Liverpool were collectively and individually superb as the Reds eased to a 3-0 win over a strong Aston Villa side at Anfield.
Liverpool 3-0 Aston Villa
Premier League (4), Anfield
September 3, 2023
Goals: Szoboszlai 3′, Cash (OG) 22′, Salah 55′
Alisson (out of 10) – 8
Good goalkeepers make four out of six saves per game, but the very best make one out of one.
Did it again here when stopping a bullet header early in the second half – his positioning made it look a simple save, but not many keepers get into the right starting position as reliably as he does.
Used less in buildup today, Liverpool instead playing out in a 4-2-4 shape using all of the defenders, but was comfortable on the ball when called upon.
Trent Alexander-Arnold – 9
A first time walking the Reds out as captain at Anfield and looked up to the task.
Liverpool’s shape saw him shift from right-back to almost a right-sided centre-back position in possession, with licence to step into midfield.
Played some gorgeous progressive passes to try and exploit Villa’s high line, grabbed an assist for the opener and started off the second, though some of his long-range shooting was wayward.
Limped off after a robust challenge – hopefully just a precaution.
Joel Matip – 7
Looked an ill fit as a de facto right-back against the pace of Villa’s front line, but was strong in possession and played his part in a deserved clean sheet.
Missed a great chance to score at 2-0, but great to see him carrying an aerial threat in the absence of Van Dijk and Konate.
Joe Gomez – 8
One passage of play in the first half summed him up: perfect starting position, great anticipation to read the counter attack, rapid pace to get the ball…then slipped over and let Villa in on goal.
Showed so much of why he remains in the squad, if not a first-choice starter, including a few impressive bursts forward at right back after Alexander-Arnold was removed.
Andy Robertson – 7
Looked more comfortable playing as a left-back rather than a left-sided centre-back, as Liverpool defended with four rather than three in the last line.
Lovely in-swinging corner for the third goal and finished the game as skipper.
Alexis Mac Allister – 8
Did so many little things well, like moving into space to receive the ball rather than asking for it to his feet.
Often dropped deep to help retain and possess the ball but wasn’t an out-and-out No. 6, working in tandem with Alexander-Arnold to take up the pivot position.
Looked more comfortable as a result.
Dominik Szoboszlai – 9 (Man of the Match)
He’s a belter!
Scored an absolute worldie to take an early lead – seriously, the technique is world class, on his weak foot too – and constantly joined the forward line in attack.
Some great crosses from wide and from set-pieces, and he allowed Salah to get into dangerous central areas as a result.
We’ve finally added goals from midfield!
Curtis Jones – 7
Looked to be the No. 6 from the teamsheet but actually used in his preferred left-sided No. 8 position.
Was able to pull wide as a result, allowing Diaz into more dangerous central areas as well as constantly offering a pass.
Not a foot wrong on his return to the starting lineup.
Mohamed Salah – 8
Scored a good poacher’s goal and could have had an excellent assist for Nunez in the second half.
He’s added holdup play to his running in behind this season, which made him a great outlet against Villa’s high defensive line.
Could have been quicker with his final ball or shot a couple of times in the second half.
Luis Diaz – 8
Continued his efforts to be more central and more decisive, but wasn’t able to get on the scoresheet.
Jones’ wide positions behind him allowed him to play one-vs-one against his defender more often, but the final pass wasn’t quite there.
Would have scored on another day.
Darwin Nunez – 8
What a player he is! Entertainment galore.
His high press is technically poor, yet it led to the corner for our first goal. He should have scored the second, but it cannoned off the post and into Matty Cash for a goal anyway.
Missed a sitter for a potential third, but then got the assist for Salah to make it 3-0 – they certainly have a good connection and some of their link-up was excellent.
Harvey Elliot (on for Jones, 64′) – 7
Full of beans and looked determined to make an impact. Had one decent effort go wide.
Diogo Jota (on for Diaz, 64′) – 6
Didn’t make much of an impression as Villa looked to limit the damage and deny space for Liverpool’s forwards.
Cody Gakpo (on for Nunez, 64′) – 7
Immediately offered more security and linkup play than Núnez but no standout attacking contributions. Not a problem when you’re 3-0 up.
Jarell Quansah (on for Alexander-Arnold, 74′) – 7
The Reds were just seeing the game out at this stage so an ideal time for a home debut.
Wataru Endo (on for Mac Allister, 87′) – N/A
First outing in the James Milner sub role, which might be where he’s best used.
Subs not used: Kelleher, Tsimikas, Bajcetic, Doak
Jurgen Klopp – 9
Followed up maybe his best-ever coaching performance at Liverpool with another excellent display.
The 4-2-4 shape was perfect for a game of two high defensive lines, covering the lack of a specialist No. 6 and protecting the pairing of his third- and fourth-choice centre-backs.
Rewarding Nunez for his heroics last week was great man-management, and he handled Jones’ reintroduction from injury superbly.
Even used all five subs, having been criticised for not doing so when he was so supportive of the rule being introduced.
Now the game’s over I’m allowed to say it: I’m so glad that Jurgen is a Red!