Joel Embiid Should be Considered an MVP Candidate
It is only January and a lot of people are talking about either James Harden or Giannis Antetokounmpo to win the MVP, but what about Joel Embiid?
Jurgen Klopp's men eked out a narrow win against a well-drilled Seagull's side at Anfield to go top of the Premier League table. Having seen Manchester City drop points on the road earlier in the day, the onus was on the Reds to lay the gauntlet. Jurgen Klopp named an unchanged starting eleven for a third time row while Brighton replaced Pascal Gross with Yves Bissouma.
Liverpool gained the ascendancy early on as Mohammed Salah put them ahead after 22 minutes, pouncing on a mistake by the Brighton's new man, Bissouma. Aside from nervy quater late-on, the Reds were largely untroubled on the day as once again their rear-guard saw out the win. Let's take a look at a few things learned from the game.
Last season Liverpool belted out cricket scorelines on a regular basis as the front-three blew away defenses in the Premier League and in Europe. The incredible speed with which Salah, Mane and Firmino came together in devastating fashion was the recipe behind their run to the Champions League final.
However this season it might to be lot different. They are dangerous on the counter and around central areas, the Premier League knows it and all other league's know it too. First Crystal Palace and now Brighton. Both have shown that suffocating them in central areas can frustrate this Liverpool side. Expect many to sit back and play for a point at Anfield. It might not always be pretty at Anfield this season.
Since the 4-1 mauling at the hands of Spurs at Wembley last December, Liverpool's defence has been dishing out top-drawer performances. The Merseyside club are yet to concede at home in over 10 hours of open play and the least team to score against them at Anfield was West Ham in February.
Klopp started with a backline of Clyne, Matip, Lovren and Moreno against Watford last season on the opening day. He has gone and replaced all of them. Van Dijk and Gomez have looked imperious at the back with the youngster in particular putting in matured performances. Robertson just won't stop running and Trent Alexander-Arnold goes from strength to strength each game. Perhaps it's the back-four which is going to overshadow the front-three in 2018/19.
67 minutes had gone against Brighton when Van Dijk almost sold Alisson with a weak back pass. Under pressure by a marauding Knockaert, the Brazilian produced a cheeky flick to leave his marker for dead, drawing rapturous applause from the home crowd. Still reeling from the memory of a disastrous Champions League final, Liverpool fans are slowly coming to terms with the fact that they have got a proper keeper between the sticks this time.
Had it been Mignolet or Karius, supporters would have been left chewing their tongues in disgust yet Alisson is untouchable right now. Already having made smart saves against Crystal Palace and now Brighton, the number 13 is slowly becoming a favorite.
It was the before their Champions League encounter with AS Roma, when Gary Neville remarked, “Can you expect a midfield of Milner and Wijnaldum to win you the Champions League?“. Well if the opening three games are anything to go by, Neville might have to reconsider his words. The duo have been superb. Wijnaldum in the 6 role has evolved into an extremely smart operator, recycling possession and beating the press with ease. Such has been the form of the dutchman that he has kept Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson on the bench. His juggle to leave 3 Brighton defenders in his wake embodies his start this season.
On the other hand James Milner seems to have grown an extra pair of lungs. At 32 when others have slowed down, Milner is relishing each and every minute on the pitch. It was his quick press that produced the error from which Liverpool scored. Never stationary, always on the move, the veteran covers each and every blade of grass. No wonder nobody cites heat-maps when criticizing James Milner.
At their very best, the Reds are simply irresistable, dangerous and ruthless. Often blitzing their opponents into pieces in the first half. It's the second half of games is when they struggle to keep up those energy levels. Till now, they have made the breakthrough against deep defences in all three games in the first half, forcing the opposition to open up and disregard the deep-lying backline.
However, it would be the litmus test when they can't score in the opening 45 minutes or when they would be trailing at half-time. Whether or not they have the character to turn such scorelines into victories might well be the last hurdle for this group in their aim towards the title.