harsh. For all his footballing talent, his best attribute is his humility and the fact that, even though he is a 19-year-old with the world at his feet and he could quite easily let it go to his head, he just focuses on improving and playing well for the team. Always nice to have a Scouser with passion back in the first team too – that’s something we’ve been without since Carra and Gerrard. 7/10.
Nathaniel Clyne – Spent most of last season out with a horrible back injury, paving the way for teenager Trent to well-and-truly take his spot away from him and make him somewhat irrelevant at Anfield these days. It’s a shame – I’ve always quite liked the former-Southampton man, but he’s basically been traded-in for a younger, better model and there’s absolutely nothing he can do about it. Don’t get me wrong, I think he’s a good player, he’s just fairly irrelevant at Liverpool these days. Zero appearances so far, and not likely to make too many over the course of the season. N/A.
Joe Gomez – Personally, my best player of the season so far. Was expected to stand in for just a couple of games while Joel Matip recovered from injury and Dejan Lovren got back up to speed after his World Cup exploits – has surprised us all with the performances he has put in in the Croatian’s stead. So good that Gareth Southgate has called him back up to the England senior side. He’s been dominant in the air, great with the ball at his feet and opposition forwards have been flummoxed as to how to actually get past him. His partnership with Virgil van Dijk has also blossomed. It looks like it will be tough for Lovren to force his way back into the side. 9/10.
Dejan Lovren – Ahh, the self-proclaimed (one of the) best in the world, yet can’t even begin to threaten Joe Gomez’s place at the moment. He can’t really be blamed for losing the spot – he needed time to recover from his terrific World Cup campaign and the Englishman has just been undroppable since. Lovren was excellent after van Dijk arrived last season – he seemed much more comfortable having that reassuring presence next to him. If he takes his chance when it comes along, he should find himself with a decent amount of game time. Right now, all he needs to do is wait. N/A.
Joel Matip – Crocked, again. It’s frustrating because he had a cracking first season after signing on a free, and it looked like the Reds were going to have one of the bargains of the century. But then he picked-up a couple of injuries and he’s been little use ever since. He’s spent most of his time on the injury table, and when he has been on the pitch he hasn’t inspired an awful lot of confidence. Has made two cameo appearances from the bench but nowhere near enough time to show if he can step up and fight for a place. Writing might be on the wall for the Cameroonian, but if he can prove his fitness then he can be a decent backup option. 4/10.
Alberto Moreno – I think most have forgotten that he’s even still here. Still hasn’t quite been forgiven for his shocking performance in the Europa League final in Basel, and most likely never will be. He’ll be nothing more than backup to Robbo this season. Moreno will play a few cup games and here and there in the league when the Scot needs a rest, but that’ll be about it. Another with zero appearances so far, nothing else to talk about. N/A.
Andy Robertson – Finally, a full-back that seems capable in both defence and attack – a rarity in the modern game. He’s clearly been well-drilled by Jurgen Klopp and is rarely seen diving into a challenge. At the other end of the pitch, it’s become a common sight to see him on yet another lung-busting run beyond Sadio Mané on that left hand side and whipping an inch-perfect cross to Salah at the far post. I honestly don’t think there’s a better crosser of the ball in the Premier League – maybe Benjamin Mendy, but we’ll leave that discussion for another time. He’s been so good since moving to Anfield that he was recently Scotland captain, and very well-deserved it was too. 8/10.
Virgil van Dijk – Rolls Royce. It’s a term that is used so much, but it really encapsulates what he;s about more than anything else. Dominant, powerful – the defensive leader that we have craved ever since Carra retired – yet he does everything with a quiet dignity. Yes, £75m is a lot of money, but this man is worth every single penny of it. One or two shaky moment this season, it has to be said – Alisson’s ‘mistake’ at the King Power was a result of a very poor pass back from the Dutchman, but he’s the type of player who learns from his errors and it will only make him grow as a player. Defensive stalwart for years to come, it seems. 8/10.
Fabinho – It’s well documented that the £40m man has been deemed by Jurgen Klopp to not be fit enough yet to make his debut, meaning that it has been a frustrating wait to see the Brazilian in action. He was still called-up and played for Brazil in their 2-0 win over the USA, and he said on Friday that he feels as though he is ready to make his debut when he gets back from international duty, but ultimately that’s up to the gaffer. Frustrating start – we’ll see how he gets on when he actually plays. Nothing to judge him off so far, but everyone seems to like his wife, which is nice. N/A.
Jordan Henderson – As with a few of the squad, a slow start due to his World Cup exploits, but he seems to be back to being a regular starter now. Still appeared in all four matches, though three were from the bench, and has been… solid? We haven’t really seen much of the skipper so far, but his signing of a new five-year contract earlier this week signals the boss’ intent to keep him around for a while longer yet. Not everyone’s favourite player, but he would die for the shirt and that’s just what we need from our captain. Needs to be prepared to not play so often this season, especially once Fabinho gets more involved. 6/10.
Naby Keita – When someone arrives at a club with the amount of fanfare and hype that Keita did, after the fans had to wait a year to see him after agreeing a deal last summer, it can sometimes be tough for the player to live up to the expectation. Not for Naby. Fans of other clubs have made fun of the fact he has ‘no goals of assists so he’s done nothing’, but those of us with a little bit of actual intelligence know that there’s so much more to it than that. He’s looked incredibly calm on the ball, excellent with his passing and he’s not been afraid to put-in a tackle. Fantastic start for the Guinean. 8/10.
