Positivity was the order of the day after Liverpool’s 4-0 win at home to Wolves, with Gini Wijnaldum‘s outstanding performance leading to a discussion over his future.
The Reds were at their unstoppable best at Anfield, as 2,000 returning fans were treated to a Premier League exhibition.
Mohamed Salah gave Liverpool a 1-0 lead at the interval, with Wolves having a penalty overturned by VAR seconds before half-time.
Wijnaldum finished brilliantly in front of the Kop to make it 2-0 in the second half, before Joel Matip bulleted home a header and Nelson Semedo conceded an own goal to round off the scoring.
Here, This Is Anfield’s Henry Jackson (@HenryJackson87) discusses Liverpool’s perfect performance with John O’Sullivan (@NotoriousJOS) and Taintless Red (@TaintlessRed), as well as dissecting Wijnaldum’s future.
JOHN: First and foremost, the win and the clean sheet. After a disjointed opening 20 minutes, Liverpool were sublime.
Kelleher once again looked comfortable at the highest level, and Matip and Fabinho mesh together well at centre-half.
Neco Williams, mirroring the team, didn’t start fantastically but was very solid thereafter. After all the abuse he’s had to deal with from a certain section of online fans, you could only be pleased for him.
The fluidity of the midfield stood out a mile. All three of Henderson, Jones and Wijnaldum were superb individually, but the way in which they interchanged positionally, taking turns to play as the deepest player, flummoxed Wolves.
You’d never believe Jones was 19; his maturity and tactical intelligence far belie his tender years.
In attack, Salah was excellent, while Firmino is slowly coming back into form. Mane looks a bit jaded, but he still gave his all and was helping out in marking the dangerous Adama Traore.
HENRY: As John alludes to, it was a night of positives galore at Anfield. One player not mentioned is Robbo, though, who I thought was Man of the Match. He is the best left-back in the world at the moment, bar none.
I think this was another statement victory, much like the one against Leicester a couple of weeks ago. The rest of the league will have seen it as a potential banana skin, especially with so many key men out, but it was men vs. boys at Anfield.
The other obvious positive was the return of fans, which was a genuine joy to see. I can’t have been the only one who got a bit emotional when Klopp fist-pumped the Kop.
I think we can all agree that football without fans may not be ‘nothing’, but it’s nowhere near as special.
RED: Echoing Henry, the only one place to start for me is the fans. It was fantastic to have 2,000 back in the stadium and they made as much noise as 10 times as many.
Then there’s Jones, who played with the maturity of an experienced pro. In his earliest outings for the senior team, his talent was clear but he often left spaces in midfield as he vacated at the wrong moments looking to attack.
This eventually led to him struggling away to Ajax and Klopp substituted him at half-time.
He then spent a bit of time out of the team, focused on training, and when he returned there was a marked change in his positional play out of possession.
He covers his other midfielders much better, he holds when his full-back goes forward, he recycles possession safely in our third, but looks to take more risks in transition or further forward.
He is still learning but he deserves huge praise.
I also loved how when Traore swapped sides at half-time to try to target Neco, but Salah started regularly sprinting back before the ball got to his side of the pitch so he was already in a defensive position to help when he did receive the ball.
That’s teamwork, and Liverpool are some team.
JOHN: Coady’s dive. It was blatant gamesmanship from the boyhood Red. The dexterity Mane showed to not foul him and withdraw his leg mid-air was remarkable, but the dive was so calculated.
Elements of the English media whinge when foreign players go down easily, but there were no irate protests centred on Sterling and Coady’s clear dives this weekend.
HENRY: John is only right to mention Coady’s dive, which was inexcusable.
He seems a really good lad but if this was a foreign player, like Salah for example, there would be pundits sprinting to their house with pitchforks.
All we want is for each player to be treated the same – either criticise everyone or accept that diving is simply part of the game.
RED: In a game as good as this I can’t think of anything bad from our team, like the other lads.
My only issue is Coady’s dive – that’s a full house!
This was clearly both cheating and a dive, but there was little mention or criticism from the media during or after the game.
And yet Salah is still getting criticised for winning a penalty after being kicked weeks ago.
We talk about inconsistencies in refereeing a lot, but there are some distasteful inconsistencies among football pundits and journalists, too.
And should Liverpool be doing everything to tie Gini down to a new deal?
JOHN: It is imperative that Liverpool tie Wijnaldum down.
If it’s a financial reason, just pay the man. An extra few quid a week is a drop in the ocean compared to what it would take to sign a player of his broad skill-set.
If it comes down to the length of contract, then the Reds need to alter their approach. Yes, he’s 30, but his fitness record and durability means he is a special case.
He is comfortably navigating the toughest slog of a season in living memory and has shown no signs of slowing down.
His quality, leadership and popularity in the changing room mean Liverpool need to pull out all the stops to keep him.
HENRY: I totally agree. You only had to watch Wijnaldum’s performance last night to see how priceless he is to this Liverpool team, so retaining his services is vital.
He has arguably been Liverpool’s Player of the Year so far this season, and that ability to stay fit and perform so consistently is huge, like John said.
Klopp has made it clear he wants him to stay on and there are almost no negatives behind that happening.
You know what to do, Gini – Barcelona are crap these days!
RED: John and Henry make it clear how big Wijnaldum’s contribution to this team has been, and I completely agree.
He is always fit, always gives everything and has played in more positions than even Milner. His press-resistance is incredible and his tactical intelligence out of possession is possibly the best in our squad.
Klopp would love to keep him, but I do not believe the decision is down to the manager or the club – it’s down to Gini and what he wishes to do with his career and his life. His decision should be respected either way.
Jurgen has always been quite relaxed when players see out their contracts. Klopp compared the Gini situation to Emre Can recently, and said he has no issues if a player sees out their contract.
Similar situations happened at Dortmund, so long as the player is giving his best, Klopp is happy.
I think I speak for many when I say I hope Gini will extend his stay, but if he does leave – which I expect – he will depart as a legend.