Liverpool predictably continued their mastery of the Merseyside Derby on Wednesday night after their 5-2 thrashing of Everton at Anfield.
The fortunes of both clubs at present could be seen from the starting line-ups. More than half of the Liverpool team on Wednesday were players not normally associated with the Reds’ strongest eleven – Adrián, Dejan Lovren, James Milner, Adam Lallana, Xherdan Shaqiri and Divock Origi all featured with Fabinho and Joël Matip injured and Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, Jordan Henderson and Alisson rested.
Meanwhile, Everton named an unchanged side from the one that played so well against Leicester City and were unfortunate to suffer a last-minute, VAR-influenced defeat.
Mané overwhelms Everton despite multiple Liverpool changes
Going forward, Everton played well at times but were horrendous throughout defensively. Liverpool also suffered their defensive lapses, conceding twice in a league fixture for the first time this season, but produced their best attacking performance of the season, despite the absence of Salah and Firmino.
Without his two attacking partners, Sadio Mané stepped up again to demonstrate why he has been Liverpool’s, and arguably the Premier League’s, premier forward so far this season.
The Senegalese’s pass to Origi for the first goal was divine, particularly given it was with his weaker left foot. Mané also provided the assist for Shaqiri to score Liverpool’s second, before netting the Reds’ fourth with an instinctive first-time finish, again with his left foot, before the first forty-five minutes were up.
Mané could have even had a hat-trick had he converted great chances in the second half, which were provided by glorious long-range passes from Henderson.
In fact, Liverpool’s biggest weapon on Wednesday was their direct, driven passing from the likes of Henderson, Lovren and Trent Alexander-Arnold, delivered with such speed and accuracy that Everton were even more disorganised defensively.
Despite goals from Michael Keane and Richarlison, Everton for the most part had no answer and Georginio Wijnaldum completed the rout at the death, thanks to wonderful skill from substitute Firmino.
Record after record falling for the Reds
Wednesday’s victory was Liverpool’s 100th in the Premier League under Jürgen Klopp. Only José Mourinho managed to reach 100 league wins in fewer matches than Klopp, with Klopp setting a new club record by reaching the landmark in 159 matches, eight fewer than Kenny Dalglish.
Moreover, Liverpool have set a new club record for consecutive league matches without defeat, breaking the previous record of 31 games without defeat from May 1987 to March 1988 with a 32-game run after avoiding defeat on Wednesday night.
Liverpool may have struggled to produce their very best for much of the season, but their quality at crucial times has shone through, a testament to their character and resilience which comes from the players but is inspired by Klopp.
Winning the Champions League has also cemented Liverpool’s belief that they belong again with the elite and have the ability to win the biggest trophies, producing an inner confidence which looks on course to last the entire season, allowing Klopp’s side to overcome any obstacles in the way of a first league title in thirty years.
Liverpool and Klopp the perfect match in period of managerial uncertainty
As the Premier League enters the Christmas period, struggling managers start to come under intense scrutiny, with a number having already experienced the sack.
Watford have already gone through two managers this season, Arsenal fired Unai Emery and Tottenham Hotspur have replaced Mauricio Pochettino with Mourinho.
Then, following defeat on Wednesday, Marco Silva and Everton parted company. Everton’s players still fought for him, as their offensive display at Anfield and overall performance against Leicester proved, but it was not enough to save his job.
Manuel Pellegrini is also feeling the pressure at West Ham and Pochettino’s shadow stalks Ole Gunnar Solskjaer constantly at Manchester United.
Numerous clubs are experiencing difficult and disappointed campaigns thus far, or have been stuck in a malaise for multiple years. Thanks to Klopp, Liverpool now resemble their teams which dominated during the 1970s and 80s, with Klopp almost a modern-day version of Bill Shankly.
Klopp’s brilliance, combined with smart recruitment both on and off the pitch in the last four years, has transformed Liverpool back into one of the superpowers of the world football.
The challenge for Liverpool’s ownership is now to begin planning to ensure Liverpool’s success continues when life after Klopp begins, as the German will not be around forever.
Regardless of the pedigree of the likes of Michael Edwards upstairs at Anfield, such success post-Klopp is far from guaranteed. Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham have all experienced their struggles in recent years when long-serving managers have left or entered a period of decline.
Let’s enjoy this season, and every season Liverpool have left with Klopp at the helm.