Jack Hallows runs over the major talking points from Liverpool’s stellar 4-1 Premier League victory over Cardiff City.
This Liverpool side is bloody good at footie, aren’t they?
For two games in a row now, the Reds have put their opposition to the sword at Anfield by hammering four goals past them and not just breaking down the bus but annihilating it.
Cardiff showed up with a clear plan – a 4-4-1-1 on paper that in reality was very much a 6-3-1 for much of the game – but it was no match for the Reds relentless attempts to blast down the door.
Mohamed Salah was on the scoresheet again, Shaqiri looks the bargain of the summer, Klopp rung in the tactical changes and Sadio Mané bagged his second league brace of the season!
With all that and more to be excited about, why would I keep you waiting any longer? Let’s dive in.
“It’s only Huddersfield. It’s only Red Star Belgrade. It’s only Cardiff City.”
Who gives two shits? You’ve still got to score the goals and in that regard, Mohamed Salah looks back! At least to some degree anyway.
The Egyptian opened the scoring for Liverpool in the 9th minute when a chaotic break in the box saw the ball fall to his left foot 12 yards from goal and we all know what happens next in that situation.
It was the former Roma man’s fourth goal in his last three games as the no.11 continues his welcome run of form since the last international break.
What was so impressive about the goal was that Salah actually started the move, laying the ball off to Trent Alexander-Arnold on the right flank. The right-back took a touch, curled a cross in and in the five or so seconds it took for Sadio Mané and Gini Wijnaldum to have a pair of shots blocked, Salah ghosted into the box, read the situation and slotted home coolly for 1-0.
The Reds striker could’ve had at least two or three on the day, with one potential break snuffed out by a desperate sliding challenge from Cardiff keeper Etheridge while a late right footed attempt to chip the keeper was scuffed.
It mattered not however, as Salah showed his creative side instead, creating a chance for Virgil van Dijk in the first half – the Dutchman hitting the post with his towering headed attempt before Salah himself should’ve had a penalty just seconds later – and later assisting Shaqiri and Mané deep into the second half.
This was probably Salah’s most complete performance of the season so far and while yes, it was against relegation fodder – no offence Cardiff fans – it’s a welcome sign of what is hopefully to come from our Egyptian King.
There were groans on the Twittersphere when it was announced Adam Lallana was selected ahead of Xherdan Shaqiri and while the Englishman didn’t exactly do anything wrong, Shaqiri’s cameo when introduced a half hour from time showed exactly why.
The Swiss international has been sensational for the Reds whenever he’s been given a chance and fielded in a front three with Salah and Mané for much of his time on the pitch, he certainly pressed a case to be part of a new strike trio.
The Reds no.23 was on the pitch for 30 minutes, taking one shot which he buried elegantly into the bottom corner for his first competitive goal for the club, created one chance – as many as Lallana who played for double the amount of time – completed one dribble and did not surrender possession once.
While he hasn’t been able to fully adapt to perhaps playing in the ‘Coutinho’ midfield role that some had hoped he might, Klopp’s decision to opt for a 4-2-3-1 of late has meant he hasn’t had to.
Cutting in from the right hand side, Shaqiri has still been able to create from deep while also not seeing the shackles come out every time he tries to push forward into the box.
Could we see more of the ‘SMS’ this season?
It certainly helped Sadio Mané!
The Senegalese was the man of the match according to WhoScored (9.1/10) but it wasn’t until Shaqiri’s introduction that he really soared into gear.
A superbly taken left footed effort gave Liverpool a 2-0 lead in the 66th minute before the former Southampton man burst between two Cardiff defenders to get on the end of a Mohamed Salah through ball, delicately lifting it over Etheridge and completing the rout.
He’d not looked poor prior to Shaqiri’s introduction but the fact that once the former Bayern Munich attacker entered the fray Mané tripled his shot tally for the match and managed to get on the scoresheet twice may be telling.
The defensive record ends!
Until Calum Patterson scored a 77th minute consolation for the visiting side, Liverpool had not conceded a Premier League goal at Anfield since they hosted West Ham United last season back in February.
It’s an incredible record that lasted a total of 918 in game minutes and to be completely honest, other than Riyad Mahrez’s penalty attempt against Manchester City earlier this season, hadn’t looked to be threatened until Saturday afternoon.
Perhaps the most frustrating part was that the goal itself – while it didn’t affect the match or the result – could’ve been completely avoided.
Alberto Moreno switched off for a second before a lucky deflection off the boot of Virgil van Dijk meant that the ball was diverted into Patterson’s path and onto his right boot. From where he was, Alisson could’ve done nothing more to stop the point-blank range effort and was powerless to stop it from rolling through his legs.
The fact that Liverpool have however managed to concede just one home goal this season so far is an incredible feat and it’s an unavoidable fact that if they are to challenge for the league this season, then Anfield must remain the fortress that Klopp has been turning it into.
All signs so far look good and Cardiff, despite scoring, only had one shot on target all game, leaving Alisson to count sheep, twiddle his thumbs or perhaps take out a tanning chair and relax for much of the 90 minutes.
Long may Anfield’s defensive resilience continue.
4-2-3-1 to break the bus?
Liverpool’s 4-3-3 works wonders for them in the big games because of the fluidity of the system and the fact that with three attackers, three midfielders and two marauding full backs, there’s the perfect blend of attack and defence.
The Reds can commit forward without sacrificing solidarity in the middle of the park and when the balance in midfield is right, there’s always someone in the right place at the right time to break up an opposition attack, link play together or support the front three.
For the lesser-lights of the Premier League and indeed the Champions League, it looks like Klopp may have a new go-to formation.
We saw last season just how deadly playing four attackers in a 4-4-2/4-2-4 was for the Reds against opposition less likely to trouble them defensively, with West Ham being hit for four and Spartak Moscow for seven the system’s most notable outings.
With Fabinho looking in good form and seemingly bringing out the best of Gini Wijnaldum, the 4-2-3-1 also allows Klopp to play an extra attacking presence, giving opposition defences even more of a headache as they work out how to deal with the pace, movement and of course deadly finishing touch of the likes of Firmino, Salah, Mané and now, Shaqiri.
It also brings attackers closer to each other, removing the problem of our midfield trio being situated too far from the attackers to make an impact on the game, with Firmino – who has played in the 10 during the last two games – generally positioned half way between Wijnaldum and Salah.
The Brazilian can pick the ball up, turn and there are still three attacking options ahead of him – all of whom bring something unique to the side.
It may not be the best option when opposition sides come out at us, look to win the midfield battle and match us for pressing – Chelsea, Spurs, City and even Arsenal are all perfect examples – but when a bus is parked and a wall is built, it looks a fantastic option.
Next Up: Arsenal
Next up for the Reds is Arsenal, led by Unai Emery – the man who masterminded the Reds Europa League final defeat in 2016.
The Gunners are a frightening proposition of late, with the attacking riches they boast almost embarrassing such is their strength at that end of the pitch. There are however, concerns over their defence and the Reds will be looking for any weakness, any dent in the armour that they can exploit over the next week.
If the Reds get through the Arsenal game with three points – or even a single point – they will enter a seriously favourable run of fixtures over the next month in a fantastic position.
Fulham at home follows Emery’s side, before the Reds take on Watford, Everton, Burnley and Bournemouth to round out their upcoming five league games. All five of which are winnable.
The Reds have started well this season but they’ve started well before under Klopp before spluttering around Christmas time – the 2016/17 season the perfect example – and this time, it’s the perfect chance for the German and his men to prove they’ve learned their lessons and are prepared to go all the way for English footballs top honour.
C’mon you Redmen!