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Salah back with a bang but injuries add up – 5 talking points from Brentford 1-4 Liverpool

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Liverpool should be riding a wave of optimism, but injuries to key players soured the comfortable 4-1 win at Brentford in a game that may prove decisive in a way we didn’t expect.

Brentford 1-4 Liverpool

Premier League (25), Gtech Community Stadium
February 17, 2024

Goals: Nunez 35′, Mac Allister 55′, Salah 68′, Gakpo 86′; Toney 75′


Victory but could be huge title blow

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, February 17, 2024: Liverpool's Diogo Jota is treated for an injury during the FA Premier League match between Brentford FC and Liverpool FC at the Brentford Community Stadium. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

In the aftermath of this victory, we should be talking about Liverpool boosting their title hopes by grinding out an important result at what has been a tricky ground for them to visit in the past.

Unfortunately, it has hard to shake the feeling that, even in claiming a win that sends them five points clear at the top of the Premier League, the Reds have suffered a title blow here.

It would be fair to hope that Curtis Jones‘ ankle turn does has not resulted in anything too serious, but you’d have to be seriously optimistic to suggest that Diogo Jota has not picked up a knee injury that threatens the remainder of his season.

They left the ground in a protective boot and brace respectively.

And it is not just that the Portuguese would be joining a ridiculously lengthy list of absentees that would make this hard to take, either.

The fact is, he remains Liverpool’s second biggest goal threat behind Mohamed Salah, and is a big part of why Jurgen Klopp has been able to consistently call on potency from the bench as well as in his starting XI.

The Reds quite simply cannot afford to lose him for any length of time if they are to keep on winning games at this rate, and so this game could well be a decisive moment.

 

Salah back with a bang

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, February 17, 2024: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates after scoring the third goal during the FA Premier League match between Brentford FC and Liverpool FC at the Brentford Community Stadium. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

If Liverpool have had any sort of luck regarding injuries this season, it is that their fresh problems have tended to line up with crucial men returning.

That proved to be the case again here as Jota’s withdrawal was matched by Salah featuring for the Reds for the first time since New Year’s Day.

The Egyptian showed how important his comeback is in setting up a goal, scoring one, and generally being a menace to the Brentford defence.

He is sure to be the first name on the teamsheet as Klopp’s side head into the run-in aiming for success on four fronts.

 

Endo/Mac Allister mix getting there

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, February 17, 2024: Liverpool's Wataru End? (L) and Ibrahima Konaté celebrate after the FA Premier League match between Brentford FC and Liverpool FC at the Brentford Community Stadium. Liverpool won 4-1. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

As had been the case against Burnley last weekend, the new-look midfield mix of Wataru Endo and Alexis Mac Allister did not look particularly balanced in what was a fairly even first half here.

But an improved second-half performance from both showed the value of their burgeoning partnership, particularly the move that led to Liverpool going 2-0 up.

The Endo header that started it off was part of a showing in which he won five duels, made 14 passes into the final third, and generally matched Brentford‘s physicality.

Mac Allister, meanwhile, finished things off as he added a goal to two chances created and six defensive actions.

The feeling remains that this blend can work even better, but this match was another step forward and crucial to Liverpool’s win.

 

Thomas Frank fails to impress in audition

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, February 17, 2024: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp (R) with Brentford's manager Thomas Frank during the FA Premier League match between Brentford FC and Liverpool FC at the Brentford Community Stadium. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

While all the focus remains on Xabi Alonso, Thomas Frank is among the alternative names being touted to succeed Klopp as Liverpool boss this summer.

But, while the Dane certainly scores high in terms of charisma and likeability, this game hardly helped quell suggestions that his footballing philosophy would not be a good fit at Anfield.

As has always been the case when the Reds have faced Brentford since their promotion, they came up against a physical, direct style centred on flick-ons and set-piece success.

It is, of course, a tactical approach that has helped the Bees return to the top-flight after a 74-year absence, and establish themselves as a regular fixture there.

However, it is hard to imagine it producing the dominance necessary to consistently win trophies, which is exactly what Liverpool are looking for when they replace Klopp.

 

Gravenberch impresses in cameo

LINZ, AUSTRIA - Thursday, September 21, 2023: Liverpool's Ryan Gravenberch during the pre-match warm-up before the UEFA Europa League Group E matchday 1 game between LASK and Liverpool FC at the Raiffeisen Arena. Liverpool won 3-1. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

As a young player still adapting to life in the Premier League, you’re never quite sure what you’re going to get from Ryan Gravenberch whenever he takes to the pitch.

But, having been thrown into the action as a result of an injury blow to Jones here, the Dutchman showed the best version of himself.

Five out of eight ground duels won, three clearances, three recoveries, and an 82 percent passing accuracy – these are Jones-like numbers.

He also played an important role in Liverpool’s second, drawing in two players before releasing Salah to set up Mac Allister.

If Gravenberch can continue to produce these sorts of performances during any absence for Jones, then he is sure to earn a sustained run in the team.