There was to be no clean sheet for Liverpool but there were three brilliant finishes to notch yet another league victory, this time against Newcastle.
Eddie Howe may tell you that Diogo Jota‘s equaliser should not have been given the green light, but the Reds played to the whistle and his hypocrisy would be swiftly pointed out.
It made for another three points in the face of an uncertain future due to COVID-19 and This Is Anfield’s Joanna Durkan (@JoannaDurkan_) is joined by Aaron Cutler (@aaron_cutler) to discuss the win and what should happen next.
JOANNA: It was one of those games where it didn’t all click and while the defensive was largely untested, I thought Matip and Konate were brilliant.
They were like brick walls at times and they were composed when they had to be and were alert to the danger, something some may have been concerned about with Van Dijk out.
And who doesn’t love a good foray forward from Matip?!
AARON: Agreed, you can’t help but be impressed with Konate, who appears to grow in confidence (and stature!) with every appearance.
He may not have been expecting to start last night but stepped in for the COVID stricken van Dijk seamlessly.
The Frenchman is powerful, assertive and a good ball-playing centre-half considering his size. There’s hopefully plenty more to come from him.
JOANNA: There’s hardly a game that goes by that doesn’t have Salah’s influence all over it and it was another performance of purpose from Mo.
Bright, energetic and with constant movement, a killer for any defender. And while others may look to make it a headline, you love seeing how frustrated he is to be taken off with 16 minutes left.
AARON: Other standouts include Salah, who was frightening and of course Trent. That strike was Gerrard-esque but so too was the last-ditch tackle to prevent an equaliser at a time when the lads were toiling somewhat.
A mention too for Naby Keita, who looked bright when introduced.
Any areas to improve or weak points?
JOANNA: I think Thiago is the one here. Firstly, he’s brilliant and adds so much to the team but with his risk doesn’t always come reward as we saw with the opener and a few other cheaply given away balls.
Just needs to limit those errors as best he can while still leaning into what he does best – a balancing act.
AARON: Having threatened to run riot before the break there’s no getting away from the fact our second-half performance was disjointed and disappointing.
Whether that was complacency on our part, given the possession and chances created earlier, or Newcastle switching tactics, it did create some unnecessary tension. Trent’s goal, coming when it did, was actually a huge relief.
And adding to Joanna’s point, Thiago’s performance was also wayward. Even at his best, he has a tendency to play blind passes which present the opposition with gilt-edged chances. Perhaps Jurgen should tell him to only ever pass forwards…
And should there be a circuit breaker due to COVID?
AARON: Sadly I think some form of circuit breaker is now inevitable. That will be a huge blow to those of us that love festive football but the pressure is growing on the Premier League to act.
The counterargument is whether a short interval would have much impact, particularly when so many footballers have apparently refused to be vaccinated.
I like the plan laid out by This Is Anfield contributor Si Steers, who has called for games to be postponed only if a certain number of players (7) test positive 48 hours before a game. Recent evidence tells us the Premier League are short on ideas that are sensible. Not to mention leadership.
JOANNA: It’s a strange one and we all wish we didn’t have to discuss it anymore. I’m currently in the camp of let’s go by a game by game basis until it isn’t feasible.
Football is a microcosm of society and therefore you’ll see the same rise as we’re seeing elsewhere as they’re no longer in the bubble they were last year.
A break won’t necessarily change anything upon return and a fixture pile-up wouldn’t help anyone either. You don’t envy decision-makers here but if they’re trying to save Boxing Day, it’s a little late as the 10-day window has passed.