Liverpool produced a highly impressive performance to win 3-1 away to Tottenham on Thursday night, as the champions sealed a massive three points.
Tottenham 1-3 Liverpool
Premier League (20), Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
January 28, 2021
Goals: Firmino 45′, Alexander-Arnold 47′, Mane 65′; Hojbjerg 49′
Experience prevails as Reds finally win again
Who else forgot what a Premier League win felt like? It has been over a month, after all, and was their first in the competition in 2021.
On a night when so much transpired against Liverpool once again, from more injuries to a poor VAR call, they were a cut above Spurs.
Jurgen Klopp named a starting lineup with an average age of 29 years and 15 days – the oldest he has ever fielded during his time at Anfield – and that experience shone through.
With their backs against the wall, Liverpool needed to be as professional as possible, and having the likes of Jordan Henderson, Thiago and James Milner all on the pitch proved priceless.
Henderson was a rock in an auxiliary centre-back role, Milner was ferocious at the heart of the midfield and Thiago was a mix of world-class quality on the ball and hard work off it.
Roberto Firmino, who turns 30 later this year, was also much more like his normal self, finding the net and then holding the ball up superbly.
Klopp is a keen advocate of youth, but experienced heads were the key in north London.
Gini & Thiago thrive in reversed roles
Some of the frustration in recent weeks has revolved around Klopp’s use of Thiago, playing him too deep to affect games in which opponents have adopted low blocks.
The Liverpool boss made a key switch in the middle of the park on Thursday, however, giving Gini Wijnaldum the No. 6 role and affording his teammates more freedom.
It proved to be an inspired decision by Klopp, with both midfielders pivotal in one of the Reds’ most important wins of the season.
Wijnaldum is arguably ideal in a deeper position where less attacking thrust is required, and his physicality, positional sense and ball retention all caught the eye. He was everywhere.
Meanwhile, Thiago strutted his way through proceedings, as mentioned, looking more at home off the leash and having a greater impact in the final third.
Moving forward, this looks like an ideal midfield setup, also allowing Henderson to slot back into a No. 8 role when he can return to midfield.
Trent makes welcome return to form
In a season full of individuals failing to reach past heights, Trent Alexander-Arnold has arguably been more culpable than anyone.
The 22-year-old has looked a lost soul at times, pumping aimless crosses into the box and being caught out defensively on numerous occasions.
Alexander-Arnold was a Man of the Match contender against Spurs, though, looking far more like the world’s premier right-back.
His use of the ball was far more purposeful than in recent weeks, bending passes in behind the defence and linking well with others, and he had a major impact in the final third.
Alexander-Arnold lashed a ruthless finish past Hugo Lloris to put Liverpool 2-0 up – his first goal of the season – before turning provider for Sadio Mane‘s match-clinching strike.
The boyhood Red is still so young, and it is only natural that he will have dips, but this was a timely reminder of his ability.
Matip excellent…until business as usual!
If ever a game summed up Joel Matip, this was it.
For 45 minutes, the 29-year-old was silkiness personified, cruising through the game and making one inch-perfect interception to deny Son Heung-min.
As the players walked in at half-time, Matip was being lauded by Liverpool fans across the globe, only to never return to the field.
Injury yet again saw the Cameroonian frustratingly depart and a makeshift centre-back pairing of Henderson and Nat Phillips admirably battled until the final whistle.
Matip has now only completed consecutive league games once this season, which simply isn’t good enough, especially with Fabinho now sidelined, too.
Liverpool have had 16 different centre-back partnerships in their last 20 matches – and eye-watering statistic that sums up their struggles this season.
For Matip, it is getting to the point where Klopp may have to give up on him, even though he is outstanding when fit.
Liverpool primed for victory at West Ham
This was such an important win for Klopp’s men, with anything other than three points again handing further momentum to Man City in the title race.
This feels like a defining week in Liverpool’s campaign, and having hurdled one tough away outing, another one soon arrives on Sunday.
The Reds head to a West Ham side brimming with confidence and sitting fifth in the table – one place and two points adrift of the champions.
If Liverpool can come away from the London Stadium with another win, it would feel like a seismic shift in confidence for the team, showing that they aren’t out of the fight just yet.
On the flip side, failure to win, and especially a defeat, would feel like a hammer blow after such a pleasing night at Spurs.
We will find out a lot about this team’s title chances at the weekend.