Liverpool’s first game back after the international break was about as strenuous as the average stroll in the park with a baby in the pram – cheers, Claudio!
Watford 0-5 Liverpool
Premier League (8), Vicarage Road
October 16, 2021
Goals: Mane 9′, Firmino 37′ 52′ 90+1′, Salah 54′
Bob back in the box
Give the ball to Bobby and he will score! More often than last season, anyway.
He scored nine in 48 last term, but has six in seven already this term. So assuming he plays the same number of games, we can look forward to a 41-goal haul this season. That’s how it works.
Perhaps not, but there’s no doubt Firmino is getting himself into those most advanced positions of all more in 2021/22 than he did for an awful lot of last year.
His first finish was a four-yard tap-in, the second a follow-up from similar and his hat-trick perhaps even closer.
Also, his Norwich goal was dispatched from just beyond the six-yard box on opening day and in Porto, his second came from a similar distance, reacting well to a deflection.
The outlier is his 40-yard effort after the Porto keeper went walkabout, which is always nice, but the No. 9 has to do all the work off the ball that Firmino does as well as contribute in those predatory, poacher zones.
He’s doing it, again.
Salah vs. Rose, Salah vs. the world
Everybody is getting on board with it now and we’re telling you right here: if Liverpool win the Champions League this term, Mo’s getting next year’s Ballon d’Or.
Poor Danny Rose was made to look the out-of-shape, washed-up footballer he is for the first 20 minutes, with Mo beating him three times including for the opener.
They put Sissoko on him, then Masina, then half the rest of the team, but nothing made much difference.
Salah’s goal was…outstanding, unreal, unbelievable, incredible, fire emojis, wtf, omg, so-good-we’re-laughing. And any other reaction you want which still doesn’t capture how superb it was.
He is right now the best player in the world and there is not even a question.
Milner in the middle
Time for a boring but true talking point and a bit of praise due for the old man in midfield.
It was not, we’ll acknowledge first, the most strenuous, skilful or speedy bunch of opponents he could have faced, that’s true.
But James Milner came in alongside Hendo and Keita in a mix-and-match, play-if-you’re-fit midfield and did extremely well for the role he had to do.
Milly overlapped, tucked in behind Robbo, linked quickly with Mane and provided a few good bursts into the box, including an assist for Firmino’s first.
Then he moved to right-back for 20 minutes and didn’t really put a foot wrong there either, almost getting another assist in the bargain.
Internationals and injuries for both full-backs, plus the need to play them over and over and with big games ahead, meant our first double sub of the game just after the hour mark was a very wise and very well-received one.
Trent and Robbo didn’t empty their energy levels after 64 minutes of jogging, but Ox and Kostas also got a very decent number of minutes on the pitch.
Neco Williams for the final sub was an optional one, but it probably makes sense to get him back involved in a comfortable setting, regardless of the end goal: fitness and rhythm, shop window for a loan or actually rediscovering a groove that could challenge for a place like Tsimikas does.
Milner got through a lot of running and might be needed in Madrid, after all – and Neco showed great work for a late assist of his own.
Liverpool, top of the league! Liverpool, Liverpool top of the league!
We’ll see how long it lasts, with Chelsea in action later in the evening, but the only important factors are the Reds back to winning ways, the post-international record remaining excellent and quite a few squad players getting a good 90 minutes in the tank – albeit out of necessity.
Now it’s onto Atletico Madrid and Champions League action – where our first-choice goalkeeper and defensive midfielder will be awaiting us and available to play again, which is nice.
Logistics and lineups for this season are quickly becoming a combination of squad rotation, Tetris and Jenga, but Jurgen’s doing alright so far.
It’s notionally our toughest game of the group stage now, away to the Spanish champions, but our performances and results so far mean it’s far from a must-win.
Not a midweek city break away exactly, but a trip the Reds (players and fans alike) should embrace and enjoy – and try to take the points from – rather than overly stressing about it.
Top of everything, have a good week!