Outstanding. Mesmerising. A class apart. The superlatives will be many, varied, and well-deserved in the coming days, so we might as well join in. Below, we shout about how good the Reds are right now and also try to dig into exactly why that is.
Trent Alexander-Arnold: It is mind-numbingly obvious to point out that the young fullback was good tonight, but he has left us no other choice. With two assists — we don’t count hitting corner kicks at hands as assists here — to go with his goal, the scouser took his tally to 20 since the start of last season, putting him at the top of the Premier League assists table, four ahead of Ryan Fraser, and eight ahead of everybody’s favourite creator Kevin De Bruyne.
It was a masterclass from the 21-year old, who dictated the entirety of the game from full-back, taking more touches and completing more passes than any other player on the pitch, while pitching a complete shutout on the defensive side. Recently crowned the most valuable defender on the planet, the young world champion further cemented his reputation tonight, and added a bit of spice by imitating another 21-year old prodigy with his goal celebration. Speculate to your heart’s content below.
Naby Keïta: Having played 190 minutes in Qatar last week, the Guinean could only muster 70 minutes on Thursday, but what 70 minutes they were. The 5’7” midfielder dominated the game in the central areas, consistently picking his way through the opposition with silky runs and precision passing. With 36/39 successful passes, 6/6 dribbles, 10 duels won and 7 ball recoveries, the 24-year old continued his spell of outstanding performances stretching back a month or so, and is increasingly looking like he’ll be worth every single on of the 48 million pounds Liverpool paid for him back in 2018.
Clean Sheets: Listen, we love Joël Matip. We like Dejan Lovren as a team-mate and tolerate his football. But remember last year, when the Reds started the season entirely incapable of conceding goals? Joe Gomez was playing every one of those games next to Virgil van Dijk, and he was playing out of his mind. Then he got hurt — again — and Liverpool’s goals conceded began lining up with their defensive numbers.
Now Matip has been injured for a month and a half, and Lovren’s inability to stay healthy has meant Gomez returning to the starting line-up. Incidentally, the Reds, who up until December 7th had kept three clean sheets from 24 matches, have conceded a single goal in their last six.
We’re not saying Joe Gomez is magic. He is just very, very good, much better than he should be given his age and how much playing time has been lost to injuries, and he complements van Dijk absolutely perfectly for how Jürgen Klopp wants his defense to play. The Reds have been rounding into goalscoring form in recent weeks, owing among other things to the emergence of Keïta, but if Gomez and van Dijk can rediscover their partnership from the start of last season and begin locking down the defense, that gap down to their rivals begins to look mightily vast.
Leicester’s Title Challenge: For those who look beyond the table, this always felt more like a media creation than a real thing, but, having ran hot for almost half a season, the Foxes have now picked up a single point from their last three matches, losing to both of their nearest rivals, and dropping to 13 points behind the league leaders, who have a game in hand.
Brendan Rodgers is a good manager, and this Leicester City side is a well put together squad full of exciting young talent — and one very bad person — but talk of a genuine shot at the crown this year was always premature. The Reds put that reality into stark relief tonight.
Credit to the Opposition
Not really? Leicester are a good side that looks to play football, but they were utterly incapable of troubling the league leaders tonight. In 180 minutes of football against Liverpool this season, the Foxes have managed five shots, and a total expected goals count of 0.22, while conceding 7.52 expected goals against.
This is partly down to the gap in quality, but there is also a matchup issue at play, and the way Rodgers wants his team to play sets them up to get absolutely hammered by high-pressing teams, as it was the case last week when they got thumped by Manchester City.
Leicester as an organisation has done a fantastic job of leveraging their Cinderella story from 2016 into long-term sustainability, but they are in all likelihood at least a year or two away from consistently putting up the sort of numbers that are needed to win the Premier League in the current era.
What Happens Next
Wolves come to Anfield on Sunday, having hosted City on Friday, the second in a string of three matches against opponents who will have faced the Citizens in the preceding matchup. It’s a quirk of the fixture list that can go both ways; either teams face Liverpool demoralised from a beating by their rivals, or they come into the game with a point to prove for the same reason.
At any rate, you’d bet on this particular edition of the Reds to deal with whatever challenge is placed in front of them at this point. Up the 79 points from the last 81 available Reds!