Liverpool put out a true statement of intent that they are back in the running and now are firmly the favourites to successfully defend their Premier League title. Jurgen Klopp’s men were clinical in their 7-0 demolition of Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park, wiping out Tottenham Hotspur’s goal-difference advantage near the top of the table in the process.
While title hopefuls Manchester City scraped to a 1-0 win over Southampton, it was Easy Street for the Reds, and Christmas will be looking a lot rosier now at Anfield.
However, last season, City demolished teams by five or six goals and still came up well short of Liverpool in the title race, while the Reds churned out — sometimes ugly — 1-0 wins and consistently picked up the three points.
For all the glamour and glitter of a 7-0 win, Klopp will only be looking at the ‘W’ column as he knows, in the long run, those three points will be much more vital in a topsy-turvy season that has already seen some crazy results for all the teams in contention.
Following weeks of grumbling about fixture congestion and injuries, Klopp’s Liverpool are peaking just in time for the busy festive season, as illustrated by their thrashing of hapless Palace.
Having struggled to score in some recent games, Klopp’s side erupted at Selhurst Park, scoring seven goals of superb quality from eight efforts on target as they downed the Eagles with ease.
The Reds were enjoying the goal-hunt so much that Sadio Mane wore a thunderous expression on his face as he was replaced by Mohammad Salah, who went on to score twice, in the 57th minute.
“Today it clicked. This is a very intense period, the boys should be very proud of it. We take a day off tomorrow, then prepare for West Brom,” Klopp told BT Sport.
Liverpool can now enjoy a few days’ rest before taking on West Bromwich Albion on December 27, but with their forwards in this kind of form, it’s doubtful that new West Brom boss Sam Allardyce will be able to do the same.
ARTETA AND ANCELOTTI — ONE YEAR ON
Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti and Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta were both appointed this time last year and looking at the league table after Saturday’s 2-1 win for the Merseyside team over the struggling Gunners, there is no doubt which made the better call.
Curiously, Everton had been linked with former player Arteta after sacking Marco Silva while Arsenal had been rumoured to be considering Ancelotti for the hot-seat at the Emirates.
Both inherited teams that had failed to live up to their potential and costly transfer costs but while Ancelotti has turned Everton into a team that looks comfortable in the top six, Arteta has his team just four points above the relegation zone.
It can be argued that Arteta has deeper issues to deal with at Arsenal with a squad in need of a major overhaul while Ancelotti has been able to improve Everton by the addition of a few key arrivals.
But the fortunes of the two clubs might also give pause to clubs who are tempted by the buzz around a young, up and coming coach and dismissive of more experienced options.
Arteta was ‘highly rated’ as Pep Guardiola’s assistant at Manchester City and hailed by many pundits as a great choice — but had never held a manager position. Ancelotti is one of the most successful coaches in European football but had been written off by some.
Arsenal fans must surely wonder what their team might look like if their board had gone for the former AC Milan and Real Madrid coach rather than an untested rookie.
GUARDIOLA CITY’S BUILDING FROM THE BACK
While Manchester City continue to lack a real goalscoring threat without the injured Sergio Aguero, coach Guardiola has been able to bank on the new-found resilience at the back in recent weeks.
The Spaniard has tweaked his formation to regularly field two holding midfielders in the line-up, offering extra cover to the central defensive pairing of John Stones and Ruben Dias.
The duo looked in complete control again at Southampton as City kept their sixth clean sheet of the season — more than any other team in the competition.