Liverpool returned to form and winning ways on Sunday to beat Brentford 3-0 at Anfield – and enter the international break in the top two.
Liverpool 3-0 Brentford
Premier League (12), Anfield
November 12, 2023
Goals: Salah 39′ 62′, Jota 74′
Another altered midfield
Perhaps an element of needs-must, given absences in that area of the park, but Jurgen Klopp‘s mix-and-match midfield was a curious one to say the least.
Wataru Endo in particular could consider himself fortunate to be in the starting lineup after a dismal showing and half-time substitution in midweek, while Cody Gakpo was decidedly unimpressive from an attacking midfield role much earlier this season.
In truth, neither impressed again here.
Endo is fine in possession; economical, able to carry it on occasions, braver in his passing than midweek and always available to receive it short from team-mates.
But defensively he’s simply not strong or imposing enough to stop runners coming directly onto him, and not quick enough to catch them up either once they are past.
As for Gakpo, this was more of the same: the odd flash of immense technique and ability to strike the ball from range, but mostly just a match spent on the periphery, following play around but not dictating it and waiting for moments rather than making them happen.
Just 34 touches by the hour mark, playing central midfield, and 45 by the time he was subbed with seven minutes to play, says it all.
Darwin on the spot…many times over
The ball in the net twice and an assist in the first half – shame only one of them counted.
This was Darwin Nunez at his most electric, his most involved, his most unfortunate not to have two or three goals by the break.
One thunderous shot was parried out, after a one-two ended in a fierce drive at the ‘keeper.
Several tackles and some good counter-pressing showed his all-round endeavour, while he was also riling the all-too-quiet crowd up after closing down one defender.
All that, aside from the actual goals which stood and didn’t stand.
His first disallowed was for the most marginal of offside decisions, reacting well to finish as a mis-hit effort fell his way, while the second was offside by a wider margin, though a more spectacular finish as an overhead kick ended up top corner.
Shrugging aside those disappointments, his turn and feed into Mohamed Salah was a well-worked assist and, on a wider-lens view of the attack, it is pretty safe to say the at the Salah-Nunez-Jota triumvirate is the one with greatest cohesion between the three at this stage, even if the Portuguese hasn’t been at his best in linkup play at times.
Salah, meanwhile, hit the 200-goal mark in English football – two weren’t for us, so let’s hope he brings up 200 for the club next time out, hey…
Star spine just when you need it
Liverpool have a whole bunch of new faces and backup faces in the team at the moment, it’s fair to say.
But a few of the old guard remain, and it’s always worth getting the reminder that they are still here after years of success because they remain exceptional players.
This time, Anfield received that reminder from each.
Alisson, for starters, produced his customary moment of elite-level shot-stopping, keeping the Reds level at 0-0 after we’d dominated but gave up a massive opening.
His one-on-one stop to deny Bryan Mbeumo came at a critical moment just a few minutes before Salah opened the scoring – while Ali also made another fine claw-away late in the game to help preserve the clean sheet.
Ahead of him, Virgil van Dijk had one of his best games in some time, including two moments of great timing to deny Mbeumo in a dribble and then Neal Maupay in an attempted diving header from two yards.
And, of course, there’s Salah at the other end of the pitch – cool as you like with two finishes, one left foot and one header, to seal the win himself and make the breakthrough after earlier frustrations in the match.
They’re here for a long time, they’re here for the good times – indeed, they are key components of making those good times happen.
Youthful bench, but a watching brief
Jarrell Quansah probably wouldn’t have been expecting to be the third most-senior outfield player on a Premier League bench this season, but here we are!
Beyond them, it was Quansah coming on for his 10th game for the Reds and then a whole bunch of youngsters who outsiders would barely have a clue about outside of the realms of video games.
Luke Chambers, Calum Scanlon, James McConnell, Ben Doak and rookie midfielder Trey Nyoni made up the rest of the bench, with 277 minutes of senior action between them this term, the vast majority belonging to winger Doak.
McConnell came on for the final three minutes of stoppage time to add to that tally, just his second-ever appearance and his first in the league – but for the rest, watch and learn was the approach taken on the day by Klopp.
No doubt we’ll see more of them all over the coming months.
Two-week break and still in the hunt
Regardless of their result at Chelsea, with the Reds facing City next time out we can be at least level with them two weeks from now if we produce a big performance.
That remains a massive ask, but it’s the best barometer of where we’re really at after a very strong start to the season, interspersed with the odd performance we hope not to see regularly.
Either way, having ourselves sit so close to City in the table highlights the fact we’re likely their biggest challengers once more and, most importantly from a Liverpool perspective, looking increasingly likely to be back in the Champions League next season.
No injuries over the international break please, Reds – and preferably one or two returning, too.