Liverpool returned to a full-strength lineup and winning ways on Wednesday, beating West Ham 2-0 to go 19 points clear at the top of the Premier League.
West Ham 0-2 Liverpool
Premier League, London Stadium
January 29, 2020
Goals: Salah pen 35′, Oxlade-Chamberlain 52′
With Sadio Mane set to miss these two league games against West Ham and Southampton, there was a real opportunity for one of the squad members to play a meaningful role in high-profile games.
Divock Origi was handed the first chance to fill the void, playing from the left as he has done so often previously, but the Belgian didn’t really make the most of his opportunity.
With a start at the weekend as well as here, this could have been the night to see a sharper, more in-tune Big Div…but it sadly didn’t happen again.
Origi was involved at times: an early run down the right, a few knock-ons to his attacking team-mates, a low shot from the left in the second half and some good footwork to win the first-half penalty.
But there was very little else to point to which suggested he deserves to keep his spot once back at Anfield at the weekend.
With several midfielders back to fitness it could be that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain moves left, while Takumi Minamino and late sub Curtis Jones will both also be desperate to be handed another chance to impress.
Mo Salah opened the scoring for the Reds after half an hour, a left-foot rocket from 12 yards after Origi was chopped down.
Origi probably would have netted anyway, but with Salah doing the business he became the Reds’ top scorer for the season, in the league and in all competitions, and he also continued a tremendous run for the Reds from the penalty spot.
Nine spot-kick scored in a row is the current run for Salah, since he missed against Huddersfield in late 2017.
Liverpool as a whole, meanwhile, have scored their last 14, with three players contributing to that haul: Salah (seven), James Milner (six) and Bobby Firmino (one).
We don’t need penalties to win games, but they sure help along the way—and as hasn’t always been the case, we can now be confident that when one is awarded, it’s a pretty sure-fire thing that the ball will hit the back of the net.
Winning is all well and good with the goals at the other end, but a moment of appreciation, too, for the players at the opposite end who once more produced top-class performances.
Common consent would suggest the diamond-shaped quartet of Alisson, Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Fabinho are the guaranteed starters when fitness and form allow.
The Champions League games might quickly become the focus of the season now and it’s that awesome foursome we should expect to see whenever possible, with Joel Matip‘s injury allowing Gomez to reclaim his throne and Jordan Henderson likely to shift forward once more.
Three-quarters of that group are, right now, in quite ridiculous form.
Gomez has barely put a foot wrong across our many matches since mid-December, with the probable exception of Spurs, while Van Dijk just continues to motor through games, rarely looking ruffled and frequently embarrassing the small children he plays against.
Sorry, the Premier League strikers he plays against.
Against West Ham, Alisson was arguably the best performer: infrequently called upon, but always perfect.
It’s just the returning Fabinho who needs to find rhythm after injury, with his cameo confirming that he still needs time on the ball and on the pitch to get back to his calming, impassable best.
That is a rock-solid quartet, and one which just might carry the Reds towards retaining Ol’ Big Ears.
Klopp hits the 50 mark on the road
Jurgen won’t care. Jurgen never cares. It’ll be just another one to tick off, just another one to put in the rearview mirror.
And, given the lack of atmosphere, effort and quality on the part of the opposition, probably a game he’ll never think about again.
But it’s now 50 away wins in the Premier League for Klopp at Liverpool, in just 84 games.
That’s just about a 60 percent win rate on the road; some managers don’t get that ratio across the entire careers, or hit that tally of away league wins in a much longer time in the game.
What he has achieved in the job will go down in legend, no question. This game certainly won’t, but it counts for exactly the same number of points as the manic 5-4 over Norwich, which has done.
19 clear…in January
So we no longer have a game in hand on the rest of the so-called title challengers.
We do, however, hold a frankly ridiculous 19-point lead. With four months of the season still to play.
There were seasons, many of them, where 70 points was the 10-month target; attaining a Champions League spot the summit of realism.
That Liverpool have hit the target already is testament to the enormous growth of the team, and indeed the club on all levels, but is even more due to the utterly relentless nature of Klopp and his coaches.
Next up is Southampton, a resurgent and enjoyable-to-watch Southampton, complete with in-form Danny Ings.
We’re at Anfield though, where—cue another remarkable statistic—we’ve yet to drop a single point all season long.
Putting the scope of this team’s achievements into perspective is becoming ever-more difficult to do, but we’ve now won more games this season than some title-winning teams, including Man United‘s 1998/99 treble winners.
Next game, next challenge, next opportunity for three points: bring it on, we just can’t get enough.