Anfield, Liverpool – Every football fan’s favourite holiday, this year’s boxing day had eight matches to savour and among them was bottom of the table Swansea City traveling to Anfield. Leon Britton was overseeing his second match in charge after the sacking of Paul Clement and it’s easy to understand why the Englishman doesn’t want this job on a permanent basis.
The Welsh side played as if they weren’t just visiting Anfield but as if they were visiting the Premier League too. It was one of the easiest games Liverpool will have all season, as they were pretty much offered the chance to have as many goals as they liked. The hosts started slowly but as the game progressed it turned into more and more of an exhibition match by the minute. Here are the three key talking points from Liverpool’s 5-0 victory over Swansea City.
1 – Trent Comes Back Strong
Having to compete with Joe Gomez for a starting spot at right back has meant that Trent Alexander-Arnold has had to spend his fair share of games watching on from the side-lines. Not being as reliable as Gomez defensively, paired with the raw nature of his talent has caused Jurgen Klopp to take his time in making the youngster more accustomed to first team football.
However, Tuesday evening saw Arnold return to the starting line-up and he absolutely made the most of it. Showing improvements in areas that have typically been considered his weaknesses: he won 8 duels, made 2 interceptions, and succeeded in all of the 4 tackles that he attempted.
However, what really caught the eye was his attacking contribution. Boasting an 86% pass completion rate while also playing 8 accurate long balls shows the bravery he had on the ball in addition to how well he was able to execute. Primarily in the 2nd half, he was ever-present on the right flank providing support for Mohamed Salah and a source for consistent quality deliveries into the box. He topped off all his brilliant work by getting Liverpool’s 3rd goal of the game, and his first ever, both at Anfield and in the Premier League.
From the remnants of an Andy Robertson cross, he pipped in ahead of Ayew to win the ball on the edge of the box then prodded the ball off the crossbar and in. He truly celebrated like a born and bred Liverpudlian who was overjoyed to get his first goal in front of The Kop. With the manager revealing that the youngster’s family was in attendance (and that his decision to start him might have been swayed by that fact), it was truly a night to remember for Trent Alexander-Arnold. Talk about enjoying the festive season.
2 – Brazilians Steal the Show Yet Again
These boys are on fire. The way Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho are playing right now, every time they step on the pitch, magic and brilliance are expected to be on show. You pretty much have to be the unluckiest person in the world to catch them both on an off day.
Having torn Bournemouth’s and Arsenal’s respective defences to shreds in the two games prior, Swansea must have been fearing the worst. With Sadio Mané being left on the bench for this one, Coutinho was given the duty of playing off the left-wing and completing the front three in the process.
The game started as well as the attackers could have hoped for, with all three being involved in the opening goal. Firmino robbed Jordan Ayew of the ball before playing it to Salah, the Egyptian hit it first time into the path of Coutinho who took one touch to set it up and another to curl a beauty into the top right corner just 6 minutes in.
The two Brazilians combined again for the second goal of the match, Coutinho clipped in his free-kick over the Swansea defence where he found Firmino completely unmarked and able to coolly put the ball in the back of the net. From that moment on it turned into an exhibition match. The players danced around the pitch and truly had the freedom of Anfield to enjoy.
Fourteen minutes after his first, Firmino was able to grab another, with one of his now trademark ‘no look’ finishes. The chemistry shared by Liverpool’s Brazilian pair is unbelievable. It’s almost shocking to think that they’ve only been teammates for about two-and-a-half years. Their understanding is telepathic and both of them look better when the other is on the pitch.
3 – Things Seem to Be Falling into Place Nicely
As we head into the last round of fixtures for 2017, Liverpool sit in fourth place; 4 points off Chelsea and 5 off Manchester United respectively. Leicester City travel to Anfield on Saturday and a win would guarantee The Reds a top four place for the beginning of the new year.
Teams that occupy those top spaces at this stage of the season tend to stay there, and Liverpool need to do all they can to ensure that they don’t drop out of the Champions League places at any point. Luckily for them, they seem to be hitting form at just the right moment and are simultaneously welcoming key players back into the fold.
Joel Matip returned to the starting line-up to make his first appearance of the month. With Liverpool’s defence seemingly always being questioned, it helps immensely to have the best defender at the club available again.
Additionally, Adam Lallana is slowly being bed back in as he returns to full match fitness and sharpness. One of Liverpool’s best players last season, having Lallana available at the peak of his powers will epitomise the cliché of being “like a brand new signing”. The silky midfielder will undoubtedly play a massive role in the 2nd half of Liverpool’s season as long as he can stay injury free.
On the topic of new signings, Oxlade-Chamberlain continues to look like more of a quality addition as the weeks go on. He has pretty much everything in his locker in order to succeed as a top midfielder at this club. As he keeps growing in confidence, his productivity continues to grow as well.
Starting in midfield yet again on Tuesday, the former Arsenal man looked lively as ever and even ended his day by scoring a lovely goal. However, perhaps the most telling thing from the game was his post-match interview where he seemed adamant that he could’ve done much better in certain aspects of his performance.
His leadership and team-first mentality have won him the favour of the Anfield faithful and are yet another hallmark of the very special recipe that Jurgen Klopp is brewing right now at Liverpool Football Club.