Neil Atkinson’s post-match review for The Anfield Wrap after Liverpool 3 Brentford 0 in the 2023-2024 Premier League season…
“WE can win this fucking league, you know.”
It is always the defining sentence which makes a season. And it is game 12 when you can begin to live it. A third of the season.
I write all of these words while Manchester City play at Stamford Bridge. But that sort of doesn’t matter. Because we matter.
That doesn’t mean we will. That doesn’t mean it is the likeliest outcome. But it isn’t an outlandish outcome. It isn’t mad.
It would have been easy to have hard-luck stories today. It would have been easy to find a way to say it is too hard. In years gone by, this is one of those frustrating draws.
However, the situation is this: Liverpool have the best attack, the best goalkeeper and the best centre-back in the division.
Does that mean the title inevitably comes to Anfield? Absolutely not. But it means you should not count these lads out. You should not doubt them.
Virgil van Dijk is magnificent again today. He owns the pitch, owns the last line. He reads the game and picks his battles marvellously.
Today he played one of the finest long passes I have ever seen. It was right in front of me. It was a reminder that these lads are magicians, that they are just phenomenal, that being on the same pitch as them is an achievement, that getting to watch them is a privilege. I am a lucky boy.
Van Dijk though is determined that this season he is lifting silverware and were I to see him I’d say: “We can win this fucking league, you know.”
Joel Matip is excellent. I love him losing his mind over the freekick and getting booked. I love that that precipitates the hefty “fuck off, Tierney” chant that reverberates. It had some serious depth to it.
But Matip punches the ball through the lines second half with aplomb. He shows he can suit these games. He carries it, he occupies. At times, him and van Dijk are in their box as Wataru Endo fills in.
Wataru Endo is a reminder that different players offer different opportunities. He isn’t great today, but he moves the ball well and sits in when others go. This isn’t the holding work of an Alexis Mac Allister but he offers a platform.
I am delighted for Kostas Tsimikas with the assist. He breaks his back to set the second up and puts a fabulous ball in. He builds his confidence on excellent set-piece delivery. He can contribute that and get the rest right and the more confidence he has the better.
Darwin Nuñez’s first half is among the most involved I think I have ever seen a centre forward. He was everywhere, at the heart of everything good and does brilliantly for the opening goal after his two disallowed efforts.
He deserves to score on the break, but the ball into him isn’t quite right. He occupies so many central defenders, which is useful as Brentford pick four.
They are a big side. And a clever side. They are good on breakdowns, good on restarts. There are no accidents with them, the ball drops to a Brentford player precisely because a Brentford player is well positioned. I like them an awful lot.
They are against a team with the best attackers, the best centre back and the best goalkeeper, though. Mo Salah gets a brace with a minimum of fuss. Diogo Jota slots because that is what he does.
Jota is verging on being underrated. He is on the verge of a half century of Liverpool goals and I’d be amazed if he doesn’t get into three figures for The Reds. That would get him into the top 20. We miss this in terms of elsewhere. His excellence we take for granted. He scores goals relentlessly.
Liverpool march on. Challenges are to come. And softness is to come too. Lyrics and boxes of paints. But today, well, I want to hold you, I want to kiss you but I don’t have time for that now.
I have time for one thing. Say it before you go to bed. Say it when you wake up. Say it when you brush your teeth, and when you make the train, and when you sink those brushed teeth into that sandwich. Say it, and believe it, and mean it, and need it more than want it, and want it for all time.
“We can win this fucking league, you know.”