After a spell out of the limelight, Alberto Moreno’s recent performances have offered some encouraging signs over his development.
Opening the new season struggling with the same old problems, Moreno’s Anfield career seemed to be nearing an end.
Since his Arsenal nightmare the Spaniard has barely featured for Jurgen Klopp’s side, required to prove himself again while James Milner has filled the left-back spot.
However, in recent League Cup and Premier League outings, Moreno has showed promise signs of progress, with glimpses of a much-needed upturn beginning to transpire.
Ending last season with a much-criticised Europa League final display, the new campaign presented a fresh start for Moreno.
But continued rash decision-making and general costly recklessness saw the 24-year-old dropped rather than a new chapter surface, despite being Liverpool’s only natural left-back.
Becoming a peripheral figure, Moreno has started just three games since his Emirates display – recent cup ties with Derby and Tottenham, and at Crystal Palace.
Indeed, he has it all to prove, but those games have provided some promise with each passing relatively smoothly, if not without incident.
Liverpool’s composed performance at Derby mirrored Moreno’s own display – the left-back providing a steady presence in a comfortable 3-0 win.
Then featuring in a fully changed XI against Spurs in the next round, Moreno was quietly impressive; more controlled when defending while offering a measured attacking threat.
Some poor positional play almost gifted Spurs a late equaliser though, and illustrated why news of Moreno deputising at Selhurst Park caused panic among Kopites.
Facing one of the Premier League’s most skilful and direct wingers in Wilfried Zaha at a notoriously unhappy hunting ground for Liverpool, it seemed a recipe for disaster.
But aside from perhaps allowing Zaha to cross too easily for Palace’s second goal and at times vacating his defensive area prematurely, Moreno was pleasantly impressive.
He was more restrained defensively – especially in one-against-one situations – and showed his attacking advantages by assisting Emre Can’s opener with a brilliant volleyed cut-back.
Though far from a perfect performance, under intense scrutiny it was certainly another positive step on Moreno’s rebuild, for which Klopp deserves big credit.
The boss has shown commendable faith in the defender, even if it didn’t initially seem so when dropping Moreno at Burnley.
But taking him out of the firing line was wise management, allowing training work on cooling his “hot-blooded” nature and eradicating failings to be conducted without constant analysis at every juncture.
Moreno has been able to focus on learning and improving under reduced pressure, perhaps inspiring his impressive training form, as Klopp noted.
“To be honest, one of the best players in training in the last two weeks [has been] Alberto Moreno. He took [being left out] positively.”
Receiving Klopp’s backing to translate his progress to the pitch, Moreno evidenced elements of those forward steps against Crystal Palace, earning the German’s approval for his performance.
“There was never a doubt about Alberto. But he’s a young player, he needs to learn a lot of things,” Klopp said.
“Sometimes he’s a little bit too passionate in defending, that’s right.
“He’s from Spain, south Europe, so he’s a little bit hot-blooded sometimes, as we say. But he’s still young, and you can learn things.
“When you see he’s quick, good left foot, good attitude, runs up and down, up and down, it’s nice for a manager working with boys like this.”
Indeed, Moreno has provided encouragement and though Klopp’s belief never wavered, recent displays will have started restoring small amounts of the boss’ trust.
Brighter Future Prospects
Moreno has much work to do before earning his place back, but these outings will have aided his hopes for further action.
Milner’s recovery from illness is likely to see the vice-captain return against Watford, but Moreno will hope he has done enough to feature in Klopp’s thoughts.
While his defending has often left us pulling hair out, the left-back’s attacking ability impresses, as seen at Selhurst Park where he provided a welcome natural balance and pacey left-side outlet.
The benefit of his natural left-foot and speed to exploit gaps quickly was evident as he supplied Can’s goal, and for all Milner’s positives, these are features he can’t provide.
Against a Watford side to lineup in a defensive 3-5-2 formation – that often becomes 5-4-1 when defending – the onus will be on Liverpool to break down the Hornets’ own Yellow Wall, and Moreno’s offensive qualities could prove useful.
If action isn’t forthcoming against Watford, he is almost certain to feature in the League Cup quarter-final with Leeds later this month.
This will present another chance to continue establishing his reformed approach in a game of significance, and to potentially earn further trust from Klopp for the league schedule.
With the Christmas period looming, Klopp will need his squad ready for three intense games in six days – against Stoke, Man City and Sunderland.
Moreno will play his part as Liverpool look to negotiate those games while keeping their title charge on track – providing his steady progress continues.
When next assessing Moreno’s reformation, Klopp can certainly be encouraged by his early work.
The Spaniard has shown signs of adding a maturity to his game and also better awareness to his defensive duties.
Crucially, Moreno’s willingness to learn is extremely positive and will be key to further progress.
It is early days and much work is required before he earns Anfield’s full trust and a regular place long-term.
Moreno is, however, showing hopeful signs in his attempts.