Sunday’s derby day lethargy was well and truly blown away at Anfield on Wednesday night. In a simply outrageous season, this one, against Crystal Palace, was peak outrage.
If these are to be the last on pitch shapes that Liverpool throw out before being crowned champions, then they couldn’t have been more apt.
The Absolute State of Those Goals
I’ve spoken before about laugh out loud football, the type of football that makes you let out an involuntary laugh.
Jurgen Klopp is the perfect example of this. Any post-match interview after a performance like this one, he will be posed the first question, usually something simple, designed to disarm, and he will burst out laughing before giving a very honest answer.
After last night’s game, he professed his respect for Palace, before stating he “wouldn’t have wanted to be them tonight”.
I love the way Klopp has mastered the English tongue, without absorbing the boring subtleties of giving the ‘right answers’.
We’ve now moved on to football that is positively ludicrous. Four very distinct goals of immeasurable beauty, from four different players. It wouldn’t have been flattering if we had scored twice as many.
I was at Anfield the night we put nine past Palace and I should have been there for this one. Klopp was right, in his post-match assessment, when he mused about how good it would have been had the stadium been full.
Of course, right now, that isn’t possible. As supporters, we now have a party in hand on the rest of the Premier League. Good things come to those who wait.
Due to extraordinary circumstances, we’ve been made to wait a lot longer than we’d ever anticipated for a league title that was a foregone conclusion by Christmas. Yet, when the time arrives, it could come very swiftly.
Liverpool could be champions before today turns into tomorrow.
We’ve clinched the title at Stamford Bridge before.
Anything less than a win at Chelsea, for Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, and it will be time for them to hand us the Premier League trophy.
If they emerge from west London with three points, then we’ll be aiming to take the title from them at the Etihad instead, a week from now.
Goal of the Month
Wednesday evening brought a 90-minute audition for the Goal of the Month award.
Trent Alexander-Arnold was the first to post his contender, with a perfect free kick that blew away the cobwebs that seemed to be lingering at Goodison Park.
Before half-time, Mohamed Salah had collected and dispatched a wonderful floated pass from the decadent Fabinho.
Into the second half, Fabinho then stepped up to launch an almost obscenely fierce drive, from a distance that modern football thinkers suggest you aren’t meant to be speculative from anymore.
Sadio Mane then completed the set, when latching on to a magnificently weighed, diagonal through ball, to finish via a far more complicated bodily shift than initially met the eye.
Throughout, there were other near-misses and opportunities. Jordan Henderson hit the post, Gini Wijnaldum could have snared a brace, a shout for a penalty went ignored, Salah missed a fine chance of a fifth goal, while Neco Williams had a goal bound effort deflected away for a corner.
Some games hit the sweet spot, and this was one of them.
Instead of that wild 9-0 against Palace, from 1989, this performance felt like the iconic 5-0, against Nottingham Forest, the previous year. Laugh out loud football that even its creator can’t help but be proud of.
Klopp so often strikes the image of the proud father of a new-born, whenever his team produces the type of footballing loveliness they did on Wednesday night.
Palace came to Anfield as the Premier League’s in-form team. Roy Hodgson continuing to defy football gravity.
There is no logic behind what he does. Hodgson opts for a rigid framework and plays the percentages, adding a freewheeling element who is very much a minority, be it a Wilfried Zaha, and/or an Andros Townsend.
A wily pattern analyst, he approaches football in the same way he probably approaches a game of Scrabble. Numbers are crunched, permutations are calculated. I bet you anything he is a demon on the gambling tables of Las Vegas. A slave to the laws of probability.
At Anfield, Palace did not touch the ball within the Liverpool penalty area.
Until I saw Klopp engaged in conversation with him, as he walked from the pitch at the end, I’d completely forgotten that Alisson Becker was playing.
So far in the ascendency, both in terms of this individual game and the league table, Klopp was able to massage the shoulders of Takumi Minamino, who was replaced at Goodison Park at half-time. A fifth league appearance for the reds, he has now played enough games to collect a Premier League winners medal, to go with the Austrian Bundesliga one he is due.
It was also good to see Williams and Harvey Elliott in action, towards the tail end of the game, both of whom could feasibly carry this club of ours into the 2030s.
It is incredulous to think that James Milner made his Premier League debut before Elliott was born.
Unprecedented as they may be. These are the days, my friend.