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

Alex Rea 26/12/2018
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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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Liverpool 4-0 Newcastle: Player ratings as the Reds go six points clear

Alex Rea 26/12/2018
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Liverpool players celebrate

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 from a Salah corner 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.

Here are our Liverpool player ratings from Anfield.

LIVERPOOL 4-2-3-1

Alisson 6 – Could have sat in with the jubilant Anfield crowd such was the ease of his day’s work. Tidy in possession and untroubled between the sticks.

Trent Alexander-Arnold 7 – Both Liverpool full-backs were instrumental. The 20-year-old offered bags of energy and delightful delivery. Did miscue one or two crosses but then got the assist for Shaqiri’s goal.

Dejan Lovren 7 – The self-anointed world’s best defender provided some justice to his rather bold claim. Opened the scoring with a vicious half-volley and was typically solid throughout.

Virgil van Dijk 7 – Another clean sheet and only two goals conceded at home in the Premier League all season for Liverpool. The Dutchman deserves credit for that, once again he was brilliant, even providing a threat in attack.

Andrew Robertson 8 – Could probably copy and paste an analysis of the flying Scot’s performance each week. Incredibly consistent and his deep lungs are matched by his full heart.

Georginio Wijnaldum 7 – An unsung hero for Liverpool this season. Sat at the base of the midfield with the captain and always looked to play the ball forward.

Jordan Henderson 7 – Very tidy performance from the skipper. Ideal in fixtures like this where he won’t be particularly pressured and is afforded the time to be measured, brilliant first-time pass in the lead up to Shaqiri’s goal.

Xherdan Shaqiri 8 – The guy could power a street of Christmas lights he’s that electric. His bulldozing pace on the counter was crucial and then his pinpoint diagonal balls were a big feature of Liverpool’s play. Deserved his goal.

Roberto Firmino 6 – Relatively quiet by his standards but then you must not neglect the work he does off the ball. Buzzed about the pitch constantly, dropping between the lines to link up play and then initiating the press.

Sadio Mane 7 – Must be more clinical. Mane is so dangerous with his piercing pace causing so much trouble. He was frequently found behind Newcastle’s line of defence but either took a touch when he should have shot early, or inaccurately tried to feed a team-mate.

Moahmed Salah 7 – Won the penalty, scored the penalty. Will come in for some criticism over the way he won the spot-kick, however, Paul Dummett put his hands on him and Salah gladly took that opportunity to hit the deck.

SUBSTITUTES 

Fabinho 7 – Came on just past the hour mark and was extremely comfortable on the ball. Headed in his first goal for the club from a stunning Salah corner.

Daniel Sturridge 6 – Given 20 minutes and could have scored only to see a header drift wide.

Nathaniel Clyne N/A – Arrived on the scene with 10 minutes to go for more needed minutes under his belt.

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Jurgen Klopp felt nothing when Man City handed initiative to Liverpool in EPL title race

Carl Markham 26/12/2018
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Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp insists he felt nothing when Manchester City handed the initiative to his side in the title race.

Crystal Palace pulled off a shock win over the defending Premier League champions on Saturday, less than 24 hours after the Reds had extended their lead at the top to four points with victory at Wolves.

Klopp was inundated with text messages from friends highlighting City’s slip – but he himself remained unmoved.

“Nothing has changed. Absolutely nothing. We are focused so far always on the next game. That hasn’t changed since Saturday,” he said.

“When people are not involved but emotionally involved, such as friends and people like that, see City lose 3-2 then I get all these messages saying, ‘Wow. Unbelievable. Blah, blah, blah’, and I don’t even feel it.

Only James Milner has experience of winning a Premier League title at Liverpool.

Only James Milner has experience of winning a Premier League title at Liverpool.

“Nothing is taken for granted. Don’t think because we have that amount of points and they have that amount of points (that Liverpool will win the title).

“If you think that, then that’s the moment when things go wrong. And they can still go wrong, that’s how life is.”

In the previous 10 years only twice has the team top on Christmas Day not gone on to win the title.

On both occasions it was Liverpool, in 2008 and 2014, but Klopp has no interest in history, fate or omens.

“We have to be focused. Not nervous. I’ve heard how many times in the last 10 years that when you’re first at Christmas you win the title, but only Liverpool won’t,” he added.

“Wow, you (the assembled media) are afraid to say it because you think I know it.

“What is it? What does it mean? It’s a different team, a different time, everything was different. It’s not interesting.

“If you want to be sure that in May it will be something really special – but you don’t want to see the way to that day – then make a holiday.

“I don’t know where the Premier League is not broadcast but find a little country where it is not and go there.

“If you want to enjoy the ride, and want to try everything you can to be as successful as possible, then welcome, let’s go for it.”

Liverpool are top of the tree at Christmas.

Liverpool are top of the tree at Christmas.

Liverpool’s lack of experience – only James Milner has won the Premier League before with City in 2012 and 2014 – is one of the rare things that can be held against an unbeaten team who have enjoyed the best start to a season in their history.

However, Klopp, a Bundesliga title winner with Borussia Dortmund in 2011 and 2012, believes they have other experiences to draw on.

“For the second half of the season, yes we are greedy. We smelled a bit of it last season, how it could be.

“You cannot be successful in any sport in the world without any kind of hunger.

“We were close a few times and we are not silly. We know we are not bad and can go there so let’s try it again, let’s try to be as successful as possible.”

Klopp is also unsure how much his winning of titles in Germany will actually help this time around.

“It worked out pretty well in 2012 but in 2013 (it was) not that good. I’m far away from being perfect but my experience will not be key,” he added.

“And City has the biggest advantage because they were champions last year and they know that if they do it again, it will happen.”

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