Karl Coppack’s post-match review for The Anfield Wrap after Liverpool 3 Aston Villa 0 in the 2023-2024 Premier League season…
WELL, that was just lovely.
Anfield on a sunny day is unrivalled. Anfield with an early two-goal lead and the constant booing of a former Evertonian, even more so. It’s the simple pleasures.
Were Aston Villa time-wasting at 2-0? Did I dream that? What was the plan there? Some sort of reverse psychology? I like a bit of jazz hands mind games from time to time, but that threw me completely.
Anyway, yesterday was all about The Reds. The Reds with a new midfield and an old/new defence. Oh, and a hell of a forward line.
The middle three, though. I’m always a bit worried about seeing new players for the first time. What if I spot something that sticks in my head and colours their future in a negative light?
I was at Vegard Heggem’s home debut in 1998. The Norwegian right back warmed up with some lovely keepy-ups and first touches, but then started rubbing his hamstring. I always think of that when his name comes up.
None of that yesterday, though. Big Dom Szoboszlai running the show and Alexis Mac Allister having that wonderful ability to have three white shirts around him, but still seemingly have half an hour on the ball.
Align that to Curtis Jones’ energy and we had a midfield alchemy which gripped the game and wouldn’t let go. Previous incarnations have been criticised for being too slow, too old or too injured, so it was nice to see us so strong there.
There was a time when the midfield was the be-all and end-all of the English game. Your central quartet (I’m going back a bit) had to be strong and creative to help out your big man and little man upfront.
That was the classic shape, but that was abandoned in favour of just being good at either end. Arsenal and Manchester United would win an armful of trophies playing like that. Yeah, Keane and Vieira, but they could carry some deadwood with them.
Of course, Jürgen Klopp realised that it was the full backs who provided the creativity so more or less left his midfield to fight and provide rather than dazzle and inspire.
Szoboszlai and Mac Allister in particular look more like piano players than removal men, so this really is a ‘new Liverpool.’ This is the midfield so many of us wanted, though that’s not to criticise the previous incumbents. They won everything, after all.
Of course, all eyes were on Mo Salah. On the drive home last night, the radio news reports talked more about the Saudi bid more than his goal. I’m not sure how much juice there is in ‘man stays at football club’, but they had a go all the same. He said he’s staying, so did his manager and so did Big Dom and I trust him implicitly.
That didn’t stop me worrying about him going to The Kop at the end of the match with tears in his eyes. I watched his every movement. It’s a strange set of circumstances when you’re hissing ‘Just applaud us and get off the f___ pitch’, to your beloved genius goalscorer.
That’s exactly what he did and he went down the tunnel with an air of ‘I’ll see you all in a few weeks,’ rather than ‘Well, that was nice, but’… Sorry media outlets.
A new Liverpool? You can’t expect everything to be smooth immediately, but 10 points from 12 with two tricky aways done feels good. It’s certainly better than spending truckloads and being somewhere between, say, 11-14th places in the league. Don’t get me wrong here. I reckon Fulham will be okay.
Anfield in the sun. Nobody does it better.