Jack Hallows runs over the main talking points following Liverpool’s 4-0 victory over Newcastle United on Boxing Day.
Top of the league by four points at Christmas, still there and six points on Boxing Day.
It doesn’t get much better than this.
Newcastle United were the final team Liverpool had left to face off against this season and while Rafa Benitez tried his best to set his side up in a low block, looking for a draw at best, it was never going to be allowed.
It was slow going for the first 45 minutes with Dejan Lovren’s goal the only thing separating the two sides at the break but as they’ve done so many times this season, Klopp’s men exploded into life during the second half.
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Dominance and devastation
Stats and scorelines don’t always tell you the full picture of a game of football but on this occasion, they give you almost the entire picture.
4-0 was a perfectly apt scoreline for this fixture, while 75% possession, 8 shots on target to Newcastle’s 2 and an average pass success rate of 86% to Newcastle’s 63% tell you all you need to know about Liverpool’s dominance.
Dejan Lovren’s goal in the first half was all that separated the two sides at the break but that was down to a combination of Liverpool’s patience and Newcastle’s nine at the back formation.
Having clearly relayed some noted weaknesses in Benitez’s bus during half time, Klopp’s side came out with an absolute bang in the second period, turning their dominance into devastation with Salah, Shaqiri and Fabinho putting the gloss on the scoreline that the Reds deserved.
When they’re in full flight, Liverpool have two of the most effective full-backs in the entire Premier League.
The engines they possess, combined with their pace, creativity and at the other end, defensive intelligence make it incredibly hard to take Liverpool on down the wings and the way they sit so high up the pitch contributes heavily to keeping opposition teams penned in their own defensive third.
You wouldn’t have thought that Alexander-Arnold was coming back for his first appearance post injury with his passing and chance creation on top form throughout the game, culminating in an assist for Shaqiri for the Reds third goal.
On the left, Robertson had a slightly quieter game with one or two nervy moments defensively but as ever, the energy was there, the overlap was there, the passing ability was there and most importantly, the willingness to slam balls into the middle was there.
These two are going to be vital to the Reds fortunes over the rest of the season and it was good to see Klopp give Robertson a rest for the final 10 minutes as an act of preservation for the Scot.
Stellar Salah and superb Shaq!
That’s now six goals and two assists in Mohamed Salah’s last five games and our Egyptian King now looks well and truly back in form.
The Egyptian admittedly had a quiet match against Newcastle but all he needed was three moments to be decisive. One to win the penalty, one to score the penalty and one to put in the corner for Fabinho’s goal.
That’s just the quality of the man and the was what made him so dangerous during the final months of last campaign. You can keep him quiet for 89 minutes all you like but that one minute that you let him free and give him space, he is going to punish you.
Another man whose season just seems to get better and better week by week is Xherdan Shaqiri!
The Reds no.23 has four goals in his last five games for the Reds and his presence looks to continually bring the absolute best out of the other attacking players in Liverpool’s squad.
He came close in the first half with a superbly hit set piece that forced a smart save from Dubravka, while in the second half the Swiss international remained a constant threat down the right hand side and was more than deserving his goal 10 minutes from time.
A nearly perfect first half
The 4-0 victory over Newcastle made it 19 games gone, 16 wins, 3 draws and no defeats.
That is genuinely surreal.
Any other year, this would be enough to have Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool home and hosed, confidently repping the title of ‘champions to be.’
It’s testament to the quality of the other big boys in the Premier League – Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur in particular – though, that instead they are just six points ahead of second and seven ahead of third.
Where Liverpool have been so good however, is that throughout the Premier League season so far they’ve just kept going.
There haven’t been any major stutters, with their three draws coming in City’s visit to Anfield along with the trips to Arsenal and Chelsea – fixtures where dropping a couple of points is hardly an outrageous surprise given those side’s quality – and they’ve shown they can win by one just as capably as they can win by four.
With Arsenal and Manchester City coming up next, Liverpool have a fantastic chance to continue building a lead at the top of the table, while also getting two of their remaining five fixtures against the league’s ‘big boys‘ out of the way nice and early.
They’re going to be tough games and to take all six points will take a monumental effort from the lads but Klopp has faith and so do I. C’mon you Redmen!