Roy Hodgson and his men were caught staring down the barrel of a gun on Saturday when Liverpool arrived in South London. Jurgen Klopp's team wreaked havoc at Selhurst Park, recording an away top-flight win by a margin of seven goals for the first time in the club's history.
Clinical finishing and blistering pace was the order of the day for the champions, and it left the Eagles in a heap at the end of the ninety. A goal from Takumi Minamino set the tempo for the game, and Roberto Firmino helped double the deficit on the half-hour mark, the first of two for the Brazilian. Sadio Mane also got his trademark goal, before Jordan Henderson netted. Mohamed Salah wrapped up a dominant display with a double from the bench.
Authoritative, devastating, merciless, you will run out of superlatives trying to elucidate Liverpool's performance, but it comes at the expense of a Crystal Palace defence that was uncharacteristically egregious.
In many ways, Palace's pitiful performance could be best represented through Hodgson's deceptive smile at full-time. The Eagles' boss must take his sorrowful showing on the chin and revitalise his squad's morale before Boxing Day.
Liverpool won the game in midfield
Hodgson's naivety to field a two-man central midfield partnership proved costly to the result of the game on Saturday. Perhaps the main reason for the Eagles dreary day, was the loss of the key battle in the centre of the park.
While the home side looked to bring the game to Liverpool, having Luka Milivojevic and James McArthur as the only two and out-and-out midfielders, Liverpool were given room to exploit their formation.
With Firmino playing in his eminent false-nine and both wing-backs pushing up to past the halfway line, Klopp almost set his team up with six in midfield, triple that of Palace's. As a result of this, it seemed as though Liverpool had fielded more than the eleven allowed.
Hodgson was determined to provide an attacking display, it wasn't until his team were 5-0 down that the former England head coach reverted his system and switched to a more defensive mentality.
Both Henderson and Firmino often found themselves in acres of space because of Palace's tactical blunder. Giving creative components of the Liverpool system that much time and space will only ever lead to disaster.
Palace's poor tactical set-up was only worsened by the fact that Liverpool's midfield had one of their best performances of the season on Saturday. Gini Wijnaldum alone, had a passing accuracy of 98%, while Henderson led by example and got himself on the scoresheet, and Naby Keita drifted in and out of opposition players at ease.
Hodgson would have done better by setting up with more bodies in midfield. Eberechi Eze and Jeffrey Schlupp should have perhaps sat back deeper than they did and it seemed that they were always waiting for Palace's next attack, instead of playing a role in all phases of the game.
Palace's transition phase was always going to have its consequences
For a long time now, there has been talk around the Crystal Palace camp of a philosophy conversion from defensive-minded football to attacking-minded football.
Hodgson has laid down the initial foundations in an attempt to get more attacking returns from his side. If anyone thought this would be a straightforward switch, they were wrong, and the 7-0 slaughtering at home to Liverpool was an illustration of that.
An ageing backline, accompanied by Hodgson's attacking philosophy, had detrimental effects on the South London side on Saturday. Many Palace fans will praise the attempts of converting Palace, but their defensive aptitude shouldn't be wasted either.
The Eagles took their attacking philosophy to extreme lengths against the champions, when a more conservative approach was perhaps the better option. Hodgson shouldn't forget his traditional tactics as quickly as that, otherwise, it could lead to further damage in the short term.
Gary Cahill and Cheikhou Kouyate had a torrid time, but they weren't helped out by the rest of the team. When the head coach did eventually revert to defence late on in the game, they looked a lot better.
In the coming weeks, the main task on Hodgson's mind will surely be to find a balance in attack and defence. Last season's failure of scoring goals has become this season's triumph, while their defensive aptitude has crumbled to dust.
The role of Firmino
Criticised by rival fans and trodden on by pundits, Firmino shines under the downpour of denunciation. The Brazilian striker showed yet again why he is world-class at the weekend, with two exquisite finishes and a sumptuous assist for Mane.
Despite his lack of goalscoring exploits last season, Firmino has already been involved in 8 goals in the Premier League this campaign, flourishing under the guidance of Jurgen Klopp.
The Brazilian was immense against Palace and his clockwork performance is a testament to Liverpool's repertoire. Without Firmino in the lineup, the story could have unfolded very differently.
Firmino is the jam in Liverpool's doughnut, the butter that keeps the sandwich together. His link-up play with the rest of the team was in full flow in Saturday's display. He drew the centre-backs of Palace towards him and allowed Mane, Salah and Minamino, to unlock a surplus of space and manifest clear-cut chances.
Not only was his movement an overriding factor in Liverpool's command on Saturday, but when he got on the ball he was magical. Firmino has found his feet again and he danced through a congestion of Palace players on a regular basis in his triumph.
Firmino is a system player, operating as the centrepiece in Liverpool's systematic trident which consists of Andy Robertson, Firmino and Trent Alexander-Arnold. When these three play to their best in the same game, it's almost impossible to find a weakness in Liverpool's play. The wing-backs take the opposition wingers out of the game while providing their own attacking endeavours, and Firmino's movement is the crown on the Liverpool build.
Jordan Ayew was wasteful
Going from strength to strength, finding the net once again, Christian Benteke could have been the first name on the Crystal Palace team sheet if it weren't for his suspension he picked up against West Ham.
Instead, Jordan Ayew was the heir to the number nine role. This unfortunately, was not the best option for Hodgson. He had his first of two clear-cut opportunities in the first-half, straight after Minamino's opener.
A low driven cross from Zaha was narrowly cleared by the astute Fabinho; albeit, Ayew could have done more if he had the desire to sprint after the ball.
His second, the easier opportunity, came when he found himself one-on-one with Alisson just moments later. However, the striker opted to thread a pass across to his partner Zaha, in which he agonisingly missed the ball.
If Ayew's decision making was better, Palace could have found themselves 2-1 up at half-time. It was Ayew's wastefulness that hindered Palace's attacking return.
While the Eagles found space on the break, none of their chances were taken and it ultimately cost them.
Crystal Palace fans will be left wondering what would have been if maybe Michy Batshuayi had started, or better yet, Christian Benteke.
Strength in depth for Liverpool
All seven of Liverpool's goals were assisted by different players, for the first time in Premier League history seven different players have assisted a goal for one team in a match.
Though Palace were lacklustre, Liverpool's team performance must be praised. There wasn't a single player who played less than perfect at Selhurst Park for the team in red.
The promising sign for Klopp is that he can rely on the youth of the team to provide an exemplary performance, and when he rests players, there doesn't seem to be a fear that performance levels will drop.
Minamino and Keita, coming in for Salah and Curtis Jones - played exceptionally in the first-half - spreading the ball to all areas of play resulted in a cultured performance from the duo.
In recent weeks, Liverpool have been eclipsed by injuries, but the youth and back-up players have come in and have fitted naturally in the line-up. To name a few, Rhys Williams, Nat Phillips, Curtis Jones, Kostas Tsimikas, James Milner, and Minamino have all looked comfortable in their given role.