It is usually said that teams who dispose of their managers can be dangerous to play. Having got rid of the old boss these teams feel they have a point to prove. Some of these sides sometimes feel that they have had the shackles taken off and are simply happier with a new man at the helm. Swansea sacked Paul Clement last week and, with Leon Britton in charge, they managed to draw 1-1 with Crystal Palace at the weekend. They looked a little more impressive than usual but, by and large, persisted to be little more than average. However, maybe a win over a big side on their own patch would be just the ticket to kickstart their revival. Maybe, if they beat Liverpool yesterday evening, it could be just what Britton and Swansea needed to get back on track in their quest for survival.
With this being the first of four games in the next eleven days, Jurgen Klopp will have been happy to welcome Joel Matip back into the fold for this game. Having been out for the past few weeks with injury Matip would replace Dejan Lovren at centre half. Jordan Henderson left the pitch injured at the Emirates on Friday night so Gini Wijnaldum would take his place in midfield. Sadio Mane was also dropped having not played well over the last couple of games. He was replaced by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who would come into the centre of midfield, shifting Philippe Coutinho to the left wing in the process. Trent Alexander-Arnold would also continue to swap places with Joe Gomez, who was moved to the bench alongside Mane.
Swansea made a couple of changes of their own as they look to turn around their fortunes. Wayne Routledge came back into the side and Jordan Ayew was preferred up front over Wilfried Bony and Tammy Abraham, the latter making the subs bench. The biggest news for Swansea was the selection of Oliver McBurnie who made his first start of the season and his first ever Premier League start for the away side.
The opening minutes of the game were scrappy, with both sides struggling to get a grip of the ball. That was until Liverpool took the lead in the fifth minute. Jordan Ayew picked up the ball thirty five yards from his own goal and tried to dribble his way out of trouble. His decision to try to take on one player too many paid dividends for Roberto Firmino, who dispossessed him just outside the centre circle. Ayew went down and appealed for free kick but none was forthcoming. Firmino played the ball to Salah on the right, who played a first time ball into Coutinho. The little Brazilian was twenty yards from goal and was being closed down by Mawson. It looked like Mawson would contain Coutinho but Coutinho took one touch out of his feet before curling an effort beyond static Fabianski and into the top corner of his net. In a scrappy first five minutes the magician had just produced a moment of brilliance.
Liverpool seize control of the game following the goal. Swansea’s midfield couldn’t cope with the strength and energy of their counterparts in red, and struggled to keep hold of the ball. When they did get forward on the odd occasion their attacks were well snuffed out by the Liverpool defence. Going forward the Reds couldn’t create many clear cut chances themselves. Mohamed Salah seemed to be the main outlet but Liverpool were mostly getting on the end of the second ball which had been cleared.
As the first half crept on Swansea began to come into the game more. Liverpool’s defence had started to creak under their own pressure and the South Wales side were finding ways through. Their best chance came when McBurnie had the ball on the left edge of the area and was faced up by Matip and Klavan. He was able to turn the pair of them before attempting to curl a shot towards Mignolet’s bottom corner, which Alexander-Arnold came over to block. The ball spun away towards Naughton but it was marshalled out by a combination of Klavan and Robertson. It was a warning that the away side were still in this and Liverpool need to improve to seal this game. There would be time for one last big chance of the half though and it came for Liverpool.
Roberto Firmino nipped in front of Fernandez to get on the end of a loose ball on the edge of the Swansea box. He was now clean through with only the ‘keeper to beat inside the box. Mawson got back to cover and Firmino tried to sell him a dummy, but Mawson stayed on his feet. Firmino pulled the trigger but only managed to fire wide. It was a massive chance to double the lead which summed up Liverpool’s half. Firmino didn’t take the opportunity seriously enough and paid the price for it. The referee blew the whistle for half time not a minute later and Jurgen Klopp will not have been best pleased with his side. They had the lead but had been sloppy. It appeared as if they playing in a training game, a problem which has plagued us over the past month or so. Swansea hadn’t set the world alight themselves in the first half but while the score remained only 1-0, they still had a chance of going home with something to show for their efforts.
The second half began as sloppily as the first finished for Liverpool and neither team was able to control the ball properly. On fifty one minutes Liverpool were given a free kick on the left edge of the box in front of The Kop. Coutinho stepped up and floated a wonderful ball towards the back post. Roberto Firmino had peeled off the back of Federico Fernandez and volleyed beyond Lukasz Fabianski from inside the six yard box. It was another of goal of supreme quality and had once again involved Philippe Coutinho in some capacity. Liverpool now had the breathing space that was necessary. Maybe now the floodgates would open and The Reds would take advantage of the superior quality they obviously possessed over Swansea. Thirteen minutes later, they would do exactly that.
Andy Robertson had the ball on the Liverpool left and attempted to chip one across goal. The cross was blocked by Mawson and fell to the edge of the area where Ayew looked favourite to clear. However, he hadn’t banked on the determination of Alexander-Arnold. The young right back sprinted onto it before Ayew could take possession and thumped a shot in off the bar, before wheeling away in front of the The Kop making it 3-0. Two minutes later Mo Salah dispossessed Naughton on the Liverpool right. He sprinted away as Naughton tried to recover desperately. Fernandez came across to clear as Salah closed in on goal. Firmino was now wide open and Salah squared to his Brazilian team-mate who had the simple task of converting into an empty net. Liverpool were now on the verge of running riot and the scoreline reflected the gulf in class between the two sides.
Liverpool were now in full control of the game and the introduction of Tammy Abraham for Swansea did little to trouble Jurgen Klopp’s men. He responded by making subs of his own. Dom Solanke, James Milner and Adam Lallana were all thrown on uncharacteristically early by the Liverpool manager and added control, movement and fresh energy to the game. There would be another goal but it would come from a man already on the pitch.
James Milner went through on the left and his shot was blocked by Mawson again. It spun away to the opposite side of the box for Oxlade-Chamberlain. After a good touch he was dispossessed but Swansea’s defending had been so poor in the game that he eventually regained control of the ball only seconds later. He controlled it with his knee before lobbing a volley into the far corner of Fabianksi’s goal. It was a superb finish from a man who deserves all the plaudits coming his way lately. Many people doubted Oxlade-Chamberlain when he first came to the club but he is now starting to prove some of the doubters wrong.
Liverpool continued to control the remainder of the game despite a late effort from Tammy Abraham which was tipped over the bar by a largely untested Simon Mignolet. Immediately following Abraham’s header the referee blew the whistle at an upbeat Anfield for the end of the game.
It was a win for Liverpool which will have done wonders on a number of levels. First of all, a 5-0 ensured that our goal difference has improved above Spurs who lie behind us in fifth place. They themselves won 5-2 earlier in the day, a win which put them ahead of us in fourth going into this one. Secondly it was a much needed clean sheet following the debacle at Arsenal on Friday night. Simon Mignolet had barely anything to do but that was because his defence had kept Swansea at bay for most of the game, although they were living dangerously in the first half. Finally, Liverpool improved tremendously in the second half following a complacent first half display. It looked as if Swansea could come back into the game. However Jurgen Klopp had obviously spelt out to his players what they were heading for and players took heed. It led to a resounding victory.
With Leicester to come on Saturday and a trip to Burnley on New Years’ Day, this was a much needed battering. This is what we are capable of – when we take the game seriously of course.