A convincing second half display against Swansea resulted in a 5-0 victory for Liverpool as they extended their unbeaten run to 14 games.
Liverpool 5-0 Swansea City
Premier League, Anfield
December 26, 2017
Goals: Coutinho 6′, Firmino 52′ 66′, Alexander-Arnold 65′, Oxlade-Chamberlain 82′
Coutinho eases back into captain role
It’s often said that certain players can wilt under the weight of a shirt number or a captain’s arm band at a storied club such as Liverpool, but Philippe Coutinho seems to thrive on the responsibility.
Donning the No. 10 shirt—which is a big number not just for Liverpool, but for Brazilians generally—he sets about his business like a player who wants to make history for himself rather than merely recall the feats of others.
His goal just six minutes into this game was a perfect demonstration of this.
Thanks to some good work from Roberto Firmino in midfield, then a neat pass from Mohamed Salah, Coutinho found himself on the edge of the box on the left side of the pitch.
It’s a position and a situation which he has now made his speciality.
Angling his body into the perfect position he struck the ball sweetly with his right foot and sent it into the top corner of the goal at the Anfield Road end.
It was the highlight of a first half which was fairly subdued, but then a similar period into the second half Coutinho put the ball onto compatriot Firmino’s boot and the striker volleyed home for the second goal which opened the floodgates.
Coutinho relished the responsibility and looks like he’s constantly proving a point, and even when he handed the armband over to Milner he continued to control the game until the end.
Trent’s first league goal
It was a moment to savour for Trent Alexander-Arnold.
As he charged onto a half-clearance in front of the Kop there was only one thought on his mind.
With the ball bouncing he was able to get good power on his shot as it hit the underside of the bar and nestled into the goal.
It was his first goal in the Premier League, but his third in total this season which is an excellent return for a right-back who doesn’t play in every game.
To put this into perspective, he now has more goals for the club than Nathaniel Clyne, who was the club’s regular full-back for two full seasons.
Goalscoring bonanza continues
Four against Bournemouth, three against Arsenal, and now five against Swansea.
The blips against Everton and West Brom at home are now in the past as the side returned to the free-scoring form which takes them to 25 goals in seven games for the month of December.
At the end of the game all the players wanted to get in on the act and substitute Dominic Solanke was unlucky not to get his first goal for the club, coming close on a number of occasions.
They could have matched the Spartak Moscow mauling here today were they more clinical towards the end.
The Reds may have been slightly disrupted, though, by the three substitutions which changed the formation slightly due to Adam Lallana‘s introduction in midfield.
Goal difference could be important as five teams are set to battle it out for the three places in the top four behind Manchester City.
Today’s five takes Liverpool onto 46 goals, jumping ahead of Man United‘s 43, but it’s at the other end where they need to improve as their goal difference is still worse than Jose Mourinho’s side overall.
Clean sheet kept to build Mignolet’s confidence
After his errors in the Arsenal game many thought that Simon Mignolet would be removed from the firing line for the subsequent games, perhaps coming back into the side for the FA Cup, but he retained his place in Jurgen Klopp‘s starting 11.
The only change to the core of the defence was the introduction of the fit-again Joel Matip in the place of Dejan Lovren, with Ragnar Klavan retaining his place on the left side.
Klavan has been quietly impressive of late, and barely put a foot wrong against Swansea. The defence was well-balanced and this helped Mignolet.
The saves the goalkeeper had to make were easy and helped build confidence, with a couple of collections from Jordan Ayew in each half being about as troubled as he got until his last-second tip-over.
It’s rare that Klopp drops a player who is being criticised by the media or by the wider public, and that was the case again here.
Now he could bring Loris Karius in against Leicester under the guise of rotation, and make Mignolet determined to continue to fight for his place in the side.
Players rested for future challenges
Whatever Klopp said to his side at half time worked wonders, and the reward for the manager for this second-half display was the luxury of making early substitutions with the game already won.
Firmino and Salah were withdrawn after the pair had just combined to put the side 4-0 up.
The two will be considered, along with Coutinho, as the most potent attacking weapons in the team, and it was good to give them a break ahead of a busy second half of the season.
Left-back Andrew Robertson, who is likely to be required for most games in the absence of Alberto Moreno, was also given a break, being replaced by utility man James Milner.
Klopp’s men now go into Saturday’s game against Leicester full of confidence, and hopefully full of energy, as they look to creep further into the top four.