Peter sits down with Caislin Boyle to review the 4-0 victory for the Reds
5 points from 9 following a run of three eminently winnable games may not excite, but the way in which Liverpool claimed 3 of those points was scintillating. Bournemouth were the latest team to feel the wrath of Liverpool’s sublime away form, with the Reds putting on a show that belies the fact that they’re only marginally closer to the top of the table than the bottom three.
I wrote in my previous recap about how teams with no attacking ambition can sit back at Anfield and leave with a point – no such narrative applies away from home. Attack or sit back, this Liverpool team will pick you off. We have scored 19 goals in the last four away games – 16 of those coming in the league. In many ways Bournemouth were the perfect opponents; instinctively attacking. The hope was that their desire to perform for their own fans would allow space. It did, and we ran riot.
The backdrop of this game focused on the debacle that unfolded last year – even the most die-hard Reds fans will admit that the prospect of another Ryan Fraser inspired comeback crossed their minds. Be it Fraser or Dwight Gayle – we have a habit of allowing otherwise average players to be behemoths for a day.
Luckily this didn’t happen yesterday and we left with the 3 points and a reclaimed place in the top four.
In terms of the line-up three of the fab 4 started, with Mane taking an expected place on the bench following a drop in form. Mignolet came back into goal, Gomez replaced Alexander-Arnold, Henderson replaced Can and Oxlade-Chamberlain came in for the aforementioned Mane. It was also pleasing to see Adam Lallana back on the bench after a long absence; despite all our attacking options, he has been missed.
Liverpool played with an appreciation of how important the three points were from the outset. Coutinho had already given Bournemouth a taster of his abilities when he struck the post from a free kick early doors, then he did give us the lead with a sensational run on the 20-minute mark. His goal was outstanding, he evaded player after player before coolly slotting the ball home. As will be a recurring theme in each of the first three goals, I want to look at what a teammate did in the build-up. For this goal it’s Robertson – his run proved the perfect decoy to allow Coutinho to go past the Bournemouth defenders more easily. Coutinho rightly gets the plaudits, for both this and his general play, but we shouldn’t forget Robertson’s role.
The next goal arrived 6 minutes later, and again I’d like to highlight the work of someone other than the scorer. Firmino was exceptional here; he chased a long cause, successfully hooked a seemingly dead ball back into play which Lovren duly finished off. Lovren was brave in his execution no doubt, but Firmino created the opportunity, his wonderful attitude visible for all to see.
At 2-0 Bournemouth had their big opportunity; Defoe had Mignolet beaten but not the post. This miss epitomised the fine margins that can determine outcomes – Bournemouth had been utterly dominated but yet came perilously close to halving the Reds’ advantage.
Whether this buoyed Liverpool or not I do not know, but regardless it was time for Salah to score his customary goal. It was very well taken too, with Salah managing to evade everyone in a congested box and hit a powerful shot off balance into the bottom corner. That took him to an outstanding 20 goals for the season, with Liverpool fans hoping this stratospheric form never ends. My love for King Mo is well documented, but let’s take a look at Oxlade-Chamberlain’s pass for the third goal. I’ll go into detail on ‘the Ox’ later, but his assist for Salah typified the type of productive pass he’d been trying to hit all evening. This time is paid dividends and we were 3 up by halftime.
As the second half emerged, so did a figure designed to put fear into the heart of every Liverpool fan – Ryan Fraser. Despite the scoreline, there was the worry as to whether he could conjure up something similar to what he did last year. In brief, he did not. The big chance before the fourth and final goal fell to Oxlade-Chamberlain. An impressive steal and surge forward saw him unleash a ferocious shot against the outside of the post. A goal would’ve been just deserved for a player who scooped Man of the Match despite not being on the score sheet, yet it did not come.
I said earlier that I would focus on the role of a non-scoring teammate for the first three goals – for the fourth I cannot do that as it came as a result of lady luck. Firmino headed home a Coutinho cross from an offside position. Little was made of as the result was all-but-inevitable by that stage, but regardless I can’t focus on the ingenuity of a Liverpool player when the goal was lucky in the extreme.
All that being said, 4-0 up with little sign of a 2016 repeat was lovely. There is a statistic knocking about regarding our inability to score beyond the 75th minute, and here it was not needed. The remainder of the time was productively spent giving Lallana, Ings and Solanke minutes, and all three had chances to gloss the game. There is a school of argument that wills any of them to get on the scoresheet, but none more so than Ings – however, his shot was off target and his waits goes on.
A 4-0 win in the bank feels very satisfying, but the most satisfying aspect for me was the performance of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. He claimed an assist, created the joint most chances (4) and made the most tackles (3). In his post-match interview he cited the importance of an adaptation period in top-level spots, particularly when the change between Arsenal and Liverpool is so stark. It’s hard not to see his point, and really encouraging to see him flourish in a system with direction and purpose.
The point was made on Match of the Day that the style of Arsenal never suited Chamberlain, with the aggressive athleticism required by Klopp much more suited to his game. I think it’s a good point. Additionally, his intervention to stop Coutinho being quizzed about his future was really impressive. The constant shtick about the inevitable Barcelona move is boring – he’s playing well now, undoubtedly trying his best and will get his move come the end of the season (hopefully not before!) Oxlade-Chamberlain obviously reads the papers and is as bored as we are about the incessant swirling of the rumour mill. Impressive on and off the pitch – well done Alex.
A thumping win for the Reds, a win that ensures we have no fear ahead of a trip to the Emirates this Friday. This promises to be a fascinating contest of exceptional home form vs excellent away form. After lauding him throughout this recap, I hope Chamberlain puts in a better performance against Arsenal for Liverpool than he did against Liverpool for Arsenal in August. I think he will. Up the Reds!