In the context of the season, and their mounting injuries, Liverpool should not have breezed past Wolves so comfortably. But Sunday saw a title statement of authority.
There is an art form to being champions, and Liverpool are learning fast. While skill and ability are crucial, it’s all about authority and confidence; it is all about shaking off the blows and running at full pelt again in the very next match, no matter what parts keep falling off.
It is something which unnerves your rivals.
They see the blows being absorbed and they sit there, being all presumptuous, half in expectation, half in hopefulness, that an escalating injury crisis and an unforgiving beginning to the fixture list will soften you up.
When you’re the champions your rivals scrutinise your every move, every turn of fate’s card, focusing on any potential sign of vulnerability.
Jurgen Klopp’s team have absorbed two or three seasons’ worth of body blows within the first quarter of the defence of their Premier League title, yet based on performances, both collectively and individually, to the untrained eye you’d never know it.
New and unexpected heroes have sprung forth, not only shoring up what should be some massively devastating voids but excelling within them.
There was so much to like about Sunday evening’s victory over what is a very talented Wolves side, a Wolves side that in the early exchanges showed no signs of ending the game on the end of a 4-0 hammering.
One of those unexpected heroes, Caoimhin Kelleher, in for his Premier League debut, pulled off a smart save with the scoreline still goalless, when Daniel Podence attempted an audacious chip towards the top left-hand corner of the Kop end goal.
It was an attempted chip that any of Liverpool’s front three would have been proud to call their own.
This was an authoritative save from Kelleher, made at a Kop end that was inhabited by 1,500 Reds (our very own Jeff Goulding among them), the first blessed souls to make the pilgrimage to Anfield since March, from where they were able to issue the long-awaited demand to “bring on the champions.”
Seven minutes after Kelleher’s moment of goalkeeping magic, Liverpool had a lead that they never really looked likely to relinquish.
It was a ruthless and stylish finish from a Mo Salah who was busy showing intermittent signs of re-entering that state of zen-like football of a couple of seasons ago. If this proves to be a teaser trailer for another mad run of 2018/19 form, then it will be a chilling image to the rest of the Premier League.
A goal that was gift-wrapped by the former Liverpool player, Conor Coady, it was his first mistake of an evening that would spectacularly unravel for him.
Mooted by many as a potential option for the transfer window, Coady is a far better defender than Sunday night suggested, but the signs are that we might not necessarily need to venture into the transfer market – at least not with the sort of haste that would see us quoted inflated transfer fees.
His partnership with Joel Matip has bags of potential, and I think the latter’s goal might just be one of my favourite things ever.
While Georginio Wijnaldum’s magnificent goal drew much-deserved love, it was so good that it took a great deal of attention from the fact that there were supporters on the Kop to celebrate it, with the Netherlands international wheeling away to imbibe the moment with a run in the general direction of Van Dijk.
Within this, Matip’s unconfined joy at plundering the third goal of the night, something he celebrated in front of a living and breathing Kop, will be hard to dislodge from being one of the – if not the – best images of the campaign.
A fourth goal bobbled in by Nelson Semedo, via a marvellous cross from the returning Trent Alexander-Arnold, was the cherry on the cake.
Alexander-Arnold making it on to the pitch, along with Naby Keita, reverses the flow of injuries. The presence of both will be vital during the escalating festive period.
This game was a test of Liverpool’s credentials as champions, and it was passed with ease. Yet it was only easy because of the levels of authority which Klopp and his players are dealing in.
Being the last of the ‘big six’ to play of a weekend, when those around you have picked off valuable victories, isn’t a simple task. Despite it still being relatively early in the season, we’ve reached the stage where shapes and patterns start to take hold.
Chelsea and Tottenham are showing signs of stubbornness, while Man City are now picking off wins and were never going to remain docile indefinitely. Even a couple of back-to-back comeback victories have improved Man United’s position.
Next weekend, we again get to watch them all play before we take to the pitch, this time at Craven Cottage against Fulham. They’ll all be feeling good about themselves, yet simultaneously fearful of how the wheels are remaining attached to the Anfield machine.
With our midweek Champions League duties against Midtjylland taking on those of a pre-season hue, Klopp can shepherd his squad in a simplified manner this week.
He can essentially name his team to take on Fulham first, then cut his cloth accordingly against our Norwegian friends.
Focus remains the key though. If the Reds stay in an authoritative frame of mind, then when it comes to our rivals, there will simply be no living with us.