In ‘This is Anfield,’ Liverpool’s matchday programme, Jordan Henderson used his captain’s notes to highlight the contributions of Divock Origi and Emre Can in the 3-1 victory over Arsenal as he previewed Sunday’s hosting of Burnley.
The pair, off form for swathes of the season and central subjects of criticism as the club’s ambitions slipped from a title challenge to a top-four chase, proved decisive again.
Can must make LFC show him the money
Ahead of the first whistle, as the rain and wind swirled outside L4, the emphasis wasn’t on the players available, but those absent through injury.
Henderson, Roberto Firmino, Dejan Lovren, Daniel Sturridge and Danny Ings were missing from the matchday squad through varying issues, with Marko Grujic still working his way back to full sharpness.
Match report: Liverpool 2-1 Burnley
That left Jurgen Klopp with a bench consisting of four teenagers in Joe Gomez, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ben Woodburn and Harry Wilson – the latter named in a Premier League squad for the first time.
The bare bones of those options worried supporters, who also displayed anxiety over Origi starting in the absence of Firmino. The Belgium striker last featured from the off in the top-flight on January 15 – the 1-1 draw at Manchester United.
There were question marks over Can too; the German locked in a contract impasse with the club, his performances not consistent nor effective enough to justify the package his camp are requesting.
The alarmism would’ve only intensified given the early exchanges in the encounter.
The opening stanza of play saw Liverpool, like the T.I. lyric, showing Burnley ‘you could have whatever you like.’ Passive, sluggish and clearly uncomfortable with the penetrating runs and searching deliveries from the visitors, the Merseysiders looked primed for punishment.
“We were obviously not dominant enough to avoid their gameplan,” Klopp admitted afterwards. In the first half, the ball was always in the air as they wanted, and they were better in the fight for second balls.”
The reverse fixture in August saw Sean Dyche’s men move ahead within two minutes of kick off at Turf Moor, and they only had to wait another five before doing the same here.
A period of pressure, with Andre Gray in particular twisting the rearguard of the hosts, resulted in a deserved opener. Right-back Matt Lowton received possession 35 yards from goal and was allowed the space and time to curl a splendid ball across the box.
Gray couldn’t connect, but Ashley Barnes – under no pressure from Nathaniel Clyne – stuck out his right foot to beat a diving Simon Mignolet.
And they looked more likely to affect the scoreboard again with Liverpool so off-colour and continuously going wide on every play, which did little to disorganise Burnley.
At times during the first half, it seemed as though only Sadio Mane remembered the hosts were in a titanic tussle for Champions League football.
The Reds were not creating clear-cut opportunities, nor did they ask any questions of Tom Heaton until just before the interval. Origi, taunted with chants of ‘you’re not Danny Ings’ by the away support, crossed from the left for Gini Wijnaldum. The ball hit the Netherlands international, then Ben Mee, but the midfielder composed himself and smashed past the keeper from close range.
It was Divock Origi again who supplied Can on 61 minutes, teeing it up for the 23-year-old to take a touch before rifling a pacy low shot into the bottom-right corner. His knee slide and the unfiltered passion of the celebration also contained bundles of relief: it hadn’t been an easy afternoon for the midfielder, let alone season.
In his bid to prove his value to Liverpool, two decisive displays in succession will serve Can’s cause, but he cannot let up.
“He is a boy with an outstanding attitude,” Klopp said of his countryman. “He had a problem with his calf for a few months, we used a lot of specialists to find out what exactly was wrong.
“We found a solution and he doesn’t have those problems now. Second half he was really good, but he could have been better around the goal. These things happen, but he reacted very well and scored a nice goal.”
Origi, meanwhile, ended his involvement to different chants – the home fans singing his name. He received a standing ovation as well when Lucas replaced him on 79 minutes and was pulled into a bear hug with his appreciative manager.
Prior to all that, while there were hands-over-heads looking at Liverpool’s bench, Klopp had enough faith in it to end a miserable evening for Philippe Coutinho by yanking him on the hour-mark and throwing on 17-year-old Woodburn.
The hosts had to claw and wrestle for a win. They had to battle and bruise to stop Burnley from leaving Anfield with a triumph for the first time since September 1974.
It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t fluid and it was far from fancy, but Liverpool made it happen – chiefly through the men considered their misfits.
“If we want we stay where we are, we have to win all kinds of games,” agreed the Reds boss. “In average games and bad games, you still need to be a competitor. It feels good today that we could do it.”
Liverpool have now equalled their tally of wins  recorded last season with 10 fixtures still to play, while stacking the pressure on Arsenal and United in the fight for the top four.
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