Liverpool 7 Spartak Moscow 0: Match Review

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, December 6, 2017: Liverpool's Sadio Mane celebrates scoring the sixth goal with team-mates during the UEFA Champions League Group E match between Liverpool FC and FC Spartak Moscow at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

LIVERPOOL were downright irresistible.

I’m not interested in messing about; I’m interested in the facts. The facts are that there is a gulf between these two sides.

I was in The Kop for the second. Shall we have a chat about it? It looked, from where I was, like every pass was the second best option. That can’t be true. The ball ends up in the back of the net. But every decision looks, if not wrong, then not dead right.

What this does is completely throw the opposition. Not one player ever gets what they expect. Not one player is ever set. Every Spartak Moscow footballer is wrong footed and there is Phil Coutinho to do that most decent of things, the ‘keeper sprawling and confused, the ball nestling.

I’ve been driving at it on shows and I’m not going to stop. What this Liverpool side does, more than any Liverpool side I can think of, is bamboozle the opposition. They make the opposition have to make more decisions than any side can cope with. They confuse and dazzle until they break and then they pounce. This is because of their quality but not just due to their quality.

When idiots discuss the Brendan Rodgers 2013-14 side and its attacking prowess, something that is said is “well, it was just down to Luis Suarez”. This isn’t true. But what it was down to was unbelievable quality from attacking individuals who were being coached magnificently. All over the pitch, players were being liberated and improved and empowered to play their very best attacking football. Steven Gerrard’s ball to Daniel Sturridge at Fulham a marvellous case in point. Rodgers took very good or great footballers and made them able to play significantly better.

What’s happening currently has similarities — nothing in football is unique — but it has core differences. Of course the aim is to improve footballers but Liverpool attack with a collective desire to dizzy their opponents, to leave them unbalanced and unsure. To provoke so much doubt they must want to sit down on the pitch. It’s overwhelming in every sense. It’s quicker, sharper and brighter than the sun. It’s almost impossible to do and when done well it is impossible to play against.

We won’t see a lot of it sustained through matches because of how hard it is, but it is noticeable. We have seen it in Liverpool’s two home games when they needed a result to progress so far in this competition. Against Hoffenheim and tonight.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, December 6, 2017: Liverpool's Roberto Firmino celebrates scoring the third goal during the UEFA Champions League Group E match between Liverpool FC and FC Spartak Moscow at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The reality of the situation is that this is a competition Liverpool can win. Will win? No. Should win? Not that either. But can win. Our attacking front four compares, either equitably or favourably, with anyone else in the competition. And if you can devastate then you can do anything.

Coutinho goes home with the match ball and what a pair of performances he has now put back to back. We can wonder about the quality of the opposition but we don’t waste time on that for outstanding individuals from Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona or Manchester City. Instead we wonder and thrill as they make light of the gap between the mundane and the magical even at the highest level of the sport. Liverpool play against the best 0.0001 per cent of footballers on the planet and so many of their players make those lads look ordinary.

Mo Salah dancing. Sadio Mane finishing. Roberto Firmino doing the best bits on the planet. The best.

We should thrill at this. Only one team wins the league. Only one team wins the European Cup. Only one team gets the silverware but if we don’t thrill at the brilliance then what’s the point? On nights like tonight we get to come and adore them. On nights like tonight they’re the kings of Europe.

As it is we go into the New Year, into February, and find out if they can be formally crowned. We get to have that to look forward to. A treat to be put in a box under the bed and pulled out after Valentine’s Day. No one will want us in that draw. No one will fancy that.

Everton next. They’ll frustrate and perhaps we won’t be as magisterial. It’s the way the thing goes. But we’ll still be this football team and still be capable of this.

For me the abiding memory of the evening could well be after the sixth at The Kop end. All of them together, all 10 outfield players, celebrating together. Come and adore them. They rightly adore each other.

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  1. For me, the 2nd is all about the extra touch Firmino has. He hits it 1st time as it must have been tempting to do then the move doesn’t work. A touch, have a look, then a perfect pass to Coutinho who responds with a perfect pass into the net. Truly joyous goal.

    As for Everton – they will try to frustrate undoubtedly but they must also be a bit scared after that.

  2. I am thinking Danny can be a Bob for when the real Bob needs a rest. It would be awesome to have another Bob in reserve.

    If Daniel stops the shooting. Sees the pass and stays cool, he has the skill and trickery to be a Bob.

    Now. If only Ox can study Mo like it was his job interview for the sweetest attacking force in football.

    Two Bob’s and two Mo’s. Why not.

    Watched the game with a Manc who demanded a 7-0 if we were so good.

    • Think Solanke is being coached to be more Bobby by the looks of it. Not sure Daniel could as he’s so much further down the line in terms of style etc

      • A good point on Solanke.

        Pre injury days, Ings would fit that role I thought. Even Origi of 15-16 season. Anyway, let’s see who’d be the back up to Bobby.

  3. Brilliant, Neil.

    “We should thrill at this. Only one team wins the league. Only one team wins the European Cup. Only one team gets the silverware but if we don’t thrill at the brilliance then what’s the point?”

    Nuff said.

  4. Been watching derby matches since 1964 and normally I think they can go either way simply cos it’s the derby. However after recent matches and especially last night I feel supremely confident about Sunday and giving the Bluenoses a good tanking.
    Looking further ahead if we can get VVD from Southampton in January I think the world’s our oyster. Happy days.

