Ruthlessness was taken to a whole new level by this Liverpool of ours, on Saturday afternoon at Selhurst Park.
Jurgen Klopp’s side glided and danced their way to three points. Their footwork was immaculate. Swift and almost esoteric in movement, they punished every single inch of space they were afforded by Roy Hodgson’s side.
All of this, just days after musing that while good enough to hit the top of the Premier League, we were nowhere near the form we have attained in recent seasons.
There was a spell, with the scoreline at 1-0, when Crystal Palace looked the more likely team to score next. Promising situations were allowed to dissolve when the home side failed with the final ball, Jordan Ayew being the biggest offender.
Let Liverpool off the hook, and they will consume you.
This was a game that was not only a bit of a record-breaker, but it was also a game where there were positives to be found all over the pitch.
A marvellously taken goal by Takumi Minamino, within three minutes of the start, can only be a force of good.
Player’s confidence surely boosted; I was made up for him. No panic, just a very cool finish that wasn’t entirely representative of a player who has appeared to be carrying the weight of wearing a Liverpool shirt with an uncomfortable sense of unease.
Initially, to me at least, it seemed that Minamino’s first touch was an inadvertent one, from which he recovered to finish wonderfully. Viewed again, under the focus of a multitude of angles, I couldn’t have been more wrong. It was instead a first touch of great intelligence.
It was a goal entirely within the spirit of Klopp’s Liverpool. It was both manic and calm.
Klopp’s Liverpool is one of opposing contrasts. There is ruthlessness, yet it is delivered with a deftly cunning punchline. Those on the end of it are left with either a rueful smile on their face or contorted in rage.
Minamino’s cameos this season have largely been laced with fear. At times, he has hovered around the periphery of the action, arguably refusing to make himself a compelling option for receiving the ball.
At worst you could suggest he has hidden; at best he has been lacking in bravery.
This felt different, and hopefully Minamino can grow into his Liverpool career from here. More chances to impress will present themselves to him in the days and weeks ahead.
Patience is a rare commodity in contemporary football, but it is a virtue that can reap great dividends. Do you remember a time when Jordan Henderson was widely criticised?
That’s the Club World Cup, Champions League and Premier League-winning captain, Jordan Henderson; that’s the FWA Footballer of the Year, and BBC Sports Personality of the Year contender, Jordan Henderson.
Sometimes, the answers to big questions can come from within. Minamino has had an undeniably slow start to his first year in a Liverpool shirt, yet it doesn’t mean he can’t prosper over a longer period.
That’s not to say Minamino can reach the peaks of a Salah or a De Bruyne, but if we can see Saturday’s version of Minamino on a regular basis, then we have a compelling option at our disposal. One that can improve game-on-game.
Naby Keita fits in this category too.
Keita remains a polarising figure, yet he is a unique midfielder. When fit and available, he offers a little bit of everything. He has power, he has vision, he can carry the ball from deep, and there is a range of passing that is utterly penetrating.
In effect, as frustrating as his Liverpool career has been, he is the complete midfielder.
Patience is the key in respect of Keita. Maybe his time at Anfield will peter out in the same arc it has travelled thus far, but on the other hand, maybe patience will hit the jackpot with him.
Not so long ago, when Klopp was fielding a formation that was akin to a 4-2-4, I suggested that Keita was our most well-equipped midfielder to work the formation. It was a suggestion that went down like a lead balloon, but one I stand by, an opinion based only on the ability he possesses.
When it comes to the collective, Saturday – despite the awful combination of opposing kit colours (a total lack of consideration for the Deutan community) – proved to be absorbing viewing, a masterclass in finishing; a masterclass in movement and momentum. Football as art.
A splay of the most beautiful goals, from Minamino’s fleet of foot to open the scoring to Salah’s curled effort for the seventh, via the skill of Sadio Mane, the whimsical genius of a revitalised Bobby Firmino and the magnificence of Henderson.
The last goal of the day almost seemed like a peace offering, in response to the formulaic nature of Mo’s first goal, and Liverpool’s sixth.
This was a day when the seven goals scored were via the assists of seven different players. Three of them defenders. Even that awful black kit won itself some redemption from Villa Park.
Everybody bounced in this one, but Bobby was outrageousness personified. A true South American revolutionary. Imagine him in a militia beret, worn at a jaunty angle. He’ll be in control of La Paz by dawn.
Another bonus was delivered in the shape of the return to action of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who was given the last 15 minutes.
There was even a helping of visual comedy, as Mane sat, brooding over his early substitution, a few seats away from Bobby, who was in possession of the biggest smile in Croydon.
All in all, Selhurst Park was the perfect Christmas present.