The Briefing: Liverpool 3 Burnley 1: Alexander-Arnold worry but Salah's absence well covered
Liverpool reclaimed top spot in the Premier League table after defeating Burnley 2-1 in front of a new league attendance record at Anfield of 59,896 supporters.
In the continued absence of Mohammed Salah, Diogo Jota gave Liverpool the lead with a simple header from a Trent Alexander-Arnold corner after 31 minutes.
Klopp was booked for his protests after Jota was denied a first-half penalty and his mood will have worsened when Burnley’s Dara O’Shea headed in his first Premier League goal to send the teams in level at 1-1 at the break.
Alexander-Arnold was surprisingly replaced by Harvey Elliott at half-time with Curtis Jones playing as emergency right back and it was Elliott’s deflected cross that Luis Diaz met to put Liverpool 2-1 up on 52 minutes.
Jurgen Klopp’s side gave up chances for Burnley to equalise but made the game safe when Elliott set up Darwin Nunez for a fourth headed goal of the game.
Here The Athletic’s Phil Buckingham breaks down the game’s main talking points.
How well has Jota covered Salah’s absence?
Someone had to step up in the prolonged absence of Mohamed Salah and no one has been more effective in Liverpool’s attack than Diogo Jota.
It is five goals in six appearances for the Portugal international since Salah’s last appearance on New Year’s Day and his latest jolted a flat Liverpool performance to life just after the half-hour mark.
Jota’s close-range header owed much to the misjudgement of Burnley goalkeeper James Trafford, who was caught under the flight of the ball, but those instincts continued to carry value on a day he was eventually joined on the score-sheet by Luis Diaz and Darwin Nunez.
Jota’s form since returning from his own injury absence has been excellent. It is six goals and three assists since Boxing Day, a run that puts him on course for his most productive season in Liverpool colours. A previous best was 21 goals in 2021-22. Jamie Carragher’s claim that Jota was among Liverpool’s best finishers of the Premier League era is not without foundation.
Salah will always be welcomed back when injury-free but, with Nunez and Diaz also contributing, it is 22 goals from nine league and cup games without him.
Why was Curtis Jones playing right-back?
Ten days after debating whether Conor Bradley or Trent Alexander-Arnold had the strongest claims for a run at right-back, Jurgen Klopp was forced to turn to Curtis Jones to solve an unforeseen problem.
Bradley remained unavailable following the death of his father, Joe, last week and half-time of Burnley’s visit brought an unexpected change as Alexander-Arnold was withdrawn.
Klopp opted to move Jones out of his starting position in midfield for the second half, fielding the academy graduate in the same role he was asked to play in the EFL Cup win over Leicester City in September. That display was called “super smart” by Klopp.
Alexander-Arnold ‘s habit of stepping out of defence and into midfield made Jones a useful candidate and much of the half was spent supporting attacks.
Liverpool’s frailties in the second half were not down to Jones yet with Jarell Quansah starting only his fourth Premier League game, that right side of the defensive line was patched up and inexperienced.
How big was Elliott’s impact?
This season is turning out to be a test of Harvey Elliott’s patience. Only three of his 19 Premier League appearances had come in Liverpool’s starting XI ahead of Burnley’s visit but his latest chance off the bench, introduced as a half-time substitute, could not be faulted.
Twice Elliott found space in the right-hand channel and twice he produced precise crosses into the box that helped Liverpool finally see off the spirited threat of Burnley.
The first cross was clever, low into a dangerous area for Diaz to arrive and head past Trafford at knee height. The second was inswinging and aerial, allowing Nunez to arch his neck and glance into the top corner.
Liverpool had been wobbling before those second-half goals but the creativity of Elliott was key to Klopp’s side making it five home wins on the spin.
There will be no shortage of opportunities for Elliott to play his part in the closing months of the season. For all he might struggle to convince he warrants a place in Liverpool’s strongest XI, a fight on four fronts needs his intelligence and flair. Days such as these, when a lesser opponent threatens to make life awkward, underlines just that.
What did Klopp say?
We will bring you this after he has spoken at the post-match press conference.
What next for Liverpool?
Saturday, February 17: Brentford (A), Premier League, 12.30pm GMT, 7.30am ET
Liverpool go for their first league win away to Brentford since… March 1938! Their two trips there since the west Londoners returned to the top flight in the 2021-22 season have been a 3-3 draw and then a 3-1 loss in January last year. The good news is Liverpool have won the past two meetings, both at Anfield, by a combined score of four goals to nil.
(Top photo: John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)