WHAT a win that is under the circumstances.
It’s a manager backing himself, his staff and his team, and them standing up for themselves and for him. They had to be switched on, aggressive and good. They nailed all the above.
Imagine getting the teamsheet in the Brighton dressing room. What is going on? Then imagine seeing the first 10 minutes play out. Gini Wijnaldum is playing where? The away end was relatively quiet early mainly because everyone was having a chat about what they could see. It was a shape no one saw coming.
Liverpool have surprised with selection and shape through each of their last three games. Opposition scouts left confused, analysts struggling, coaches throwing advice on. Stoke changed their shape on the half-hour mark. Brighton toiled away and broke well on Liverpool but barely got a touch.
It’s a manager suddenly in his element. Making big calls and getting them right when the results come in. Now the Chelsea selection looks reasonable; it needed to be followed with a couple of wins and it has been. Six away points in the bag and five wins in the last six league games.
It’s one thing to be the gaffer who makes the big calls but another thing entirely to ensure there is the buy in and execution that only footballers can bring. Today both Emre Can and Wijnaldum deserve enormous credit for playing unfamiliar roles with both full commitment and genuine quality.
The lynchpin at the back was Dejan Lovren who could also have easily sulked and wondered but instead seemed to revel in the unorthodoxy of the setup and selection. It’s one of his better performances of this season for him. And he was the first over to the away end at the final whistle.
There is a lot you can do with the shape when you have unbelievable quality in attack. Liverpool explode for their second and third and are an unstoppable force; Brighton are made so acutely aware of the gulf. For the second they are countered with astonishing precision, the pieces fitting into place like a perfect game of Tetris, everything sliding together before the ball hits the back of the net.
The third is worse for them. A chance to make it 1-2 repelled by Simon Mignolet leading to Mo Salah running at an over-committed side. Suddenly he has Brighton’s defenders one on one and suddenly they look like defenders out of their depth. They are scared to death, he shifts it to Roberto Firmino who strikes it. Mathew Ryan gets a hand but, unlike Mignolet, his efforts are in vain. Ryan kicked himself afterwards but the shortcomings weren’t just his.
By the very end Brighton were beaten and exhausted, unable to cope with Phil Coutinho’s increasing influence and touch. They were verging on legless. Liverpool have ridden their luck ever so slightly in their last two games in patches. Brighton could have made it 2-3 but that is football. They didn’t and Liverpool pulled away.
The state of play is that Liverpool are in the ascendancy in general, that they are capable of anything and that they are therefore dangerous. They are backing themselves and backing one another.
We spent last season playing in mostly one fashion and with mostly one set of fashionable lads. Right now, this Liverpool squad is exactly that — a squad. A set of footballers who are able to show collective and personal flexibility and also able to shine when the opportunity knocks to do so. Makes you want to move your dancing feet.
Brighton has been kind. A fabulous show and crowd on Friday night at The Anfield Wrap live show. It has felt almost like a European away; it has its character and charm. A big win adds to the joyousness. I almost don’t want to come home but we all must. Two big games this week. Two more opponents to confuse and confound. Two more chances to show the clear blue water between them and us.
Suddenly, this is a season which is all Liverpudlian momentum, which is all celebration and little post mortem. Suddenly, we’re banging out Come All Ye Faithful and it is advent in the high street. Suddenly, it’s Liverpool and it is unapologetic. Cop for this. Cop for us.
Yes to everything. Switched on, aggressive, good.