Liverpool produced one of their best showings of the season to absolutely steamroll Chelsea, fully deserving their 4-1 win to go five points clear at the top of the table once more.
Liverpool 4-1 Chelsea
Premier League (22), Anfield
January 31, 2024
Goals: Jota 23′, Bradley 39′, Szoboszlai 65′, Diaz 79′; Nkunku 71′
Do we have a full-back battle?!
A goal and two assists from right-back and Trent Alexander-Arnold not even on the pitch, are you joking?!
“There’s only one Conor Bradley” rang out around Anfield several times across the course of the game and not without reason, the defender was sensational in his aggressive stance in deep areas and another marauding, exciting outlet going forward.
He set up the first with a typical surge forward and accurate pass infield, then went one better himself by blazing forward into space and striking a magnificent hit across the ‘keeper and into the bottom corner – his first senior Reds goal at age 20, at Anfield, against Chelsea.
Add in his brilliant pocketing of half-time sub Mykhailo Mudryk, his monstering of Ben Chilwell and the fact he was always willing to run at his man – which is exactly how he made the third, beating Badiashile and crossing perfectly – it’s no wonder he was a crowd favourite on the night.
Only his 14th appearance, by the way!
Oh, and lest we forget, Joe Gomez was an absolute 10-out-of-10 performer on the other side of the pitch. But we expect that now, don’t we?
Sixty-seven minutes they both played, then the so-called first-choice options came on. Will they both stay that way? Should they?
Darwin bloody Nunez
Since Opta stats began, no Premier League striker has been so damn unfortunate that they hit the woodwork more times in a season than they score goals. OK, we may have made it up on the spot, but it’s probably true, especially when we get to forwards who hit double figures of both.
Darwin already became the first top-flight player of the campaign to have double figures in both assists and non-penalty goals last week, and he started this fixture looking like he wanted to add another ten of his own: four shots in the first quarter of an hour and seven by half time.
And they weren’t wasteful, ambitious, pointless efforts by any stretch.
One fizzed just over, one was tipped onto the post, one well held and so on – his movement for generating the chances was top drawer, his first touch immaculate. He just needed the goal.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 31, 2024
And then he got a penalty, and smacked it onto the post as well. And then battered the crossbar with a header for good measure. A quadruple of woodworks: such is life with the Uruguayan in the front line, a record-setter in the wrong direction by the smallest of margins.
A few inches more in the right direction and instead of seven league goals, he’s on 20.
There’s so much to work with and even with the frustrations which come with him, it has to be acknowledged he does a lot, has had brilliant games already and then there are some like this one, where he shows he could get a hat-trick against elite teams with just a small, small amount of composure or fortune more.
The best Salah-less front three performance?
Perhaps not since Barcelona were battered 4-0 on this very same ground has a Liverpool forward line been so irrepressible and impressive without Mohamed Salah in its ranks.
The Egyptian is sidelined through injury and while we’ll hope to have him back sooner rather than later, there can’t be much doubt that three other forwards have stepped up in his absence.
Nunez we’ve already mentioned, but both Luis Diaz and Diogo Jota were unbelievably good against Chelsea, relentless off the ball and lightning in possession, always forward-thinking, exemplary in the press and both a danger on goal throughout.
Jota scored, Nunez assisted, Diaz assisted and scored, both Portuguese-speakers won the ball back countless times and gave the Blues’ back line precisely no rest whatsoever.
Alexis finds top gear
In picking out big performers on the night we could go to each and every position – it was that kind of evening for 70 minutes at least.
But for importance not just on the night but for going forward, from a tactical perspective and bringing ability to both control games and unlock them, Alexis Mac Allister is hitting peak form at a very profitable time.
The No. 10 was sensational throughout, a monstrous seven of eight tackles won – four more than anyone else on the pitch! – as he totally dominated the centre of the park.
With his passing range, ability to raise the tempo of the match, some sensational vision and the spaces he picks up between the lines, he’s such an important player in possession and is only getting better in his role out of it.
A late knock was a concern though and we’ll hope he very, very quickly recovers from that.
Bring on the cup final…but Arsenal next, is it?
Message well and truly served to Chelsea: this is who we are, this is what we can do to teams. And we’ll be doing it to you at Wembley again soon.
Next up is Arsenal away, one of our most important and difficult games of the campaign on paper, the Gunners being last season’s runners-up and – supposedly – the team who were going to push Man City the distance again.
That’s obviously not quite the case, but they are still a formidable outfit and we’ll need to be this good or better to get the points once more.
The positive? We are this good, and better, and especially in the biggest of games. Bring on all those big London stadiums, be it Wembley, the Emirates and the Brentford Community Stadium.