I’m old and I’ve been watching this club for a very long time. What that often translates to when I write about them is referencing games/players/stuff from years ago that few other fans remember and even fewer stop to think about. It also makes me kind of a curmudgeon when it comes to “first time in the Premier League” stuff, since football didn’t start in 1992. I don’t care about PL records. You tell me this is the biggest win in the top division or in Liverpool’s history and I’ll sit up and take notice, even when, in the end, those records don’t mean much, either, since three points is three points. So this was Crystal Palace’s worst home defeat ever. That’s nice. It’s Liverpool’s biggest road win in 124 years and biggest ever in the top flight. OK. But what I tend to remember are where those things come together. The last time we beat a league opponent like this was in 1989, where we won 9-0 at Anfield against… Crystal Palace. I’ve often said that playing Palace aggravates me because they do seem to turn up for games against us, despite the Reds having won the last 7 straight against them. You could look at this result and say: “So much for that!”, but they did show up. Until the 35-minute mark, they were often taking the game to us and it looked like swapping in two non-regulars (Taki Minamino and Naby Keita) on the left was causing some disorientation, in addition to Sadio Mané’s usually more muted presence on the right. And then the avalanche began.
So, you could look at that game and find it funny in a number of ways, as The Hodgson clearly did after Captain Jordan Henderson slammed the door shut with a pristine finish early in the second half. The phrase “It is to laugh” was really popularized by Johnny Carson during his three-decade stint on The Tonight Show, but I always remember it from the clip above (because I’m old, which is also why I remember Carson) where Robin Hood Daffy just doesn’t see the humor in the whole situation. Most Palace fans probably don’t, either. And let’s just broaden that to include “most Premier League side fans probably don’t” because one thing this game does clarify is that this team, even with all of the injuries (still missing our two starting CBs and all three guys we bought this past summer, plus James Milner, Robot Warrior and Xherdan Shaqiri) and the uneven play (nice to see how this game cancels out the Villa debacle, giving us a +2 GD from the combination and now leading the league at +17, 4 more than Spurs; also leading the league in goals scored at 36, 10 more than Chelsea) and the general feeling that this Liverpool machine may not be quite as ominously powerful as the one from the past two seasons… No. No, it’s still pretty powerful. Take out one goalscorer and two more take his place. Those two goals just happen to have come from the PL-leading scorer, Mo Salah, who started on the bench for Liverpool. Thiago Alcantara returns to this side in a couple weeks. A couple weeks after that, we should see Diogo Jota. Yeah. It is to laugh.
Crystal Palace 0 – 7 Liverpool
The parade of offensive stats and quirks that can be derived from/attached to this game is mildly ridiculous. They go from the very personal (Taki’s first league goal for the club comes 1 year to the day from when he signed for us) to the team-wide (the first time in league history that seven different players have assisted a goal in one match) to the unit-based (the starting front three all with at least one goal and one assist today) to the league-oriented (Mo has .97 goal contributions/match for his career in the top division; the best mark in league history, just ahead of the legendary Thierry Henry) to the relatively obscure (that makes 600 goals in 288 games under Klopp; faster than any other manager in the club’s history.) Speaking of quirks, Firmino also had a hockey assist for his own tally on goal #3, as he started the attack with a great pass out to Andy Robertson who then carried through the middle third before dropping in the pinpoint cross to Bob’s left foot, followed by the insouciant right foot finish. I know I was just saying that Robbo sometimes gets overlooked for his performances but you really can’t say enough.
He now has 28 assists over the last three seasons, tied with Kevin De Bruyne (who is, you know, one of the best midfielders in the world) for the most. Trent Alexander-Arnold is right behind with 27 for all those wondering about the ongoing Wingmen contest. It was also great to see the burst of energy that Bob had at the end of the last game carry forward into this one:
Look at that heat map. Touchline to touchline and box to box. That’s the role that Klopp asks of him and that’s what he produces and it leads to games like the last few, where LFC have dominated the ball and, for the majority of the time, dominated play, both in possession and out of it.
