Liverpool 4-0 Newcastle: Talking points as Reds go six points clear

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Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp

Liverpool stretched their lead at the top of the Premier League table to six points after swatting aside Newcastle 4-0 at Anfield.

A sensational opener from Dejan Lovren set the tone with the defender thrashing home a sweet half-volley in the 11th minute.

Their second did not arrive until after the break, but the hosts didn’t have to wait long with Mohamed Salah scoring from the spot in the 48th minute.

An impressive Xherdan Shaqiri slotted a simple tap in for the third and substitute Fabinho glanced home a header for the fourth.

With Manchester City losing 2-1 at Leicester, the Reds moved six points clear of second-placed Tottenham who handed out a beating of their own to defeat Bournemouth 5-0.

As expected, a myriad of talking points arose from the game and here are three of the most prominent.

NOW TIME FOR THE REAL TESTS

Liverpool players celebrate

Liverpool players celebrate.

This is no time for Liverpool to celebrate. As every title winning team will tell you, the celebrating is done in May, not December, and while Liverpool fans will rightly rave at a six-point lead – their biggest advantage in 16 years – there is a tremendous amount of work to be done.

Granted, they do have the look and feel of champions, but that’s not really anything tangible because the Reds have possessed title traits in the past and failed to deliver. The man in the opposite dugout on Wednesday will attest to that sentiment.

Rafael Benitez’s 2008/09 iteration were top at Christmas and ended up second in May. Perhaps he can provide the best assessment of his former side’s chances having seen Newcastle dominated in every area of the pitch on Wednesday.

“I think they have shown they are good enough to win the title,” the Spaniard said post-match.

Liverpool are indeed good enough, but this is new territory for Klopp’s men. Without defeat this season, they are yet to suffer a significant setback and how they rebound when it inevitably does arrive, is how champions are made.

Iron sharpens iron is the old adage and they will encounter their significant others in the title race this week and perhaps then we will see what they are truly made of.

Arsenal are first up at Anfield on the 29th and then a trip to City on the 3rd. Yet these fixtures should be viewed as an opportunity rather than with trepidation because they offer the chance to consolidate their lead. That is what champions do.

As Anfield bellowed out “we are Liverpool, we’re the best team in the land” on Boxing Day, it was roared with authority rather than belief. There is expectation as opposed to the hope of previous seasons and, so far, this side is rising to that challenge.

SHAQ BRIGHTENS THE ATTACK

Xherdan Shaqiri scores

Xherdan Shaqiri scores.

To fit Shaqiri into the XI, Klopp requires a change in shape. Away with his trusted 4-3-3 and in with a 4-2-3-1 which features Shaqiri and Sadio Mane right and left while Roberto Firmino slots in behind Salah.

Now, the formation does mean Liverpool sacrifice some superiority in midfield because they lose numbers with Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum protecting from the base.

However, against sides like Newcastle who will predictably sit in deep, it’s a necessary forfeit. What Klopp loses in control, he gains with chaos. Shaqiri is absolutely electric. The guy can power up a street of Christmas lights he is that bright.

Against Newcastle, he bombed around the pitch with so much vivacity those around him have no choice to up their game.

But one feature of his game which was crucial on Wednesday, was his measured long passing. From deep positions he would stretch play by switching beautifully pinged balls over the top of Newcastle’s defence to allow Andrew Robertson an opportunity to deliver into the box.

Even from set-piece situations Shaqiri was a threat. Whether it be corners or free-kicks, the Swiss wrecking ball is so dangerous.

His sixth Premier League goal this season was simple enough but the 27-year-old has been some signing for Klopp past what the stats sheet says.

FULL-BACKS FULL OF LIFE

Andy Robertson

Andy Robertson.

You could have made a case for any one of the starting XI to claim the man-of-the-match award, but perhaps the two full-backs should share it.

Indeed, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Robertson are incredible assets. Their energy on both sides of the ball helps pin defenders back before they then pummel them with delivery after delivery. With 19 crosses between them, it’s easy to pinpoint where Liverpool’s attacks are launched from.

More than that, though, their passing deserves praise, too. Their quick interchanges with the inside forwards are a massive element of Liverpool’s slick attacking play.

The standing ovation for Robertson as he was substituted tells you the fans recognise the importance of that role as well.

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