I have to tell you, it’s a lot more enjoyable writing this column when the Reds are in form.
Alas, that is not at present the common case, although even in this game, they managed to assert their dominance for some spells, an encouraging sign that the engine isn’t completely dead; it is just having some trouble roaring back into life. Unfortunately, having an in-form Pep Guardiola team come to pay you a visit when you’re busy trying to get the starter to catch is not the best of timing, and the result can end up being somewhat comical, as it did today.
Was City worth this kind of thumping victory? No, they weren’t. We’ve seen Liverpool hanging on by their teeth to squeeze results in games they, by all rights, should have lost. This wasn’t that kind of game, because the Reds put in a decent effort where they were nose-to-nose with their opponents, right up to the time when Alisson lost his head and gifted the Citizens two in quick succession. That doesn’t happen on a normal day. Heck, on a good day, he has a decent chance of getting his hands up quickly enough to that Foden bullet and deflecting it over the crossbar, too. We’ve all seen him do it, and it looks downright miraculous when he does. He doesn’t have many bad days, our Alisson, but when he does, and when there is no Van Dijk in front of him for cover, no Gomez or Matip or even Lovren to be in the right place to at least disrupt an effective counter from taking place, then he ends up with ball after ball in the net.
Alisson knew it, and his gesture of squeezing his water bottle on top of his own head for a couple of seconds after the third goal was as if to say to himself “wake up, buddy”. Being lethargic when you’re in such a demanding sweeper-keeper role as the Klopp system requires creates problems; against City, it’s a cardinal sin.
On a different note, it appears to me that Liverpool should appeal to the football association to just start Thiago on a yellow. He always gets one anyway, because he is awfully clumsy with them tackles, but at some point he’s going to fetch himself one of those cards with a, uhh, deeper shade of yellow. It almost seems like the refs are being lenient on him because they sense that he’s simply terrible at doing it, rather than intentionally malicious. Once he gets that inevitable yellow, he calms down and, somewhat paradoxically, becomes more effective. How do you tell such a celebrated player that he absolutely downright stinks in this part of his game? I have no idea. It’s another headache for the German in charge.
Another player worth discussing is Sadio Mane. He seems to be the most – or worst – impacted by the team’s flickering in-and-out of form. When Liverpool are flying, Mane often flies highest, constantly moving, playing wider than the dimensions of the pitch should allow, presenting a constant threat to anyone who dares to come after him, and creating chances by simply being there. Good luck stopping Sadio when he’s in the right mood. When he’s in the wrong mood, he seems to slow down, lose his quick thinking, and start running into the opposition. He loses his sharpness, and the blade stops singing.
Trent clearly continues on his path back into form, and his assist for Salah’s penalty was vintage him. Henderson must be relieved following the addition of Kabak and Davies, because with the terrific way he’s playing in the back, Fabinho would otherwise end up back in the midfield first. Did you know Hendo could be so good at centerback? I sure didn’t expect it. Tsimikas got his first few premier league minutes in, and one hopes we will see more of him, as Robbo is looking exhausted and desperately needs an opportunity to get some rest.
Oh, and is there anyone who wishes to argue with Phil Foden being man-of-match? Didn’t think so.
It is (almost, I suppose) certain at this point that the title will not remain in merseyside this season. Even so, considering the recent improvements in its own form, Liverpool still looks good for the all-important top-four finish. I can’t wait for Anfield to become a fortress again.
Or, for that matter, to have another winning column to write.