A stunning all-round display from Liverpool saw Jurgen Klopp‘s side extend their lead at the top of Group D following their 5-0 rout at Atalanta, leaving plenty to discuss post-match.
From back to front, it was a complete performance from the Reds in Italy as what was set to be one of their sternest tests yet was, in fact, their best outing this calendar year.
Three points and a third successive clean sheet in Europe maintained Liverpool’s 100 percent start and has them in an enviable position ahead of the competitions’ reverse fixtures.
Here, This Is Anfield’s Joanna Durkan (@JoannaDurkan_) is joined by Ben Twelves (@bm12s) and Scott Groom (@ScottCGroom) to discuss all the highs and the very few lows from Liverpool’s victory and the Reds’ emphatic response following Virgil van Dijk‘s injury.
SCOTT: Well, where else is there to start other than Jota. What a performance!
He’s been really good of late, makes smart runs, works hard and gets into great positions. When he’s in those positions, boy can he finish. He was excellent again tonight and is in a real rich vein of form.
Mane and Salah dovetailed really nicely with him too, with both looking sharp. Rhys Williams at the back was superb as well as Jones in the middle. Two very composed performances from the youngsters.
BEN: Well, where to start?! It was just about as perfect a night as you could have wished for. A magnificent result and top-class performance in our toughest fixture in the group.
I have to say I loved how complete the performance was. From back to front the Reds were superb, not allowing a highly dangerous, free-scoring opponent a sniff (until taking our foot off the gas) and punishing them ruthlessly. For me it was one of our very best performances under Klopp in any competition, considering it came with practically half a team missing!
Like Scott, I thought the two youngsters – Jones and Williams – were outstanding, especially the latter who marshalled the handful that is Duvan Zapata brilliantly.
In truth there were fantastic performances all over the pitch; I thought Alisson was quietly impressive, Wijnaldum and Gomez too – but obviously from that man Diogo. No doubt this boy is a Liverpool player – and what a player he is and will be.
What has amazed me most is the way he has just slotted straight in and got down to business. Our younger signings under Klopp have gone through an adaptation period but there’s been none of that for Jota who has hit the ground running and then some.
It’s even more impressive considering the circumstances and it’s been hugely helpful at a vital time in this condensed season. A truly brilliant signing.
One final thing – it makes a nice change to be able to enjoy a Champions League group stage. Recent campaigns have not been for the faint-hearted but the way we have dominated this group so far – with away wins secured at the tough grounds – has been a brilliant effort, again given the situation.
JOANNA: Both Scott and Ben have hit the nail on the head with their praise of Jota, a truly mesmeric performance which makes him all but undroppable for the weekend.
What stood out most for me though, was that it truly looked like the team were just having a blast. It’s been a tough slog recently but you could tell they were enjoying every minute of the game and relishing both their defensive and offensive duties.
It was also enjoyable to hear Hendo non-stop with no crowd noise on the coverage, how he doesn’t lose his voice after every game is beyond me!
Wijnaldum and Jones deserve plaudits as well, with the latter putting in his best performance for Liverpool’s first-team, but I need to commend Gomez here. He’s really stood up the task in guiding his new centre-back partners after shifting to the left – this could be the making of a different side to him.
Most of all, the three points should enable us to rotate with greater effectiveness at the latter stages, as Ben noted we have not been able to do so under Klopp as we prefer the nailbiting finishes so it will come as a welcome change.
The not so good…
SCOTT: I don’t think there was too much room for concern tonight. It was a complete European away performance.
If there’s anything that can be seen as a negative I suppose is another 90 minutes in the legs of Salah and Mane and almost a full game for Gini.
The schedule is pretty intense at the moment so it would’ve been nice to see one more of the front three given more of a rest, especially ahead of City at the weekend. Hopefully, Thiago is back in the squad giving Gini the chance to have a bit of a rest. We’ll see.
BEN: The only concern for me was seeing Jota limping as he was taken off. Fingers crossed it’s nothing too heavy for Portugal’s best footballer.
Being super picky, Atalanta had some avoidable moments in the second-half – they probably deserved a goal on the night – but these mainly came after we’d started to relax and conserve energy.
JOANNA: It really was a well-rounded display with very little to pick at.
I’d agree with Scott in the sense that I was surprised we waited so long to make the substitutions but it did make more sense to switch out the full-backs, Jota and Henderson as Mane and Salah have already been handed a ‘break’.
And thankfully, it seems as though there isn’t a lot to worry about over Jota following his knock but that would be the only sour note from the evening if it does prove a sore one.
And how impressed have you been with the Reds’ response since the loss of Van Dijk?
SCOTT: Every time you think about the fact that Van Dijk won’t be playing football again for the Reds for a very long time, you remember how devastating a blow it was.
Following that, the setback for Matip and then Fabinho pulling up last week, it was a horrible situation. But we’ve smashed it ever since.
Nat Phillips looked solid against West Ham and Rhys Williams has stepped up to the plate when he’s been called upon too. I think we forgot when Virgil got injured that this is the team of self-professed mentality monsters, and they’re showing just that now.
Sheer resilience and professionalism from Klopp’s boys.
BEN: I must admit I didn’t expect us to adapt so well, so quickly to losing the world’s best centre-back. Five straight wins, and more to the point, only conceding two goals while keeping three clean sheets in the process has been an incredible, defiant response.
It has handed a nice reminder to opponents that we are not some kind of one-man team that is going to implode – that sort of talk did a real disservice to the other top-class players we have at the back.
I think the key thing here is it’s not just how the defence have regrouped without Virgil, but the way the whole squad and management has played a part.
Those who have stepped in – Fabinho, Williams and Phillips – have all done a fantastic job, but the way the midfield has worked to provide that little bit of extra security and the how the attack has fired when we’ve needed it most has been a great help to relieving some of the pressure at the back.
And Klopp adjusting the ultra-high line, dropping slightly deeper, has allowed the younger lads to come into a more comfortable system, eliminating some of the risks of not being fully at ease with the demands. That has contributed to their polished performances.
Klopp mentioned last night how the responsibility now falls on the team’s collective shoulders going forward and everyone has stepped up. Long may it continue!
The best bit is that Liverpool’s best performance of 2020 arrived with perfect timing ahead of facing Man City on Sunday. We can go there with confidence fully restored and take the game to them.
JOANNA: I wasn’t expecting the worst, but I certainly wasn’t expecting five wins on the bounce and for three of those to include a clean sheet.
It’s a testament to the resilience and mental fortitude this team possess but there is no doubt outsiders slashing their chances and adding a question mark to their ability to retain the title without Van Dijk has galvanised them.
This team thrive on an underdog mentality and it’s seen them dig their heels in and protect one another, notably the defence.
This season will continue to be a hard slog but the Reds have shown themselves and everyone else that you can never write them off – as after all the whole is greater than the sum of their parts.