  5. karl siwoku

    Great stuff as usual.
    Is there a typo Neil?
    “and so many of their (our) players make those lads look ordinary”

  6. Maisie Miscuit

    Havn’t seen the like since Rush, Beardsley, Kennedy, but why are all the auld fellas in the Kop bald/head shaved ? You can see the shape of their mum’s Fanny’s !

  7. It is for nights like that one that we watch football. What an attacking force those lads are. We reduced the Russian champions to ash. Those weren’t pub footballers last night, they were a very competent team who got taken to pieces by a team of who kicked the ball in their goal seven times without reply.

    You’ll always have people who want to downplay it by discrediting Spartak, but that’s desperately boring. Roy Keane was doing it last night – ceaselessly talking about how Liverpool have “beaten nobody yet” when his job was to analyse last night’s game alone. Nobody said we’ll beat PSG 7-0 but Keane tries so very hard to cultivate this image of himself as someone who is hard to impress – complete with ‘unimpressed’ facial expressions – that it gets in the way of proper analysis. He’s an actor.

    Last night was a sublime display of attacking brilliance from a side under a great deal of pressure. We’re allowed to revel in it.

    • Strange.

      How do you know Keane is acting? How do you know that isn’t his genuine opinion? I mean, it’s not like Roy Keane is known to give only popular opinions or not speak what’s exactly on his mind. For what it’s worth, I think he’s spot on. We haven’t beaten anybody yet. We were in an awful group. Sevilla were the second best side and aren’t as good as they have been in the last few years, when they couldn’t get out of the group stage – as they showed last night by drawing with a pub team. Spartak are 4th best in a weak Russian league, and Maribor play in a 10 team league no ones even heard of any of the other sides.

      But so what? This is all fine by me. You don’t get anything extra by qualifying out of a great group – in fact you have harder games, which takes up more physical and mental energy that all adds up, possibly costing us further down the line.

      • He may well be spot on, but he responded as if the question had been: “Roy, Liverpool have now beaten everybody and would probably have beaten PSG 7-0 tonight as well, are they perfect?”

        It’s only my view that he was acting, but I genuinely believe it. This whole “speaks his mind” thing is just a way of trying to look edgy and be a contrarian. It was your classic straw man argument – responding to a question he’d not been asked and refuting suggestions that hadn’t been made.

        He didn’t assess the game itself, he assessed the narrative. What would your average bloke at the pub say if you asked him about Liverpool? He’d talk about how we’re “great going forward and all that” but “can’t defend for love nor money.” That was pretty much the sum of Keane’s analysis last night. It’s irritating because he can be better than that.

        As for your other point, I agree. No extra points are given for advancing out of a tough group. It’s about time we started swatting aside weaker sides anyway.

  8. Wonder what the blue shite think of that, hippo head will hopefully be having some sleepless nights! We also break Utds record 21 goals in the group stages with 23…anything is possible with our attack, anything!!! up the mighty, destructive reds!!!

  9. I think there is a difference between tonight and Hoffenheim.
    In the recent games we have messed about with our system quite a lot but the most common has been this 4-4-2 or 4-2-3- or 4-4-1-1 as Klopp called it.
    Essentially the big difference is that we have 2 players playing up front and 2 players sitting rather than the 4-3-3 with Henderson sitting and 2 midfielders in front. The big difference with this way of playing is we seem to play with less possession for me. If you look at the stats at the start of the season we were having something like 70% of the ball in most games, even in that Spurs game it was over 60% at the start. Now we aren’t going out with the aim of dominating the ball, whilst also getting another attacker on with this system. I think going forward this is what we need to keep doing and hope that’s Klopp’s plan.
    When we started the game the thing I noticed in the first 5 minutes was the possession was even, I think any team that has those stats against us and isn’t very good at football is going to get a hiding, as tonight showed.

    I also thought it was noticeable that when Sturridge came on he suited the system, which hasn’t been the case with the 4-3-3, I hope he gets more game time with this as we know in the past he has excelled in a front 2 which seems to be more what this is. If so we may well have 5 special palyers for those 4 positions and potientally Llalana could add 6 to that.
    Then with Solanke and the Ox adding options I think this system could really work.

    I also thought it was noticeable that with the system in the other games we have had 2typical wingers out there. Whereas last night it felt more fluid, with all 4 being so close to each other when we broke forwards and being so fluid, I think this may be because coutinho was on the left rather than a more typical winger and this made it even more dangerous.
    It was also noticeable that Salah when playing in the middle is very similar to Fimino in activating the press, so although it was kind of 2 up top it also was kind of having no one up top as they both were nicking the ball of there midfield again and again.

    Anyways very exciting stuff, just wanted to point out that I think the formation change is helping with this attacking style. Whilst also making us more stable and able to play 2 sitting midfielders. What also excites me is I think Keita usually plays in a flat 4-4-2 similar to this.

    • Excellent analysis and spot on.

      I believe klopp will use more of 4-4-1-1 going forward because of more stable defensively, and yet he could use all the attacking talents more effectively (including, Ox, Lallana, Sturridge and Solanke). And utilises two from Hendo, Gini, Millie and Can.

  10. “It looked, from where I was, like every pass was the second best option.” Exactly how I felt while watching it too. The ball ends up in the back of the net but something wasn’t right. It was fantastic. I felt so sorry for their ‘keeper that whenever he made a save I found myself hoping that his manager will remind him of these small successes afterwards…

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