Player ratings: Liverpool 5-1 Arsenal

Firmino-with-match-ball-under-his-shirt
Whisper it quietly but I’m actually starting to believe. We’ve been sweeping teams aside like champions but Arsenal promised to prove a sterner test for our table toppers. It proved not to be the case however as they were summarily dismissed at Anfield. Let’s see how they got on individually...

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Alisson (9) - Excellent display from Alisson as he showcased his repertoire, from shot-stopping to distribution. What a pass to Firmino in the build up to the first penalty. A real presence in this team and on current form, the best goalkeeper in the league. Klopp reportedly said he only wanted a new goalie if he was going to be a game-changer. Well he got one.

TAA (7) - Given a stern test by Iwobi who was probably Arsenal’s best player on the day. In fact, Iwobi gave him a torrid time for a period in the first half but Trent always impresses with his bravery. He never fades, even when things aren’t going perfectly for him and usually ends up making some kind of positive impact in games. Provided width on the right the whole game and frequently got himself in good attacking positions.

Lovren (7) - Gave away possession with a sloppy pass in the lead up to Arsenal’s goal but other than that, another solid display from Dejan. Won a soft penalty but he’s conceded plenty of them in his time and was clever in drawing the defender into making the challenge.

Van Dijk (8) - Surprisingly quiet afternoon for Virgil considering the standard of opposition but everything he did, he did excellently as usual. Completely stifled Aubameyang, who barely got a touch. You can see the psychological impact his presence has on attackers. Virgil staying fit is imperative to our title charge.

Robertson (8) - Robbo was his usual marauding self and caused Arsenal no end of problems. Put some excellent deliveries into the box and it was his ball that created Mane’s goal. As I said on the match thread, best left back in the world right now.

Fabinho (6) - Disappointing display from Fabinho for large periods. Gave the ball away countless times in the first half but did some good work defensively as the game went on. Invited pressure at 0-0 though with sloppy passing and we don’t need that.

Wijnaldum (8) - Gini was excellent today in my opinion. He’s turned into a very good defensive midfielder and he won possession back countless times and made a potentially goal saving challenge on Ramsay in the first half. Rotated possession well and put in his usual selfless display, showing some classy touches at times. Very important player in this squad.

Shaqiri (8.5) - What a good footballer Shaqiri is. He didn’t get a goal or assist today but I thought he put in an excellent, mature display. He floated between central and wide areas with great intelligence. Popped up in pockets of space all over the park and did someone call for a midfield string-puller? His decision making and passing range showed his class today and he also pressed well and nicked back possession a couple of times. Every time he plays, he gives Klopp a decision for the next match.

Firmino (10) - Bobby has been due a performance like this and he kept up his impressive scoring record against Arsenal with a hat trick today, becoming the Premier League’s all time top scoring Brazilian in the process, overtaking some guy called Coutinho who was apparently once an important player in the Premier League. Bobby was brilliant today, his second goal was a thing of beauty and he tormented Arsenal’s back line all day with his unique combination of work rate and skill. Take a bow son.

Mane (8) - Scored a good goal and looked a threat throughout. Good to see a little fire in the belly from him too when tangling with that dirty cheat Lichsteiner. No doubt who won the individual battle though as Mane, alongside Robbo, completely dominated that side of the pitch.

Salah (8) - Cut an isolated figure in the opening stages before bursting to life. Won and subsequently converted the penalty which finished the game as a contest. Could have scored more if he could just find a little more consistency with his first touch. Nice gesture to give the second penalty to Bobby for his hat trick, especially as it would have put him one clear of Aubameyang in the race for the golden boot. Was good man management from Klopp to publicly recognise that gesture in his post match interview as well.

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Subs:

Hendo (7) - Hendo is a perfect player to come on in games such as this, when it’s just about controlling the game and seeing out the result. He’s sometimes found wanting in an attacking sense when we’re chasing games but he’s perfect for situations like today. Played some good passes when he came on, snuffed out potential danger and got himself in some good attacking positions. Tried avery ambitious (and fairly comical) volley, demonstrating how comfortable the result was.

