I had the distinct pleasure – one that has not been possible for what feels like eternity due to the pandemic – to watch this game in person with a dear friend. Dylan is a lifelong Gunners fan, something I can only attribute to an unfortunate genetic mishap. Still, his second favorite team is Liverpool, so I suppose one can forgive him, perhaps in the same way that Muslims (should, anyway) consider Jews and Christians as “people of the book”.
One of many things we share in common is a deeper understanding. An abiding, uncompromising, passionate agreement about Manchester United. So even before this game began, as we settled into our respective chairs, we both had a huge grin on our faces. We could live with whatever this game would produce. He expected to be routed. I thought it would be a rather delicate affair.
In this, he was right and I was happily wrong.
And yet, even with a scoreline that is becoming remarkably familiar for this particular outing, I must say that it wasn’t a horror show for the visitors. Arsenal played their game reasonably well for the most part. The Gunners were simply outclassed every step of the way, and a lot of it came down to their relative inexperience. This project that Arteta is putting together over at the Emirates seems destined to bear fruit in a few years.
In the meantime, I am going to enjoy every single thumping we deliver to them, like the one today. Even if it makes Dylan cry.
What made this game truly special was that it was intense without being overly physical. With such constant box-to-box action, one often sees ferocious tackles, knocks and injuries, and a proliferation of yellow cards. This wasn’t the case today. The game was fluid, gripping and non-relenting, and yet we only had one minute of added time at the half, because it was also clean. It remained for the managers to deliver us a bit of that WWF action, as they both got into each other only to both be booked by Michael Oliver.
It certainly got the crowd going.
As the game ended, I found myself in the odd position of admiring one player in particular – who wasn’t a Red. Aaron Ramsdale delivered a vintage performance, especially for such a young keeper. This is true even as he picked four from out of his net. He could do nothing about any of them, but he was directly responsible for the scoreline not being double, such was the difference in overall quality between the two teams.
Mane’s opener was brilliant, both in the delivery (by you know who), and in the finish. Jota’s contribution was picture perfect in composure, and should be placed into a highlights reel as an example of how a clever poacher can make life easy for themselves. Salah’s goal came even after he spent the entire game double- and triple- teamed. The man is simply unplayable, and also almost added another assist to his tally. But it was perhaps the final goal, Minamino’s first touch of the game, that stood out as the example of how devastating Liverpool can be to the opposing defense. Everything was deliberate about it, every pass, every run, and every movement into free space, all executed to perfection, and leading to Alexander-Arnold’s second assist of the game.
At this point, I think it would be rather shocking if he didn’t break his own record for assists by a defender in a single season. What’s more shocking is that he might well end up the season’s top chef. His real main competitor is not Paul Pogba, but rather teammate Salah, whose total contributions already this season are downright epic. So much so, that we may well see him break his own records from his monstrous first season this time around.
Let’s not forget the Terminator. While Fabinho wasn’t involved in the scoring, he was there for everything else. Thiago had a nice game, too, and Van Dijk increasingly seems to be back to his glorious old self. Tsimikas put in a good shift, as did Matip, and even Ox had a nice game. In another treasured moment, Tyler Morton got his premier league debut in a wonderful made-for-TV moment that showed just how connected Klopp is with his players.
With all respect to Tuchel’s lads, who are doing a good job to keep themselves up front at this stage, Liverpool must be looking ever more capable of capturing a title or three this year.
And, it seems, it’s only going to get better.