Jurgen Klopp’s reached that point in his Liverpool career where he must feel ever so comfortable. He’s had enough time at Anfield to put all the pieces of the puzzle together and so satisfied is he with the end result that the thought of making additions to his squad over the summer was not at all appealing.
His team not only employs the attractive brand of football he’s always preached, but has also had time to mature tremendously within the system and now control games more often than not with oppositions rendered helpless against their staunch defence and irresistible attack.
However, this was not the case in his 150th Premier League match as manager and neither he nor his team were ever made to feel ‘comfortable’ at Stamford Bridge.
The results will reflect that the Reds came away with a sixth victory in as many league games this season as was expected going into the weekend. But the 2-1 win at Chelsea was hardly straightforward.
On the balance of play, you could even argue that Frank Lampard’s young side, that’s enduring a season of transition, were the better team.
Liverpool scored their goals from two set-pieces. Trent Alexander-Arnold first dispatched his free-kick from the edge of the box emphatically with a little lay-off from Mohamed Salah in the 14th minute.
Roberto Firmino’s header then doubled their advantage after half an hour with Andrew Robertson’s delivery from the left setting him up.
Before the Brazilian’s goal though, Chelsea had began to fight their way back into the contest and Tammy Abraham was even played clean through on goal but couldn’t get his effort past Adrian when a square ball to Mason Mount was also on.
They even restored parity momentarily before VAR intervened. The home team carved Liverpool open with a fine move before Cesar Azpilicueta applied the finishing touch only for the goal to be ruled out for an offside against Mount in the build-up.
Moments later, Firmino put the visitors 2-0 up.
The hosts even had to cope with injuries to Emerson Palmieri and Andreas Christensen in the opening 45 minutes but Liverpool’s two-goal lead at the break seemed a little generous.
Lampard urges his side to play quick, attacking football and while they created a host of chances in the first half, they certainly upped the ante after the restart.
In fact they ended the game with 13 efforts at goal to Liverpool’s six and after N’Golo Kante halved the deficit with a superb individual strike in the 71st minutes, they have every right to feel aggrieved not to at least earn a draw.
Such a fearless performance comes against a phenomenal Liverpool side who reigned supreme in Europe last season and pushed the mighty Manchester City all the way in the league. Pep Guardiola has even gone as far as to say that the Merseyside Reds are one of the best teams he’s ever seen.
6 - Liverpool are the first team in top-flight history to win their opening six matches of a top-flight season in two consecutive seasons. Pacesetters. pic.twitter.com/a1EzeGGvrk— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 22, 2019
Yet, they were made to sweat in west London and cling on to the result at the death with Klopp bringing on an extra centre-back in Joe Gomez for Salah to see out the result.
Chelsea deserve huge credit for their part in this encounter and some of their attacking play was truly exhilarating. That 4-0 defeat at Old Trafford in the opening round now seems like a distant memory.
That said, they were undone by their own shortcomings in defence against Liverpool. And as much as the attacking play is a joy to watch, that must be a huge source of frustration for their fans.
Christensen’s clumsy foul on the edge of his own box afforded Alexander-Arnold the opportunity to fire home while the marking was non-existent when Firmino nodded in Robertson’s free-kick delivery.
Especially given their exuberant display in the second half, Lampard – though proud of his young side no doubt – must be left wondering what could’ve been.
For Liverpool, they will be second best on the rare occasion over the course of the season but the fact they still secured the three points is hugely encouraging as they mount another title challenge.
Meanwhile, Chelsea have their eyes on the top four and with the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham all proving less than convincing, they have a real chance to steal a march on the competition.
They’re the only ones standing in their way.
The England striker limped off with a groin problem during the second half as United’s lack of options in attack were laid bare.
With Anthony Martial still injured and youngster Mason Greenwood ill, Jesse Lingard had to fill in up front against the Hammers.
The winger may also find himself doing so against Rochdale in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday and, more worryingly for Solskjaer, when Arsenal visit on Monday week.
There could also be repercussions for England, who face Euro 2020 qualifiers against the Czech Republic and Bulgaria next month.
Rashford will have a scan on Monday but Solskjaer admitted: “He’ll probably be out for a while.”
The 21-year-old’s absence will raise more questions about United’s summer transfer business, when they failed to bring in a replacement for Romelu Lukaku.
Of just as much concern for Solskjaer is their away form. United have not won on their travels in the Premier League since February – a run of seven matches equalling an unwanted club record.
The Norwegian’s predecessor Jose Mourinho stuck the boot in on Sky Sports, claiming he saw no improvements from last season.
“He’s got the right to his opinion,” said Solskjaer, before pointing out Mourinho’s United also lost at West Ham last year.
Andriy Yarmolenko broke the deadlock with a peach of a strike just before half-time, and Aaron Cresswell finished United off with a stunning late free-kick.
“It was a game that could have gone both ways,” Solskjaer said.
“The key moments, they grasped and we didn’t. I have to say two fantastic finishes from two good left feet. And we didn’t take our chances when we had them.
“It’s one of those moments. We’ve historically had loads of centre-backs struggling with injuries over the years.
“At the moment it’s the strikers. That’s just how it’s gone. Hopefully Mason and Anthony will be back for the Arsenal game, and at least one of them for Rochdale.”
Life looks far brighter for West Ham, whose captain Mark Noble this week claimed they could even break into the top four this season.
They are certainly heading in the right direction after a hard-fought third win in four matches, and a third consecutive clean sheet.
“I’m very happy about all of today,” manager Manuel Pellegrini said. “The way we played – I always talk with the players that we must have the mentality to play the same way we work during the week.
“It doesn’t matter if we play United or against every big team. We must trust that we are able to beat them.”
Provided by Press Association Sport
Pep Guardiola insists Manchester City’s continued pursuit of goals against Watford was a sign of respect rather than an act of humiliating their opponents.
City thumped Watford 8-0 on Saturday – their first five goals coming inside the first 18 minutes.
Asked about the issue of ‘humiliating’ the Hornets in the second half, Guardiola said: “The best way to humiliate the players, not respect the players, is second-half (do) stupid things and play for themselves and make some fashion movements.
“That is the worst thing to do that and that’s why it didn’t happen. So at the end, we were respecting incredible the opponents, that’s why we play in that way because we respect the opponents with or without the ball what we have done.
“And of course, we play for the spectators who come here to watch the game. So I don’t have any doubts about that. I would not liked to have watched or to see my team in the second half play just how ‘Watford they are and it isn’t necessary to run much because we are winning 5-0’.”