LIVERPOOL’S intensity was exceptional as they beat Bournemouth 0-4 this evening.
Nil-four is a really rather rare scoreline and rightly so. To score four at any Premier League ground without reply takes a very good performance and that is exactly what Liverpool managed this evening.
In winning 0-4 you can need a bit of everything, a bit of luck, a smattering of genius, consistent quality and tempo, and a desire to work for one another. Starting with the last of the four it is here that we see Liverpool collectively be the most impressive. No player on the pitch today hid. Every single footballer wanted to work for his colleagues. All game you saw Liverpool players first to the ball.
Joe Gomez at right back making Mark Pugh’s life a misery; Andy Robertson nicking it from just in front of his man; Roberto Firmino time and again just there where his opponent must never was him, winning his game of psychological warfare through the middle of the pitch. No time to rest for any Bournemouth players who make up that square between centre back and centre midfield. It must be exhausting to play against.
The consistent quality and tempo was set in the middle of the park. Jordan Henderson made himself constantly available and looked, especially early in the game, to pin Bournemouth back. He was passing into the paths of his teammates both long and short and he was forcing the issue. Philippe Coutinho was coming inside, seeing what there was that could be done. But more than anyone Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was urgency personified. He wouldn’t let his teammates rest let alone his opponents, pinging the ball into feet and spinning and running off. It was an excellent performance, one worthy of a goal and one full of direct, vertical football.
Oxlade-Chamberlain should come off that pitch today feeling like a Liverpool player, feeling like a Liverpool midfielder. For the last few weeks he has been improving but for me it has often felt like some of the praise has been a bit of a stretch, a bit of a relief. Not today. Today was him running the show in a Jürgen Klopp team, as a Jürgen Klopp player, showing the qualities that were lacking against Everton and in such painfully short supply against West Brom.
Take your pick from the smatterings of genius but Coutinho’s creating of time before giving the entire football world the eyes for the opener was tremendous. He’d served notice he was feeling frisky with the free kick and the lofted effort which followed but the opening goal was a great example of a footballer having a greater feel for the game than the crowd and the cameras. He should do loads of things rather than what he did; he did everything perfectly. A footballer making fools of us all due to his quality.
Firmino’s touch for the second will become testament to not letting a cause be lost but the focus should actually be on the cushion of the touch while on the stretch. It’s a beautifully-weighted ball back into the box and one which would be all too easily lost had Dejan Lovren not obliged with the stooping header. We can too often lose Firmino in the tackles and the work rate, damn him with incorrect praise. He’s a sumptuous footballer and one which has now outscored his return from last season in all competitions. It remains Advent. The expectation should be there that he exceeds 20 and possibly 25.
We can gloss over Liverpool’s and the country’s top scorer, though we do need to be aware that keeping Mohamed Salah off his left isn’t an option and that yet again all of Liverpool’s first-choice front three has scored. This is worthy of reflection as both a positive and a negative. A positive because it is glorious, it is three goals minimum, a negative that perhaps this side still has to be playing too well to expect to win.
Which brings us to the luck. The genius opens the scoring and the quality decides the scale of the win, but Jermain Defoe’s effort hitting the post and bouncing back out stopped Liverpool’s afternoon from becoming sticky. That Firmino was offside for his doesn’t matter but was the case, Liverpool getting the benefit of a refereeing decision reminding us there are many unbalanced ways for it all to balance out over the course of a season.
It’s strange what can become or can grow to feel mundane. Liverpool today played the sort of football that arguably only they and Manchester City are capable of in the country and yet feelings can persist that they are away from where they should be. That’s understandable and can only be put to bed by results. It’s important for the march to continue and for unbeaten runs not to underwhelm. It’s important to acknowledge that in this season of five very good football teams and one great one, we’re watching a very good side which may well be the one best placed to become great over time. You don’t win 0-4 very often in this thing of ours.
Regardless of whether Liverpool become great or not they are so vibrant at times. They are a joy and they should bring joy. Never let 0-4 wins become mundane. They are the absolute business.
Arsenal will be a real test but these lads could well be ready to enjoy themselves away from Anfield again.
“He seems to have found what he knows he can be good at with the lads around him. I think that’s crucial and it means that Liverpool have got a very good footballer.”
— The Anfield Wrap (@TheAnfieldWrap) 17 December 2017