Neil Atkinson’s post-match review for The Anfield Wrap after Liverpool 3 Burnley 1 in the 2023-2024 Premier League season…


BURNLEY at home should be run of the mill.

But perhaps nothing is run of the mill any more. Perhaps nothing ever was and we just lost the run of ourselves and took everything for granted.

Let’s take nothing for granted. Let’s live in every moment, process the idea of things changing and hold on to what we have learned as we go.

Change isn’t to be feared. It may not seem it, but it isn’t. For instance, sometimes a change is as good as a rest. Sometimes an unlikely change sharpens minds.

About halfway through the first half of Liverpool v Burnley, I begin to worry about Trent Alexander-Arnold’s left leg. His bound up below the knee pin looks ever so slightly like it’s not working quite as it should. Trent himself seems conscious of it. But where will we get a replacement right back? Joe Gomez and Conor Bradley are both out?

The answer is the key to why Liverpool win today. They are able to embrace last-minute change. Jürgen Klopp looks at his midfield, looks at his bench, assess. And Curtis Jones plays right back second half and he does so excellently.

Not manfully. Not doing a job, not filling in, not playing safe, but he excels in all phases of play.

And then ahead of him, Harvey Elliott happens, and happens, and happens, and Liverpool score two goals because of it.

Liverpool weren’t good first half. They played like strangers because they sort of are. The goalkeeper is the second choice. Jarell Quansah doesn’t have 30 appearances for Liverpool, both full backs are returning from injury and one doesn’t look fit. Wataru Endo hasn’t been about, Alexis Mac Allister is in a new role.

They do the job in the end, do the decent thing, but you can understand why they lack fluency early.

Alisson has the flu. Mo Salah is out. Trent has to go off. Changes beget changes. But we deal with it. That’s the strength. Working it out is the strength and that is precisely what they do — epitomised by Wataru Endo, birthday boy.

At 31 years young, he plays his way through gorgeously. I need to be careful not to go too far — he doesn’t have to have silk, but then every now and then he does. He doesn’t win every battle, but he makes them all attritional. He is a nightmare to play against because he is working it out all the time. His brain whirring.

You know who else is a nightmare to play against? Darwin Nunez is a nightmare for them. Chasing down the keeper, running channels, holding it up. Attacking and shooting and making space. We all want him to score. He wants him to score. When at last he capitalises on a beautiful Harvey Elliott cross we are all in raptures.

It is his first goal at Anfield in the league since the end of October and he laps it up. He couldn’t be happier. His joy is infectious. His joy is shared with every teammate.

The goal matters. It kills the game. It was a live contest to that point. Burnley had played well to the point that something must be said about Burnley and Vincent Kompany, because they create something that needs working out.

They look better than their points total, better than the shell we’d sort of expected. They have a way to enjoy games between now and the end of the campaign. Because they’d seemed sad.

Their players are tough and take no prisoners in defending against Liverpool today, with a rapid and front-footed style of play. It’s good. It’s a good game to watch. James Trafford makes excellent saves, denying Nunez and Luis Diaz despite clever shots from both all the way through the game.

They are likely too far back to make a fist of staying up, but there is a way to it not being dismal.

Something also has to be said about Liverpool’s forwards. Diogo Jota hasn’t had a run of games in which he has seen his name in the starting lineup for some time. Yet here he is. Looking as sharp and quick as always.

Jota has this ability to pass to himself, deflecting defenders by appearing to release the ball from his foot or head, only to find himself on the other end of it. It’s ludicrously good.

His header in the first half is deserved when Liverpool were not entirely in control of the game.

Luis Diaz, you might well give man of the match for the unrelenting creative pace of his play. Do they miss Mo Salah? Sure. Can they create innumerable chances without him? Yes. Liverpool had let one in at the final minutes of the first half but Diaz comes out strong in the second to put us back ahead.

In fact, the biggest issue the game has is the officiating. There wasn’t a bad tackle in the game, but both managers end up booked. It felt like refereeing by lottery. This isn’t about winning or losing. It was about a game being undermined. Not for the first time this season, I leave Anfield feeling like the players looked after the game better than the referee.

As I write this, in front of me, I have Issam, talking to Dan Austin and Craig Hannan. He has said “I remember young Craig” as though asking about some bygone era. It is the best thing that has ever happened to me and Dan. And in addition it was Issam’s first ever game at Anfield, having made the trek from Lebanon.

At the match, behind me, I had Eleanor. Eleanor was five. Maybe six. Christ knows — I have no idea about children’s ages. Maybe she has done her UCAS application. Anyway, it was her first game at Anfield as well.

It is always someone’s first game. Nothing is run of the mill. The magic of the manager has always been that he lives in all the moments and wants us to as well.

All three forwards score and revel in it. The goalkeeper is ecstatic come the final whistle and there they all are bold as brass — top of the league, back on the march, back finding their way and building their path.

Fresh like wet paint. Urgent like a 6am alarm. Drumbeat pounding like a pulse, like your heart. No eras are bygone. There are just the days and we should collect them like butterflies, like stamps, like football stickers, like records, photo albums, bursting at the seams.

It’s Burnley at home and it is happening, everything is free now, nothing is run of the mill, nothing is for granted. Not anymore. Gonna do it anyway. Even if it doesn’t pay.

Bursting at the seams.

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