Liverpool returned to Premier League action with a depleted squad and a 3-0 win over Leicester City on Sunday night at Anfield.
Liverpool 3-0 Leicester
Anfield, Premier League
22 November, 2020
Goals: Evans OG 21′, Jota 41′, Firmino 87′
Filling in, fantastically
James Milner at right-back. Fabinho in the centre. Naby Keita and Curtis Jones both starting in midfield, plus one of the forwards missing in Mo Salah.
No Virgil, no Gomez, no Thiago, no Hendo, no Trent.
Milner ended the game in midfield, but he was very, very good at right-back. Sure, he was beaten a couple of times on the turn or by a pass in behind, but every full-back is when expected to step up.
The pair of 8s in the middle of the park were genuinely excellent, winning it back in dangerous areas, always forward-thinking with their first pass and supporting the attack.
It’s yet further evidence of the squad-wide assurance and know-how of performing their roles, keeping the competition for places up and having the team style remain the same.
What a start he has made. With his glancing header near the end of the first half, Diogo Jota became the first Liverpool player to score in each of his first four home league games.
Starting from the right of the attack this time, he, again and again, showed the two traits which make him so dangerous: clever movement and lots of speed.
Movement between the centre-backs, darting runs behind the full-backs, a willingness to quickly switch flanks to create overloads and, most of all, a penchant for getting in and around the six-yard box make him a non-stop threat for the Reds.
His finishing isn’t really based on finesse, but rather on having the momentum and timing in his runs to be unstoppable – it sees some shots saved or hit a little too centrally to be classed as great finishes, maybe, but there’s so much pace and power about his game that it hasn’t mattered much.
Keep getting him in those dangerous areas and he’ll keep scoring goals, it’s as simple as that.
One off the post. Another one just one centimetre from a goal. Another decent chance earlier, too.
But Roberto Firmino kept going, kept making sure he was in good areas and eventually took a chance – his most difficult one of the night, in truth.
It was a great header in fairness to wrap up the win and the points, and a reward for the usual industry and closing down, but Firmino’s link play was better tonight, his ability to beat a defender was on show and he was clearly desperate for a goal, showing his frustration after being denied by the woodwork and the goalline clearance in the space of five seconds.
Klopp was happy and his team-mates were too, all celebrating with our No. 9 who has been criticised for a lack of goals this season.
Well, Firmino has two in the league now.
His opposite number from Sunday has eight – but five of Jamie Vardy’s are penalties, so the open-play difference is one. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has two, the same as Bob. No player in the entire Man City squad has more than two. And United’s Anthony Martial has none.
Are we done with the misplaced anger now?
Another new club record!
64 Premier League games at home, zero defeats. Debates can (and will) rage for years over which is the ‘best’ side ever, but this is now unquestionably and inarguably the most consistent we’ve had.
We still have Chelsea to hunt down in terms of the Premier League record, with their run standing at 86, which Xabi Alonso and Rafa’s Reds ended in 2008.
But our Anfield win rate has been the platform for a title challenge, then a title win, and now our attempt to retain the title. Go the entire season unbeaten yet again at Anfield and we’ll be a fair chunk of the way toward doing so.
Top of the league, more or less
Leicester came into the weekend – and spent the international break – top of the league. They’ve since been displaced by Chelsea and then Spurs, but the point remains they were the most in-form side up until a few days ago.
If this was the finest the league has to offer, we might as well tie those red ribbons back on now – Liverpool utterly annihilated them.
Of course, the Foxes won’t really be the closest thing to a title challenger this season, as both Spurs and City (presumably) will be far more consistent over the long term.
But this game has again shown that when it comes to the best, the most in-form, the most dangerous and the must-win, Liverpool have the ability not just to raise their game, but to beat, demoralise and make look extremely average the opposition. We did it to Leicester last year around Christmas when they were being spoken about as contenders, and we’ve done it again now when they were briefly league leaders.
Keep that relentlessness going, though: Atalanta, Brighton, Ajax, Wolves – all in the next 13 days.
We’re joint-top after nine games and the odds are with us being there alone after 38.