I wrote last week how the issues engulfing Manchester City (right now), could have a positive effect on the Reds’ mentality. With Pep Guardiola having had a series of press conference meltdowns, it would have surely changed the dynamic and conversation within the AXA training ground to see their rivals being charged (with over 100 offences) by the Premier League. In the lead up to the that ground breaking news, you can imagine the reds changing room was a chasm of disharmony, with a series of bad results bringing down the groups morale in the weeks prior.
This last Monday evening, however, we saw an intense nature to Liverpool’s play. From the first whistle to the final Anfield roar, there seemed an intent to compete and overcome their adversary. Everton came with the taste of blood on their lips, yet seemed reluctant to truly engage their opponents. With Jürgen Klopp bringing the skipper, Jordan Henderson, and Fabinho back into the first team, there was an uneasy feeling about the starting eleven after the Thiago injury news broke. All those fears were as extinguished early on, as the Reds worked hard to win all first and second balls, move the ball through the lines at pace, whilst showing a real intent to impact in the final third.
Apart from an early on ball mishap from Matip, it was a much-improved performance from the Cameroonian. As part of a much more concentrated display, it was a complete turnaround from the shambles of last weekend. In Joe Gomez, there was a clear determination to be a powerful and aggressive presence in the rear-guard. At fullback, both Robbo & Trent showed a willingness to drive beyond the halfway line, with the Toffees back line susceptible to anything that came their way too swiftly.
When I saw the middle ground an hour before kick-off, it became clear that the three largest individuals were picked to combat an energetic visitor. As every moment passed, it became apparent that both Hendo and Fab would compete without overplaying, therefore giving as much control to their zones as possible. It was the performance of their 18-year-old partner which stood out, as Stefan Bajčetić strode around the pitch with a confident manner befitting someone far more experienced. His willingness to snap into challenge after challenge was apparent, as well as his determination to receive the ball regardless of the tight situation. His want to find the right pass within the correct decision was engaging for the fanbase, with his stock rising game on game. I actually awarded my MOTM to Darwin, yet in hindsight, it was probably the young Spaniard that deserved those plaudits.
The forward line has been a mixture of disappointment and frustration of late, with so many new components as yet immersed within each others’ game. The primary focus for the attack seemed to be about exploiting any and all countering opportunities, with a tandem of Mo & Darwin penetrating from wide areas. As the game progressed, we were able to witness how our thrust and drive would become Everton’s undoing, as their Sean Dyche style of continuous fouling not able to halt a rampant reds.
The opening goal was moments after the Ev had struck the post, with the home side tearing into the opposition half (from the eventual clearance). With a three pronged insurgence of Cody, Salah & Darwin, it was a trio of sprinters that left Jordan Pickford hapless in goal. Darwin was able to produce a smart through ball, after travelling at a ferocious pace from his own box. The goal was pretty simple in the end, with the Egyptian King getting there just before Cody to prod home. From there on it became about overwhelming their neighbours, with a stronger determination to take all three points.
With a disappointing half behind them, the Toffees could do little to improve their predicament after the game’s resumption. They seemed intent on roughhousing, until the eventual antagonist, Andy Robertson, was able to drive through a flat-footed Everton press. The second fluid counter attack resulted in the winning goal. With Salah able to find an advancing Trent, the England international was able to drill a pinpoint low cross into the path of Gakpo, who ended the game as a contest.
Much of the hype around this result needs to be dampened down, as this season is prone to producing a false dawn. This moment feels a little different though, as the second half substitutions gave indication of the incoming reinforcements. With Jota, Bobby, and Virgil, all now available selection, it will have surely created a further buzz in the reds camp. With further quality to add to the available assets, it could be that the tide has finally turned. As a trip to Newcastle awaits before the arrival of Real Madrid next week, it is quickly becoming a pivotal month within this unpredictable campaign.
Let us see where we are this time next week…