Despite conceding first yet again, Liverpool bounced back to hammer Rangers 7-1 and go a big step closer to making the Champions League last 16.
Rangers 1-7 Liverpool
Champions League (4), Ibrox
October 12, 2022
Goals: Arfield 17′; Firmino 23′ 54′, Nunez 66′, Salah 75′ 80′ 81′, Elliott 87′
Rotation for rest ahead of the massive weekend test
Perhaps more surprising was that Mo Salah joined him; the winger – that’s what he is again this season after years of top scoring – came off after 70 against Arsenal but, presumably, Jurgen Klopp has big plans for him against the reigning champions, because he’s usually an every-match starter.
It does look as though the double pivot midfield is here to stay, for now at least, which made for some interesting auditions, to an extent, for the weekend game.
Who had Bobby Firmino joint-top scorer in mid-October? Two on the night, his first in Europe since Benfica in last season’s quarter-finals, put him on eight for the season.
Side-note, viewers in the UK would have heard the commentator say “an unmarked Firmino” headed in the equaliser; odd to have a defender pulling your shirt and even get a slight touch on the ball yet still not be marked by him.
He’s a man in form in front of goal, showing really good movement outside the box and a big willingness to break into the six-yard box at every opportunity.
Moreover, his link play with the pair on the sides was good and the attacking threat from Firmino never comes at the expense of his work rate outside the area.
It was a surprise when he was left out against Arsenal last weekend in truth; he might have come in here because of injuries and rotations but it’s still a brave person who would bet that our No. 9 doesn’t start against City.
Liverpool don’t have huge numbers of players right now who are on top of their game, so can they really afford to leave out a forward who is?
Six minutes, 12 seconds!
Not quite Fowler-esque, but not bad at all from Salah – the fastest-ever Champions League hat-trick.
We’re going to leave this short and sweet: stop trying to force Mo to be merely a playmaker. He is our best goalscorer. Let him do that – he’s also now on eight this term.
It was a tired and rubbish Rangers, fine, but he still showed what composure and classic finishing ability he has. Make the most of it!
If the 4-4-2 stays in place against City, and we assume now it will be, it should be Firmino and Salah as the two in attack. Simple.
On a wider note, the late-match onslaught was really good to see. The Reds rampant and relentless and just like things used to be. Keep it up!
Konate straight back to business
One game back and Ibou Konate might well be Liverpool’s best centre-back right now.
He’s certainly the most in-form and sharpest-looking, given one is injured, one is at right-back and Van Dijk, to be frank, was poor again on the night.
The French centre-back was absolutely dominant in the air all game long, made a couple of rapid recoveries to eat up ground and clear danger and produced one superb sliding block to stop what was otherwise surely a goal.
It’s almost an irrelevance in that he has to start at the moment due to injuries elsewhere, but his own return couldn’t be better-timed in that regard.
Konate needs to be every bit as good as this at the weekend and beyond – he’s certainly capable and he’s started in the best way.
Hits and misses
Will the real Fabinho please stand up? There were a few decent moments of first-time passes, quick knocks on and breaking up play by fair means or foul, but our Brazilian midfielder looks about 30 percent of his usual self.
Jordan Henderson was the better performer in possession, but both – and in a double-pivot the whole point is to act as a pairing – were again extremely lacking in their defensive duties.
The aforementioned Konate block came from a runner from deep; so did the goal.
Too many other occasions still stemmed from opposition runners or passes through the middle – this has to be fixed, whichever the central combo is.
Elsewhere, Joe Gomez at right-back started a little slow (and got lucky with a shocker of a backpass) but improved markedly.
His assist for Bobby’s second was a delight and he showed some really strong one-on-one defensive work at times.
Elliott gets a pass for the night, decent without being electric, but on the other side Carvalho still needs time and plenty of lessons to be learned, not least of all timing and weighting of passes and decision-making of when to do so.
Up front, Darwin Nunez was 50-50 this time: hard-working and a bit frustrated with getting blocked off by defenders, but then scoring with his final touch.
Champions League: Mission very nearly accomplished
Thanks to Napoli right now being the most ridiculously attack-minded and exceptional team on the planet not called Man City, we are very, very nearly there.
Three straight wins put us needing just a point from our last two group fixtures to seal a top-two finish in the group, which would be nice to seal in Amsterdam and leave us free to do whatever is needed with the lineup in the final match against Napoli, given the fixture congestion.
But more than that, it was of course important to simply return to winning ways.
It won’t count for much in the eyes of some because of the opposition, because it’s not in the Premier League and because we’re too inconsistent game-to-game, but improvement has to start somewhere.
It may as well start with a 7-1 thrashing, Rangers’ heaviest-ever competitive defeat and a massive step towards European football in the new year, right?!
On to City, then…