Norwich 0-3 Liverpool
Carrow Road, Premier League
14 August, 2021
Goals: Jota 26′, Firmino 65′, Salah 74′
Forwards back on the front line
Whatever else we want to take from the opening weekend of the season, the big focus should be on several players contributing to the Reds’ attack, the real feeling that we have four potential starters now, not three and a collection.
Jota had started extremely well, but Firmino didn’t miss a beat either.
That’s exactly the competition the Reds need, all over the pitch.
Debates over whether he would return yet or not have proved academic: Virgil van Dijk glided through a full 90 minutes, barely putting a foot wrong and looking stronger by the end of the game than at the start.
There were of course a few missteps, such as a moment of poor control, a runner in behind him in the first half which he didn’t spot a soon as he would have at his peak.
But there was much to admire about his game too, and his reprised partnership with Joel Matip as a whole.
It might be the case that the Reds ‘manage’ his game time for a while, maybe coming out for the odd game to allow him to build up his load at a tolerable pace, but for all intents and purposes, Big Virg is back.
Who took their chance?
A handful of vaguely unfamiliar faces in the starting XI, then, compared to last year’s predictable run of line-ups by necessity.
Naby Keita played largely well, not spectacular but filling Wijnaldum’s role effectively behind play and keep possession more often than most.
Ox was busy, but not quite brilliant; it wasn’t the biggest surprise to see him go off after an hour but his pre-season showings suggest there’s more to come. A start should be taken as a positive.
Kostas Tsimikas was the pick of the bunch, sharp and powerful from left-back, defensively tenacious and with some very good deliveries.
Too often last year it seemed the boss was hesitant about making changes in-game, so it’s right that he should be lauded for taking swift action here.
Enter Fab and Bob on the hour, to immediately change the swing of the game and effectively wrap up the result within minutes.
A late cameo for Harvey Elliott will also boost the youngster, minimal involvement but a show of faith and a taste of what’s to come.
Onto Burnley and beyond
Objective No.1 for the start of the season is pretty simple: get to that Chelsea game without having dropped a point.
Burnley, who lost their opener at home to Brighton, will still be a tough task of course. But not a whole lot different to this encounter in that we’ll have spells of possession, will need the forwards to be clinical and have to deal with the specific threat they possess at times.
The usual difficult, bruising, tenacious Premier League encounter, in other words.
Win that and we’ll be ready for what will doubtless be termed an early test of title credentials, but there’s little sense looking ahead.
Burnley, after all, are the club who ended the Reds’ long, long unbeaten Anfield run at the start of that abysmal form last season – we owe them!