5 things from Burnley 2-0 Liverpool: Reds out of position, Clarets out of the traps

Paul Wilkes braved the Turf Moor press box with Stats Zone to see the Clarets beat the Reds

1. Direct Burnley trouble Liverpool defence

Despite his tarring and feathering, Alberto Moreno wasn’t solely to blame for Liverpool’s suspect defending on the opening day of the season and this was highlighted further when Burnley found themselves with a two-goal advantage. Inside two minutes Sam Vokes caught both Dejan Lovren and Simon Mignolet napping when he was allowed the time and space to turn on the edge of the area before unleashing a ferocious strike past the Belgian goalkeeper.

Burnley started with a high intensity which appeared to unnerve Liverpool, with Andre Gray and George Boyd runing at the defence. The aerial threat of Vokes also caused the central defensive partnership of Lovren and Ragnar Klavan problems, as he won 8 out of his 12 aerial duals.

“There two strikers played really well and showed big heart,” said Jurgen Klopp in the post-match press conference. The Lancashire side displayed chillingly clinical finishing to score twice with two shots in the opening 45 minutes, but Liverpool were the architects of their own downfall.

They had 81% of the possession, although they were void of ideas and creativity throughout the encounter. “At times Liverpool had six men in midfield; if I put six men in midfield we’d keep the ball a lot of the time,” said Burnley manager Sean Dyche after the match. “We want to penetrate and we want to be productive.” 

2. Defour finally arrives in the Premier League

It’s six years since Sir Alex Ferguson wrote Steven Defour a letter to commiserate the midfielder about his latest injury setback. The former Standard Liege captain was just 21 years old when he received the unexpected note that wished him a quick recovery from a broken metatarsal and a promise from Ferguson that he would “remain in contact” in the future.

A move to Old Trafford failed to materialise, but the Belgian now finds himself 32 miles north at Turf Moor. And he had a debut to remember, as Burnley beat Liverpool in the league for the first time since September 1974.

In the 37th minute, Defour showed his strength to beat Klavan in a 50-50 challenge on the halfway line before powering up the pitch to supply Gray, as the forward made it 2-0 when he cut back inside. The £6m striker scored 23 goals in the Championship last term, but had netted only once in his last 10 home games before Liverpool’s arrival.

Defour made three interceptions and two blocks before he was replaced by Johann Berg Gudmundsson in the 56th minute. The Belgian clearly lacks match fitness but if he can keep off the injury list he may be a key signing for Burnley. 

3. Henderson needs to play further forward

Jordan Henderson’s deployment as the deepest midfielder doesn’t yet provide the protection that this defence clearly needs, although he wasn’t helped by either Georginio Wijnaldum nor Adam Lalllana.

Last season’s combination of Henderson and Emre Can gave Liverpool a base, but on his own he looks a little isolated and is regularly exposed in transition. The away side were far too open and as a result, Burnley were able to offer more of a threat as the game progressed.

The Liverpool captain is able to dictate the build-up and tempo as the central pivot, as he made 122 passes and created three chances, but it does prevent him from using arguably his greatest strength – his energy. When Henderson ventures forward, his teammates failed to plug the gap that he left vacated.

In the 65th minute, Henderson was booked for a foul on Gudmundsson. Coming after he had given the ball away, it was illustrative of his frustration. 

4. Klopp sees Lallana in the middle

“It’s a different role but one I’ll embrace and I’ll play wherever the manager wants me to play as long as it benefits the team,” Lallana told the official Liverpool website. As part of a central three, the former Southampton attacker has licence to make runs into the box, although at times his risk taking in possession does mean that the Reds are occasionally susceptible to counter-attacks.

“We passed the ball and lost the ball at the wrong moments,” admitted Klopp. The former Borussia Dortmund coach was perplexed by his team’s decision-making as a whole, although this was more evident in midfield and he may now need to readjust the balance of his central trio ahead of the trip to White Hart Lane next week.

Lallana did show quick footwork and his change of direction regularly left his opponents running in the opposite direction. However, he does need to choose his moments to shoot better, as he often saw his attempts blocked after trying to create room for a shot. Lallana saw five of his efforts stopped by a Burnley player before they reached goalkeeper Tom Heaton, although he didn’t try a single shot in the second half. 

5. Calm Milner an improvement on Moreno

The criticism of Moreno after the Arsenal game was strong and widespread, albeit notably from former Manchester United full-back Gary Neville, but Klopp was adamant that the Spaniard wasn’t at fault, at least for the opening goal. However, it didn’t stop the German from dropping Moreno in favour of the versatile James Milner.

“I wasn’t comfortable there, it’s not where I want to play, but the team comes first it’s not about individuals,” admitted Milner to FFT after he first occupied the position against Manchester United in the Europa League last season.

The converted midfielder is predominately right-footed, which does make him effective from crossing at certain angles, although not every time, as his one successful delivery in 10 cross ratio proved.  “I saw really good crosses where no one was in the box,” lamented Klopp afterwards.

He did though have plenty of involvement throughout the match and he’s certainly a lot more assured than Moreno on the ball, creating four chances and completing 48 of his 52 passes in the attacking third. Milner was rarely tested in a defensive capacity, with bigger individual battles to come for the former Leeds youngster.

When Moreno replaced Milner with 13 minutes remaining, the Burnley supporters cheered ironically. By the end, they were wholeheartedly acclaiming their side’ statistically quirky but hard-won three points. 

Match facts

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  • Burnley scored with their first 2 shots against Liverpool and their only 2 shots on target.
  • The Clarets won their first league game against Liverpool since September 1974, having gone 7 without a win since then.
  • Sam Vokes became the first Burnley player to score a league goal against Liverpool at Turf Moor since Ray Hankin in March 1975 – they had failed in 6 games since then.
  • Burnley scored more in this game than they managed in 7 previous home Premier League games (1).
  • Vokes scored his first Premier League goal in his 28th appearance in the competition.
  • Liverpool have only kept 1 clean sheet in their last 11 away Premier League games (6-0 v Aston Villa).
  • Since Jurgen Klopp took over, only Aston Villa (12) and West Ham (10) have had more errors leading to goals in the Premier League than Liverpool (9).

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