Liverpool gave Brendan Rodgers an early Christmas present this year as they steamrollered Fulham 4-0 at Anfield, a scoreline which in no way flattered the home side who were dominant throughout. This was by far their most emphatic win under Rodgers, and the first time in over eighteen months that they won a game by at least four goals. After losing at home to Villa last week, this was a big test of character for the Reds, and one they passed with flying colours. Here are the main talking points coming out of yesterday’s resounding victory:
Reina Is Starting To Look Like His Old Self
You know the adage “a great ‘keeper is one that doesn’t have to do anything all game, but when he’s called in to action he does his job?” Yeah, it’s a lot of sh*te. A good ‘keeper is one who doesn’t cost you stupid goals and performs to a high level consistently, irrespective of his workload – and that’s what Pepe Reina used to be. Then, over the past few seasons, his form progressively got worse to the point where most fans wouldn’t have cared if he was sold. Reina picked up an injury that kept him sidelined for most of October and Brad Jones deputised for him, performing just as well as Pepe had for a long time. Since he returned from injury, though, he’s looking more and more like his old self. In theory he’s the perfect goalkeeper for a Rodgers team; his distribution is excellent and he’s quick coming off his line. He had very little to do yesterday but still made a late stunning save to tip Hugo Rodallega’s free-kick on to the post, a save he probably wouldn’t have made twelve months ago. Hopefully he can continue to improve and get back to the player he was, because when at his best he’s the best ‘keeper in the league.
This Is Looking More Like A Rodgers Team Every Week
Earlier in the season, for all Liverpool’s pretty passing, they looked most dangerous from a more direct style of play – often coming late in games where they needed a goal. Now, though, they are putting together sustained periods of pressure and attacking moves are starting from the back, which will no doubt please the manager. Although Fulham were gluttons for punishment yesterday, the Reds still lack – Suarez aside - a constant threat in the final third, but the other pieces seem to slowly but surely be falling in to place. Daniel Sturridge and Tom Ince are not the top tier reinforcements that are needed, but they should at least bring some goals and pace that have been lacking from the wide areas – although if Stewart Downing continues to perform like he did yesterday he may resurrect his Liverpool career. But he’ll probably revert to type, go to Stoke for a cut-price fee and start banging them in every week.
This Was Gerrard’s Best Performance In Months
I’ve been extremely critical of our captain over the past year as his form, for the most part, has been poor. But yesterday was vintage Gerrard, and he was a joy to watch. His use of the ball was excellent, he was winning tackles all over the pitch, and the late surge in to the box to score his superbly taken goal was fantastic. Whilst Alan Hansen’s analysis of him on MOTD was a lot of old tosh, there is no doubting that when Gerrard plays well, Liverpool tend to, too. Unfortunately, this is the anomaly rather than the norm; he just doesn’t play well enough on a regular basis anymore. Perhaps the return of Lucas will benefit him as he won’t have to worry as much about his defensive duties, but if Rodgers can get more performances like this out of Gerrard then who knows, fourth place may become more than just a pipedream.
The Full Backs Are Thriving
With the three man midfield that Rodgers uses, the two wide forwards are required to support the lone striker, meaning that the width must come from the full backs. Thankfully for Liverpool, Glen Johnson and José Enrique have been brilliant over recent weeks. They are still prone to the odd lapse in concentration defensively, but both get forward well – Enrique’s brief stint in a more attacking position seems to have done wonders for his confidence – and the whole back four looked extremely impressive; they are all suited to this more aesthetically pleasing brand of football, too. Having a threat out wide from both positions gives the Reds an extra dimension going forward, and with Sterling still learning his craft, Downing being infuriatingly inconsistent and Assaidi inexplicably going missing – seriously, anyone know where he is - in recent weeks, the full backs have stepped up and provided a valuable outlet out wide, and keep stretching the pitch, meaning teams cannot overload the middle and just concentrate on stopping Suarez.