Neil Atkinson’s post-match review after West Liverpool 4 Arsenal 0 in the Premier League at Anfield, setting up a great Saturday night…
FOOTBALL is nothing without emotion.
Everything which makes the whole thing worthwhile is in the way it makes your heart beat. Certain songs they get so scratched into your soul.
I could have done without Chelsea’s emphatic win against Leicester. Oddly, I could have done without all the 3-3s and another Man United collapse. It made me think that strangeness was at play. That chaos could reign. I could have done without our bench looking like a third round League Cup lineup.
And then I could have done without Liverpool’s slightly hesitant start, like a side who have been conceding too many goals and who know they need to pack that in.
But then the kick off happens and then the kick off really happens. You wonder about the manager. He lives in the moment but can divorce himself from it. Mikel Arteta screaming for a yellow card gave him an opening and it is hard to avoid the idea that he wanted to inject the emotion into the contest and into the stadium he felt was lacking. Then it was there.
Perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps he just had the emotion, the wanting and the needing, that makes him good at his job. Perhaps this is just serendipitous.
What isn’t just serendipitous is that Liverpool suddenly shift their level and Arsenal suddenly find the game remarkably difficult. From that moment around 30 until about 65 they are smothered. What is also worth pointing out and worth dwelling on is that after all the touchline emotion, after all the kick off, Liverpool’s coaching staff have one hell of a half time.
Building into half time Liverpool are far better, but after half time Liverpool are absolutely surgical. They dismantle Arsenal. They know all the pressure points and they hit them over and over and over again. In a practical sense, in the chaos of a dressing room, what Liverpool manage to do off the pitch in that 10 minutes is remarkable. Those players have the scent of how to hurt Arsenal but they come out with a road map.
Technology will have played its part. Intelligence will be central to it. But ultimately it comes down to players who can listen and learn so, so fast. You can be the best coach in the world but in those pressured moments you need to have open minded individuals able to listen and then to implement. My god, did Liverpool implement second half. Arsenal have not been as implemented to in seasons.
This can feel harsh in that we saw enough from Arsenal to think they aren’t actually bad. We needed the emotion and we needed to earn it. Looking back at our home games against them these last few seasons this was by far the hardest we had to work. But when we hit that rarefied air, they simply had no answer.
Liverpool’s midfield three are all excellent, all in different ways. The balance is perfect. There was a point first half where Fabinho wins it back three times in 90 seconds. Thiago Alcantara plays football like you do in a dream. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was so aggressive and repeatedly brave in all the ways that bravery matters. They were our boys and they weren’t to be denied.
I love the goals. Each of them has its own story. The first with the swirling delivery and the unerring header from a Sadio Mane who had to that point toiled. The second has Arsenal defenders and goalkeeper smothered and then sat down, left denuded by Diogo Jota’s brilliance. The third is glorious, a move from end to end. The Jota header sumptuous, the Mane pace irresistible and then the main fella there. I loved the Minamino goal. Loved it deeply. Liverpool took their time and then did the decent thing.
The main fella though. Mohamed Salah simply has jokes. He has smiles. He shows everything from 60, every single way he is the hardest opponent anyone faces through the season. He makes my heart swell at times just with daft touches and little looks. There’s a little moment on 84 when Nuno Taveres is just trying to take it off him and he ends up on the deck. Just stretched to breaking point. Over and over he turns 90 minutes into sheer hell for the players he faces and he does so with such aplomb.
Virgil van Dijk plays ever so well and so too does our goalkeeper. Kostas Tsimikas does the business to the extent you don’t notice the join. Trent Alexander Arnold could maybe be man of the match. He is redefining full back in a way that Dani Alves once did.
The manager grabs Tyler Morton and makes a joke and then hugs Thiago. He is with these boys in a way which is calculated and visceral.
That brings us back to the start. I didn’t like the bench; none of us did. I didn’t like the Chelsea win. But today is the day where the table begins to break and Liverpool are on the right side of it. We need to keep it emotional at all stages. We need to not shy away from the needing and the wanting, the wanting for all time. We need to be silly and over-committed. We need to need. There are many ways to win a league title. One is to simply crave it like nothing on earth. The run, the big run has to start now.
Arsenal sent back to London with their tail between their legs. That needs to be the case for everyone at Anfield for the rest of the campaign.
The big run has to start from now. Liverpool hitting the end of November hard and punishing into December. We know how this works. Just look, today, we know how this works. Hello handsome. Hello gorgeous. Everyone funny, everyone pretty, everyone headed towards the centre of the city.
The manager knows: Enjoy the Saturday night. Let it take you and sway you. It belongs to us, as it always should. Liverpool certain, zipless, confident, making everybody finally sing along. We’ve been here before. Twelve down, 26 to go.
Football is nothing without emotion. And there is no one I’d rather share it all with than you.
Subscribe to The Anfield Wrap for instant reaction to all the Liverpool FC news and events that matter to you…