Lallana (6) - Brought some fresh legs to the party in the closing stages, ensuring we didn’t get sloppy in the middle of the pitch.

Clyne (6) - Came on at left back for Robbo with ten minutes to go but got stuck right in and even tried an audacious, if unsuccessful, bit of dribbling in the final minutes. I’ve noticed Clyne really trying to make an impact in an attacking sense in his last few appearances. He can obviously see that just being steady isn’t enough to get you a place in the Liverpool first team any more.

Klopp-watch (10) - Jurgen has been racking up the ten’s recently but it’s difficult to score him any less, the way recent results have been going. I said prior to the game that Arsenal were suspect defensively and the way to beat them was to go for the jugular. Klopp deserves credit for recognising that and being brave with his team selection by starting Shaqiri and it duly paid off. Many (myself included) were starting to question Klopp’s judgement at the beginning of the season, after some lacklustre performances but I’m delighted to be proved wrong. He really is working wonders with us.

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Summary:

I think this was my favourite performance of the season so far. I’d almost forgotten what it felt like to be losing at Anfield, given we were one day shy of a full calendar year since we had been trailing on our hallowed turf. How would we respond to unexpectedly going behind? Would we have the character to fight back? Would we bottle it and fold? The answer was emphatic.

For many years, Liverpool have been accused of being a one or two man team and often justifiably so. Whether that be Suarez, Gerrard or Torres, throughout the majority of the Premier League era, it’s generally been true that if you could stop one or two of our players, you could stop Liverpool. That is no longer the case.

In our front three, we have a talismanic player in Salah, who’s stats are frankly ridiculous but you can’t just concentrate on stopping him or guess what, Firmino pops up with a hat trick or Mane punishes you from the left. If Shaqiri starts as well, you simply can’t stop them all and today was a great example of that. One of our attacking quartet was always in space to receive the ball and threaten as the others pulled their defenders all over the place and on the odd occasion our attackers were all marked, our fullbacks were available to provide another attacking outlet and such is the quality of their delivery, no team wants to allow Robbo and Trent space to cross the ball but you can’t stop them all and I’ve not even mentioned any of our central midfielders.

On to a crucial game with Man City and we really couldn’t be better placed. I always think scoring first is so crucial to the way we want to play, forcing the other team to come out, leaving themselves susceptible to our pressing and counter attack. We are in that position with City before a ball is kicked as they need to win the game, we don’t. This should play right into our hands tactically and if we can take points off them at their gaff, then it really is ours to lose.

In other news, the FA cup starts soon and at risk of upsetting the traditionalists, I say sod it, play the kids and anyone in need of game time. We’ve never been better placed to land that elusive Premier League title and all other competitions, including the Champions League, should play second fiddle
to that from here on in for me.

We’ve had so many false dawns at Liverpool, we came close in 09/10 and 13/14 but if I’m being honest, while I enjoyed the ride, I never really believed we’d get over the line those years. United and City respectively had stronger squads, if not teams but this season is different. We don’t have a weakness and we’re starting to build the aura of champions.

We used to hold banners in the Kop that read ‘Make us dream’... I think we’ve surpassed that now as I’m past dreaming. Now I believe. YNWA.

Side note:

Off topic, the end of every year is a time of reflection and this year has been a significant one for all of our community, especially as we tragically lost one of our own in our site’s namesake Bev who continues to be sadly missed.

Last year at this time, if you’d told me I would be writing articles on a fully fledged Liverpool website, I’d have laughed and I’m sure the other mods feel the same.

Together, as a community of friends from around the globe, brought together by our love of LFC, we have built a unique site where we can all escape the daily grind and share in the ups and downs of football and life in general. I’d like to thank my fellow mods for all their hard work, whether it be writing articles or upgrades to the site’s visuals and capabilities, but also to everyone who followed over from our previous home

This site has always been all about the community and without everyone continuing to post and share a small part of their lives, there would be no point in us continuing so a happy new year to everyone and just think... This time next year, we could be reigning champions. Walk on.
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