[Liverpool 3 – 0 Aston Villa].
Let me start with this: the raid on Liverpool in this transfer window by the Saudis has apparently created the perfect opportunity to execute the kind of dream midfield rebuild that would not have been otherwise possible. The pairing of Mac Allister and Szoboszlai is already bearing remarkable fruit, due to their tenacity, creativity, and fighting spirit. Jones is blooming next to them, and Gravenberch will surely add further energy. Even Endo, who looked a bit of a panic buy, seems like he can withstand the physicality and intensity of the Premier League and serve as a good relief valve, in the vein of James Milner. Not as versatile as Milner, of course, but then again, who is?
Liverpool took that fossil fuel money and built a lovely windmill farm.
Speaking of the Hungarian, I know plenty of people who are getting sick of the praise us fans are heaping on the guy, but he’s earned every bit of it so far. Today’s performance was no exception, and he caused no end of headaches to a Villa side that couldn’t figure out what to do with him, let alone where we would pop out next. His goal to open the scoring was sublime, struck into the ground with perfect technique to skip past a busy box and a justifiably frustrated Martinez who could do nothing but watch helplessly as the ball thundered into his net.
Which brings me to one Darwin Nunez. What did he have to do with it? Well, it was his press that created the opportunity in the first place. And it continued for the rest of the game until he was substituted; while he could easily have scored a couple himself, his much-improved decision making and overall composure were of note. He is clearly much more integrated into the team now, no longer playing in his personal bubble, and is a much more valuable asset to the system. It was the reason why he notched an assist for Mo’s goal. Remember all his offsides? His pointless individual presses? Striking instead of passing and vice versa? None of those were on display today. He was effective and yes, unlucky, as any one of his three big misses could have easily gone in (and in a way, one did off Matty Cash). Perhaps it’s the law of averages at play, and it’s certainly better for Liverpool that his two even more difficult strikes last week against the Magpies went in.
And now, let’s spend a moment with the one man whose influence on this game was even bigger than the rest.
Aston Villa looked helpless in attack. Their lack of penetration was surprising, as this is a team that clearly knows how to score goals and lots of them. It was even more so considering Liverpool’s scarily thin, supposedly shaky backline. It’s not that the Reds’ defense was particularly tidy, but rather that when the gaps opened up, they never became particularly threatening. Robbo had something to do with it, as he always does, but one man was the real anchor today. He had one unfortunate slip in the first half on an Anfield pitch that is notoriously slippery, but Joe Gomez deserves to be heralded for how to stepped up and stepped in. He covered for everyone, including even Joel Matip, who turned in a less-than-average performance for him; I do think the Cameroonian is the most underrated centerback in the Premier League, but he wasn’t in his best form today. Gomez is my man-of-the-match, which is sure to be a rare choice considering all the sparkles up front.
What an unexpectedly excellent way to enter the first international break, with 10 out of 12 and two of the five toughest season’s away matches in the bag. Is Liverpool going to be the dark horse of this season?
And to that I say, not nay… but nei-i-i-i-i-gh.