Liverpool were again forced to come out and make a statement after dropping points in the league, and it was a statement made loud and clear with a 5-0 thrashing of Watford at Anfield.
Liverpool took the lead on nine minutes when Trent Alexander-Arnold delivered an inch-perfect cross from the right flank, finding the head of Sadio Mane who had got between the Watford centre halves and thumped the ball into the roof of the net.
The Senegalese grabbed his second 10 minutes later when again he was on the end of an Alexander-Arnold delivery and after the chance seemed to have been and gone after a poor first touch, Mane’s dinked the ball over Ben Foster with a superb backheel.
Divock Origi, blessed with a rare start for the Reds, added the all important third goal as he kept working on the ball on the left hand side and drilled a shot into the bottom left corner.
With the game approaching its final 10 minutes, Virgil van Dijk put it beyond all reasonable doubt if it was not already that way with a powerful header from a free-kick, delivered by Alexander-Arnold once more.
Within minutes the big Dutchman had a double, another free-kick from out wide was recycled and put back into the box by Andrew Robertson, allowing van Dijk to tower over Craig Cathcart and cushion the header into the Kop end net once more.
Attacking reshuffle pays off
With Roberto Firmino out injured after succumbing to an ankle issue sustained against Manchester United at the weekend, Daniel Sturridge and Xherdan Shaqiri would perhaps have been favourites to fill the void in the final third.
Jurgen Klopp opted to go for Origi, admitting that he had earned the opportunity through his attitude and application in training sessions, but just as his inclusion in the lineup was perhaps a surprise, his position in the side raised some more eyebrows.
The Belgian took up a position on the left wing, a position not completely foreign but not natural to him, a fact that was evident throughout the game as he at times struggled to find the ball in good areas and makes things happen out wide.
When he did get the ball in and around the box he looked to cause problems and took his goal expertly well, a strike that he has deserved after biding his time on the substitute’s bench throughout this campaign.
This then would have been expected to have allowed Salah to play through the middle as the no.9 as he has often this season, but Klopp sprung another surprise by deploying Mane in the centre forward role.
Again, this was a gamble that paid dividends as Mane was electric in the opening 20 minutes, bagging a quick fire double and showing his devastating quality.
Perhaps never seen as an option as an out and out striker, this performance will bode well for the Reds as they continue to sweat on Firmino’s fitness ahead of the Merseyside Derby this weekend and allows Klopp to implement somewhat of a surprise factor into his side.
Watford trounced at Anfield again
Since Klopp took the manager’s seat at Anfield, Watford have managed just one goal at Anfield and lost each of the four meetings.
The last three in particular have all been won by five goal margins by the home side, with back to back 5-0 wins following the 6-1 triumph in 2016.
On each of those occasions, whilst Watford have not exactly covered themselves in glory, it has been the cut throat nature of Liverpool’s displays that have won the games by those margins rather than an insipid display by the Hornets.
Javi Gracia’s men started this game in quite a satisfactory manner, closing the channels for Liverpool to exploit and following their runners in the usual sturdy defensive set up that comes with teams when they visit Anfield, but as soon as the opening goal went in the Hornets had no answer.
Adam Masina had a torrid time at left back dealing with a well on form Salah and the incredible quality in Alexander-Arnold’s service behind him, the midfield three of Will Hughes, Etienne Capoue and Abdoulaye Doucoure were comprehensively beaten by Liverpool, in particular a superb Fabinho, in the middle of the park.
Troy Deeney was starved of service as he was bullied by van Dijk, as was Gerard Deulofeu and Roberto Pereyra as Liverpool brought out their pressing play in full force to consistently win the ball in their own attacking half.
Coming into this game after consecutive wins including a 5-1 thumping of Cardiff City, the good form that Watford had strung together was undone by a resurgent Liverpool side who were at their very best yet again in this fixture.
Alexander-Arnold with a piece of history
Racking up three glorious assists, the 20-year-old academy graduate became the youngest player in Premier League history to achieve a hat-trick of assists.
Made to sit on the bench at Old Trafford last time out, Alexander-Arnold issued a timely reminder of his quality and perhaps what might have been had he been in action against United, as Liverpool lacked the same calibre of delivery from James Milner as the stand-in right back.
His ability to put the ball in dangerous areas, not just with accuracy but with outstanding pace and whip makes him such a valuable asset to the Reds.
Playing against side that sit back and attempt to close any avenues forward, Liverpool are forced to move the ball into wide areas as the opposition defends in a compact shape, and having that quality coming in from the wings aids them in unlocking the door.
At such a young age, Alexander-Arnold’s meteoric rise from the Liverpool academy to the first-team to the World Cup with England has drawn much excitement and belief in his ability, and that ability can only grow and improve with time, a daunting prospect for the rest of the Premier League.