Comfortable. Tranquil. Routine. Not exactly adjectives normally associated with Liverpool home games against less illustrious opposition, not even in a year where the Reds can’t seem to stop winning, but this was all of those things. Jürgen Klopp’s men took charge of proceeding early and never even considered letting it go, coasting to a 19th win of the campaign.
Captain Jordan Henderson: In the pantheon of players who have taken strides under Klopp, the European and World Champion captain perhaps ranks highest. Having made his name as a tidy utility player in his early years at the club, Henderson has established himself as a truly world class two-position player, excelling both as a box-to-box all-action midfielder, and a true holding player.
The 29-year old was at his commanding best tonight, covering every blade of grass while sweeping up behind his fellow midfielders, winning the ball and organising his team, finding the time to swing in a number of venomous crosses, creating four chances for his teammates.
Fragile Liverpudlian Nerves: That was about as comfortable a win as we’ve seen, made all the more so by the fact that the Reds were in the lead almost from the opening whistle. A tremendously difficult stylistic opponent was made to look utterly ordinary, and apart from Oliver McBurnie’s back post chance in the dying minutes as Liverpool’s players had began to tune out, Sheffield United weren’t given a sniff all night.
The Reds’ early points lead this season may have been built on eking out dramatic wins from marginal advantages, but their mid-season run has been nothing short of extraordinary. With five straight clean sheets and an aggregate goal difference of 17 - 2 from their last six matches — closely mirrored by an expected goal difference of 15.55 - 4.03 — the Merseysiders are in outstanding form, showing no signs to their title rivals that they will allow them to close the gap.
Naby Keïta: Besides the fact that the Reds are now missing a full half of their midfield corps to injuries, it is doubly devastating that it is Naby Keita who has once again been forced out of action. The Guinean had been rounding into spectacular form in recent weeks, coinciding with the Liverpool squad doing the same, and will now miss time with yet another groin injury, this one suffered during the warm-up to the match.
No word yet on the severity of the injury, but the recurring nature of the 24-year old’s groin troubles indicates that it’s an issue the club must look for a long-term fix to.
Fun With Numbers
364: The number of days since the last time Liverpool lost a Premier League match. In the 37 games that have taken place in the competition since the 2-1 loss at the Etihad last January, the Reds have won 32 and drawn five, for a 101 points, or a 104 point pace over a 38-game season.
969: The number of attempted passes made by the Reds tonight. At a completion rate of 90.1%, that makes for 873 completed passes, the fourth highest recorded number since the Premier League began keeping records back in 2003, bettered only by Manchester City’s 902, 908, and 942, all recorded in the spring of 2018.
14: The number of assists Liverpool’s fullbacks have managed between them in the league this season. They ended last year on 23 assists combined, and are on pace to beat their own record in 2020.
495: The number of minutes since the Reds last conceded a goal in the Premier League. The reintroduction of Joe Gomez to the side has reignited the Liverpool defense’s ability to keep clean sheets, and the partnership with Virgil van Dijk seems just as potent as last year. In the 15 games the two have paired up in the centre of defense since the start of last season, the Reds have kept 10 clean sheets.
85: The number of points the Reds have taken from the last 87 on offer. That’s a 111 point pace stretching back 29 games. Bonkers.
What Happens Next
It’s a Merseyside derby in the FA Cup, as the Reds host Everton at Anfield on Sunday, before Jürgen Klopp’s men can enjoy nearly a full week’s rest for the first time since late November, ahead of their trip to London and Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham next Saturday. The starting line-up on Sunday will show to what extent Klopp is going to take domestic cups seriously this year, having opted for fully rotated youth and fringe sides in the Carabao Cup.