Closing out the day in second place feels pretty good even if it’s just a temporary position until Manchester United and Chelsea square off on Sunday. Liverpool looked like a well-oiled machine against West Ham at Anfield, scoring four, with a few others that were just off, great movement, and barring the one concession, a solid defensive performance.
“I thought we were good in the first half but the first really big change was for Arnautovic,” said Jürgen Klopp during his post-match interview. “A nice, little genius strike and a fantastic save from Loris.
“But we kept on going, we played football. It was really difficult today. The wind changed direction all the time so it was difficult to judge. For both teams, of course.
“And it’s a question of attitude, to be honest, to stay in the game then and stay focused, to do what is right to do and to improve as well. And we did that.”
Liverpool were sound from back to front. Sadio Mané, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino were all just as dangerous as they can be. But there were stellar performances worthy of lauding all over the pitch.
James Milner, for one. Milly took a beating and kept on ticking, going to ground in very un-Milly displays. Clearly he was taking some licks but his tenacity and courage during the match were exceptional. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also deserves his kudos. The ex-Arsenal man showed again that he can add to the already impressive attacking talent that Klopp has assembled. Virgil Van Dijk we don’t even have to talk about. He’s good. Andrew Robertson put in yet another fine performance up and down the left. Loris Karius continued to rise above Simon Mignolet in the goalkeeper power rankings.
“I am really happy with the complete performance,” Klopp said. “All the individual performances were really, really good today.
“When we had problems in one or two moments, we had comebacks in the game and then didn’t suffer or whatever. It was just a good game and we were really difficult to play today, I would say.”
The mental strength of the squad is unquestionably better than we’ve seen in the last several seasons. The team has developed the ability to not get torn down by negative outcomes and emotions. A goal conceded is no longer an atomic bomb to cohesion. The players keep their heads and keep moving, knowing what they know about what they can do together.
“I have nothing to criticise, to be honest,” Klopp added.
It’s pretty cramped at the top right now with Liverpool, United, Chelsea and Tottenham squeezed so tightly into a 5-point space. And while Liverpool’s goals tally could certainly come into play at the end of the season, for now the three points are all that’s on Klopp’s mind. The manager said that before the game he would have happily taken a “1-0, ugly, dirty.” Because Liverpool can’t afford to drop out of the top four with the likes of Arsenal (sorry, Arsenal).
But the team is flying right now, with players up and down the pitch in excellent form. Confidence is high and solidity is on the rise. Newcastle at Anfield will be another difficult test in the league, though, followed by a trip to Old Trafford where maybe Klopp is more likely to get that ugly, dirty 1-0 he was expected today.
Or our boys bag another four. #dreamjournal