Adam Lallana – Do you remember when Adam Lallana was full of confidence, flair, and arguably one of England’s best players a couple of years ago? Me too, but the memory is fading fast. When he’s on his day he’s still a talented player, but even when he is fit he’s too inconsistent. One appearance from the bench this season, four passes and one foul given away – not exactly stellar stuff. The exit door seems to be edging nearer for the former-Southampton man, and he may not still be at Anfield this time next year. Needs a haircut. 4/10.
Lazar Markovic – Who? N/A.
James Milner – I’m convinced he’s got about five lungs. Some people mock players who are labelled as ‘hard workers’, but Milner is the king of them. Gives absolutely everything for the shirt week-in-week-out, but still has the ability to back it up. Has covered every blade of grass he’s seen so far, while a goal from the penalty spot and two assists in the opening four games is a healthy return. May see a little less of him this term purely due to increased competition in the position, but will still be an important part of the team. A reliable penalty taker is never a bad thing to have in the team, either. 7/10.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – Haven’t seen anything of him so far this season, and we’re not likely to for the rest of it. Was excellent in a central role last season, but after suffering a multiple ligament injury against Roma, he’s out for most of, if not all, the rest of this season. Hopefully he can recapture his form next term when he’s back. N/A.
Xherdan Shaqiri – Really caught the imagination after his stunning introduction in pre-season – that overhead-kick against United in Ann Arbor will live long in the memory. Slightly disappointed with his involvement, or lack of, so far in competitive matches, having only made two appearances from the bench and not really doing much in either of those. Still, he adds a lot to squad depth and £13.5m in today’s market is peanuts. Will be hoping for more game time soon, but we shall see – he needs to grab his opportunity with both hands when it comes along. 5/10.
Georginio Wijnaldum – Given a big opportunity to start and impress in the first few games due to World Cup hangovers from others in a crowded midfield, and in the first two he was brilliant. Has dipped against Brighton and Leicester, though, looking a little shaky and still has his tendency to disappear in games. Extremely likeable guy with a cracking smile, great for squad spirit and a decent backup option, but I’m not convinced that he’s likely to appear too often this season. Rotation will be his friend, and he’ll have to fight very, very hard to earn a regular spot in a crowded midfield. 6/10.
Roberto Firmino – I’m one of Bobby’s biggest advocates, and I genuinely think he’s one of the best around at what he does, but he’s been pretty underwhelming so far this season. I’m not saying he’s been bad – he’s just also not been very good. The World Cup will have affected him as he had less time to train than some others, but he just doesn’t seem to have had the same impact so far as he did last season. Let’s just hope its a temporary thing and that teams haven’t figured out how to neutralise him, as he’s such a big part of how the Reds like to play. His goal against Leicester will hopefully do him the world of good. 5/10.
Sadio Mané – Given the incredible season that Salah had last time out, it was a surprise to see so many people predicting that it would be Mané that would be our chief goal threat this time around, but they’ve been proven right. The Senegalese seems to have a new lease of life in the No. 10 shirt – four goals in four games from six shots on target is simply lethal, and he could be key to the Reds’ chances of silverware this season. By far the best of the front three so far, and it’s great to see the former-Southampton man be so happy and confident in his play. Keep it up, Sadio! 9/10.
Divock Origi – A loan move to Wolfsburg last season was supposed to give Origi the opportunity to show that he was worth giving a shot at Liverpool – he didn’t. If I’m honest, I’m surprised that he wasn’t sold this summer, though it’s likely he was kept around for cover in case Daniel Sturridge gets crocked again. Zero appearances, not likely to make many. Backup player at the very, very best. N/A.
Mohamed Salah – Living up to last season’s sensational heroics is going to be tough – he was superhuman. He’s been good so far, not amazing, but good. Two goals and an assist is healthy, while he seems full of running and very eager to prove that he is much more than a one-season wonder in a red shirt. One concerning (?) thing is that he’s missed a couple of opportunities that he would have buried last season – the shocker of a miss at the King Power last week springs to mind – but we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. He’s had a rough summer, with Egypt not living up to expectation in Russia and the bizarre situation between him and his FA, so lets hope it’s just because of that. Still, a good start to the season, so hopefully we’ll have more of the same. 7/10.
Dominic Solanke – Praising Dom Solanke is running the risk of annoying our resident Don, but there’s never going to be any danger of that at this point. Similar to Origi in that he’s made zero appearances so far and hasn’t got much of a chance of making too many more than that. In terms of striking prospects, I’d much rather focus resources into the very promising Rhian Brewster. Dead wood, as far as I’m concerned. N/A.
Daniel Sturridge – Had a cracking pre-season, and while goals against the likes of Chester and Blackburn Rovers aren’t necessarily the best barometer against which to measure ability or form, he’s been showing signs that he may be getting back to his sharpest. A goal with his first touch against West Ham will have done him the world of good too. The thing it, his ability has never been in question, just the durability of his, well, entire body. If he can stay fit, and show a little more of what he can do, then maybe he can salvage his Liverpool career just yet. We shall see, but a good start. 6/10.