It all clicked into place for Liverpool after an hour of dominance, when they brought on the player who can score goals for fun.
Arsenal 0-3 Liverpool
Premier League (30), Emirates
April 3, 2021
Goals: Jota 64′ 82′, Salah 68′
Something about Trent and England and Southgate
Trent Alexander-Arnold began the game impressively, making good decisions in attacking areas, setting up a couple of chances with neat pull-backs, and generally looking like his old self up and down the right flank.
He was also one of Liverpool’s most active defenders in terms of defensive actions, making two tackles and three interceptions.
It was one of four key passes he made in the game, capping off a really good display as he looked fresh, bright and inventive after having some time off during the international break.
Something about England? All that matters for Trent at the moment is what does for Liverpool.
Pre-Jota Liverpool struggle to make take chances
Imagine a time before Diogo Jota, when Liverpool lack a cutting edge in attack and can’t make their possession count.
When Liverpool are dominating Arsenal, playing some really good football up until the final kick of the ball.
Mikel Ar-ladyce’s side are shutting up shop, offering little in attack bar a Nicolas Pepe header which would have been called back for offside had it gone in.
A harmless Fabinho shot from distance, Salah losing the ball after good play from Alexander-Arnold, Andy Robertson crossing to Mane who can’t get the ball out of his feet, and Salah running into Gabriel.
Then imagine a time post-Jota.
Diogo ‘Dois Golos’ Jota
It took Liverpool 64 minutes to break Arsenal down, but it took Jota just four minutes to get on the scoresheet.
Lots of credit should go and has gone to Alexander-Arnold for the assist — a cross which Jota described as unreal — but his movement in the box in between the Arsenal defenders was something not offered prior to his arrival.
Jota feels like a goal threat every time the ball is at his feet. He’s able to strike shots with power, conviction and accuracy and get into good positions to do so.
He has around one goal every 90 minutes for the club this season and it were it not for the injury he’d be up there with Fabinho in the running to be named Liverpool’s player of the season.
By the end of the campaign, he still might be.
The Lighthouse Family
Liverpool’s midfield has been, for the most part of this season, just another poor performing part of an underperforming team.
Fabinho‘s shift to centre back and subsequent injury left the team without a recognised defensive midfielder for some time.
Those who were asked to fill these roles struggled as a result, and even naturally gifted new signing Thiago was trying to do too much to compensate. Curtis Jones was perhaps the only good performer in the middle of the park.
He’s completed the midfield and given it shape and solidity, binding it together into a unit rather than three players doing their own thing.
On top of this, he shields the back four and is perhaps of better use to a young/inexperienced centre-back pairing in front of two of them rather than alongside one of them.
Fabinho made four tackles in the first half alone, adding two more in the second half and finishing the game with a pass success of 89 per cent.
He was named Man of the Match by Sky, which was fully deserved despite Jota’s brace.
Did the 4-2-3-1 hint at Real Liverpool?
Jota’s introduction on the hour mark led to the unusual sight of Andy Robertson not being on the pitch for Liverpool this season.
Rather than replacing one of the front three, Jota replaced the Scottish left-back which saw James Milner drop from midfield to take Robertson’s place.
The domino effect then saw Firmino drop back into an attacking midfield position to accommodate Jota who played mostly as a striker.
For around 15 minutes until Firmino himself was substituted, Liverpool were playing a promising-looking 4-2-3-1 formation.
Did Real Madrid get a glimpse of what they might be facing on Tuesday? Many Liverpool fans will hope so.
The formation relieves the goalscoring burden from Firmino, but also allows Mane, Salah, and Jota to play in the same lineup.
There’s always a chance Firmino could sit Tuesday’s game out, but the quality this formation produced in that 17 minute period is difficult to ignore ahead of such a big tie.