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Sunday, 30 December 2018



  • Liverpool's hunger was the key behind their 5-1 demolition of Arsenal at Anfield

    • The game was Liverpool's 27th of the season and their eighth in December 
    • Jurgen Klopp's side showed super quality and confidence against the Gunners 
    • Unai Emery has improved Arsenal but defeat showed the work they have to do  
       You can talk tactics all you like, Mo Salah playing up top, Roberto Firmino in behind, Liverpool's improvement defensively. But it wasn't tactics that helped them destroy Arsenal on Saturday night, it was a super quality and confidence allied to collective energy and appetite.
       I found it remarkable because to put in a performance of that hunger in late December takes enormous physical dedication on and off the pitch all season, particularly when you've got a fixture list like Liverpool.
    It was Liverpool's 27th game of the season, their eighth this month, and yet they were still at it to a man. They steamrollered Arsenal. I know Jurgen Klopp has a good squad and can rotate a little bit, but even so, to keep that level of intensity and combine it with quality is tough.
    Liverpool's hunger in the 5-1 demolition of Arsenal was remarkable given the number of games.
    Jurgen Klopp deserves immense credit for the way he has moulded his players into this side
      Their performance was epitomised by Sadio Mane. He was relentless in his chasing back and pressing, yet he stayed calm when he had to, and got his goal.
    Gini Wijnaldum has become the first Liverpool midfielder on Jurgen Klopp's teamsheet. He never loses the ball, and never lets an opponent rest either. It wasn't a coincidence he and Mane were substituted — Klopp needs them at the Etihad against Manchester City on Thursday.
    There is an assurance about Liverpool right now. Even when Arsenal took the lead, I didn't see any self-doubt. Virgil van Dijk was giving little reminders to everyone to stay calm, and that's what they did. By half-time they were 4-1 ahead!
    Liverpool fans, of which I'm one, can be forgiven for seeeing a glass half-empty at times because we've seen some promising title challenges fade since the last success in 1990.
    Dutch midfielder Gini Wijnaldum is now the first midfielder on Klopp's team-sheet
    Sadio Mane's relentless chasing and pressing epitomises Liverpool these days

      It's right to still keep things in perspective because it's possible City will only be four points behind at the end of the week if they beat Southampton today and then Liverpool later in the week.
    But if Liverpool do go to City and win, it becomes real. The players will have to stay humble at all times but three points at The Etihad will convince even the most pessimistic supporter the championship is coming back to Anfield. That's why last night's result against Arsenal was so massive.
    Klopp deserves great credit for building this Liverpool team in his own energetic image but he'll be the first to acknowledge he hasn't been able to do it on his own.
    Behind the manager, there will be hours and hours of work from his staff, from setting up training schedules to working out how to correct past mistakes. The end result is Liverpool can play like this and are still unbeaten.
    Klopp is energy personified when on the touchline and that has translated into his players 
    The formula they have is working. They've learned to take players off when matches are won to save them for the next one. They can bring in Shaqiri, bring in Fabinho, and not look any weaker. 
    Jordan Henderson starts some games, but in the ones when he's on the bench he's equally effective in helping the team over the finishing line when he comes on.
    Liverpool will treat Thursday's match the same if they are seven points ahead of City as if they were level on points. But it will take a hell of a side to stop them at the moment and even if Klopp signs a player or two in January, they will be for the long term.
    No point in changing the dynamic or upsetting the applecart this season, the current squad have already shown they are good enough to be title contenders. One big win on Thursday and they'll be in an even stronger position than that.

    You can't win trophies with 11 superstars on the pitch. Every dressing room appreciates those players who never shirk responsibility and sacrifice personal glory for the team. 
    Roberto Firmino was the star man as he netted a hat-trick finished off from the penalty spot

           And when it's their turn in the spotlight, as it was with hat-trick hero Roberto Firmino, everyone is totally made up for them.
    I've been in dressing rooms with guys like Emile Heskey, Andy Johnson and Zoltan Gera whose contribution is sometimes undervalued outside the club, but never among their team-mates.
    Firmino is technically better than any of those guys, and another hardworking Liverpool favourite Dirk Kuyt, but he shares their appetite for the game. Even when his form dips a little, he contributes.
    Salah is Liverpool's superstar and is given license to not always chase the full-backs. So this season he's played furthest forward and Firmino dropped a bit deeper. 
    It's meant the Brazilian has suffered in terms of his own personal coverage, but the team hasn't because of his commitment and work ethic.
    He has seen his tally sacrificed somewhat for the team this year and he deserved his goals

    So Saturday night was payback. The way he dropped three Arsenal defenders on the way to his solo goal was fantastic. He will have enjoyed it, and so will everyone else at the club. 

    Unai Emery deserves credit for the improvements he's made to Arsenal but we saw at Anfield they are still way short defensively to be realistic top-four contenders
    It's a work in progress and there was only going to be one outcome against Liverpool, even though Arsenal took the lead.
    Emery has injuries as well to contend with and this is not the time to hold major inquests into his management. 
    He's doing a good job but turning Arsenal around to be competitive at the very top level is a long-term project, not one that could ever be delivered in a few months.
    Unai Emery deserves credit for his early work at Arsenal but defeat showed what needs fixing


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