Neil Atkinson’s post-match review for The Anfield Wrap after Brentford 1 Liverpool 4 in the 2023-2024 Premier League season…


ONE game in three I get a text from Adam Melia prior to it. He’s listening to the shows and gauging my mood and he messages.

“You’re worried about this one, aren’t you?”

This week I said, I thought we were going to get deadly serious Liverpool. No messing about Liverpool. Business end Liverpool.

Then the keeper got injured and I was really worried.

Not because I don’t think Caoimhin Kelleher is good. I think he is good. But it was just another excuse, another reason not to win and at some point there is an excuse — Brentford, set pieces, enormous, three centre backs — that breaks the camel’s back. It happens at some stage to every football club.

Not Liverpool. Not today.

No excuses, deadly serious, business end.

No excuses. Excuses were available everywhere. At half time the referee had given only one foul for Liverpool and booked Sergio Reguilon for it rightly. He had given nine to Brentford. Excuses.

At half time two Liverpool players, two important players, had gone off injured and then a third needed to be removed as a precaution presumably around the rules about breaking the game. Excuses.

Brentford were good for 25. They were muscular and clever, Vitaly Janelt was a bit of a tormentor, popping up both with and without the ball in awkward areas. Liverpool felt a teeny bit exposed, especially on their right with Conor Bradley and Alexis Mac Allister both looking like players who hadn’t had much football with each other in the area.

Excuses. Excuses.

Liverpool didn’t care for any of them, rejected each and every one of them and powered though, putting together a performance which eventually dismembered Brentford.

The first half was hard, Liverpool had to graft prior to being given a moment to glow. The clearance is anonymous, but Diogo Jota sticks his name on it like a graffiti artist. The header is beautifully angled, but then the big man just backs himself, full of bravado, full of brilliance.

The trousers of time go two ways. Down one leg Mark Flekken just catches the ball and your away end, boozer and timeline is full of nonsense. Down the other, there is Darwin Nunez, Cheshire Cat smile, wheeling away, proud as punch, bold as brass. We live in that leg and I am constantly there. He is Didier Drogba, endlessly present and potentially unplayable.

The second half was exceptional. Mo Salah comes back and plays not like he’s never been away, but instead like he has very much been away and hated every since minute of it, instead manifesting what he will do when he is back. There is so much Mo Salah in the second half. He is the game’s dominant force, its gravitational pull. He offers control while he plays right-sided forward. He should be moments, but he is instead momentous.

Virgil van Dijk doesn’t care about your excuses. He is certain throughout. It’s important to note that part of the concern is the previous away game when he was uncharacteristically uncertain. Today was a rock of a performance with a glint in its eye. He uses a header to put Mo Salah through one on one second half.

Alexis Mac Allister gets the sort of goal we want him to get, but offers control alongside Wataru Endo from the point the scoreboard is in Liverpool’s favour first half. Endo himself wins his battles, looks for more battles to win those ones too. In fact this isn’t quite right, the most interesting Endo thing is that he doesn’t lose his battles — opponents who have done well are often left wondering: “How is this still going on? When will he just fuck off?”

The answer is: Never.

Cody Gakpo plays well, throws in an eight out of 10. But I am happier with Ryan Gravenberch’s seven. Gravenberch needs to have some serious sevens. They have been rare so far. We’ve had fours and fives. We’ve had eights and nines. But sevens do the business on days like today, especially when Salah, van Dijk, Nunez, Jota and Gakpo are doing their thing.

Brentford are shattered by the time of the third and the fourth. Nathan Collins epitomises it but their legs are gone. It’s interesting this, at this stage of the campaign. They find their own excuses, Liverpool just too good, too fresh, too many changes and too much pep and now this lad is giving away gifts? What do you expect us to do?

What do you expect us to do? Well, now all roads lead to March 10th allowing for the fact both Liverpool and Manchester City have business to attend to between now and then. I’ll not turn down gifts, but I’m fine if they win and keep winning, because I want to look them in the eye on Mothering Sunday when they rock up at our place.

Because no excuses that day. No excuses midweek, not next Sunday and not the week after. No hiding places. No feeling sorry for ourselves ever. We did that and it was rubbish.

Let’s walk the hard road, the high road, the steep road together. We’re good at that, you and I. It’s meant to be hard. That is part of what makes it good. No feeling sorry for ourselves ever.

It’ll be deadly serious Liverpool which brings the greatest party. No messing about.


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