But on the other side of the ball, it’s worth noting that Palace really came to play and not simply bunker in like some other London club we know of. Woy put them out in a standard 4-4-2, but they actually ran with us. Rather than trying to slow the game down in the middle third, they actively accelerated it and some errant passes by the Reds were pounced upon and turned into decent almost-chances more than once. Don’t let the xG number above fool you. Jordan Ayew actually being able to complete an 8-yard pass in the box to Wilfried Zaha might have colored this game very differently… for a while. Once Hendo put the stake in 7 minutes into the second half, you could see Palace kind of shut down. That’s also the point where The Hodgson was seen laughing at the futility of it all, as Liverpool was simply passing and running around his team and demonstrating the obvious talent gap. Still, credit to him and them for coming out to actually play football, rather than be a more monied version of Burnley.
Midfield destruction. With all of the very deserved attention going to the front line and the wingmen, it’s worth pointing out that, even through the nominal overloads in the middle third that Palace wanted to create with their formation (which kinda plays into our hands, since we use a false 9… Woy!), our midfield was spectacular. I’d single out Bob as MotM, but O Captain Our Captain isn’t far behind. He was almost literally everywhere on the pitch, moving the ball, cleaning up the box, directing traffic, and generally being the brilliant player that he is. Also, note how after scoring his first goal of the season, the only thing he did was point to Trent, who fed him the assist. But it’s worth nothing that Trent could do that because of the excellent vision of Naby Keita, who performed as if he’s been on the pitch like Gini Wijnaldum, rather than struggling with injuries. There was one great sequence where Naby tried to feed Taki through the middle in the second half and BT’s endline camera caught his impassive face as he did the no-look pass right through two defenders and to Taki’s feet. This was his best game in a Liverpool shirt for some time. And speaking of Gini, considering how hard Palace were pressing and fighting for the ball in the middle third, it’s worth pointing out not only his usual excellence in retention, but the fact that he completed 48 of 49 passes on the game, including all of them in the offensive half.
Other notes. The kit combination today was really bad. With the way that the sun was coming in to Selhurst Park, there were moments when it was difficult to tell the players apart for a second or two. I’ve long since learned to read them by their motion, so it wasn’t traumatic, but the blue-red mix in the shade alongside the black was far less distinct than is normally the requirement in the PL. Seriously, watch the first couple minutes of the highlights and tell me if, at an instant glance, you can tell who’s who on the pitch. I’m not sure why Liverpool didn’t opt for Toxic Aqua or whatever it is.
Also, the media loves a scandal and/or emotional outburst, so of course everyone had to focus on how pissed Sadio was to be coming off the pitch. Two things: 1. We’ve seen this before. 2. Consequently, we know it means nothing. Sadio is probably the sweetest guy on the team. I will never forget the simple example of him getting off the bus with the national team and immediately stopping to help with the water. But Sadio on the pitch is a very different character. He is ruthless. How many times have we seen him sneer in disdain at a defender falling over when he gets near them? How many times have we seen him scowl in frustration at his own performance, even when we’re in the middle of routing the other side? He’s a huge competitor and he wants to score. Getting rotated off means he can’t do that. That the long and short of it.
Speaking of attitudes, it was amusing to note that the sequence right after Patrick Van Aanholt decided to square off with Trent was when we scored that brilliant goal from Bob on the break. Van Aanholt was obviously frustrated by the way he was being abused on that side, but his actions on the day didn’t get any better, since he was the person who decided to give Mohammed Salah, of all people, the space and time to put the ball on his left foot at the top of the box. Dude’s been in the PL since 2009 and so has seen Mo for his entire time here. No academy player would give him that much space in that spot. Also, due credit to Jon Moss for ignoring the actual clock and adding only 1 minute of extra time in the second half. It’s open to argument whether that was more insulting than simply blowing the whistle at 90.
Now we have… a surprisingly long dead period. It’s over a week until we play again, during the holiday season, no less. Cool deal for the players, but there have been a number of time when we’ve stepped out of our “game every three days” rhythm and had a little difficulty getting started again, so it’s perhaps fortunate that our next game is at home with Big Sam and the Baggies. Of course, we thought that about Fulham…