A night where Philippe Coutinho illustrated why Barcelona are still determined to sign him and ultimately, why Liverpool must be as resilient as they were in the summer in order to stop them if they really want to continue progressing nicely and remind the world this is a club serious about collecting silverware.
Under the lights at Anfield, Coutinho offered stellar quality, scoring the game’s opening goal early on before supplying a second for Roberto Firmino. Coutinho was on a different level. Barcelona are briefing they want to pay less but surely his value goes up after these type of performances. It was certainly another occasion that reminds he is ready to play for a team that wins trophies.
This was his 200th appearance for Liverpool. He has lived on Merseyside long enough to expect at least one. He has gone close. He has played with some supremely talented teammates. But something has always been missing.
When a theme keeps repeating itself and it is not your fault, it must be frustrating – especially if you are supremely talented and approaching your peak. He would improve himself at Barcelona. He would improve Barcelona. Can Liverpool’s steady development accelerate to the point where it matches the ambition of their best players?
There were the typical flashes that makes this Liverpool side appear so irresistible and it was a scoreline that reflected their ease. Swansea survived until minute five. Jordan Ayew was partly responsible because he took the risk of dribbling across the pitch from left to centre, falling under a limited amount of pressure. Seconds later Liverpool were ahead. Firmino did the donkey work, the pass from Mohamed Salah to Coutinho was fired in, and the subsequent shot from 25 yards flew past a motionless Lukasz Fabianski. Glorious.
Swansea had come to defend. Falling behind so early did not alter their game plan at all initially. Leon Britton, their caretaker manager, had clearly instructed his five-man midfield to maintain its shape at all times. This meant Oliver McBurnie, the lone centre-forward, was isolated to the point where he might need a psychological assessment to establish the impact of his loneliness. It was a bad night for Britton. Swansea need to find the right manager quickly if they are to be saved from relegation.
For Liverpool, Joel Matip nor Ragnar Klavan were under pressure when in possession. Another one of those recurring themes. Because neither possess the ball-playing abilities to pass their way out of defence or spring forward and make opposition midfields think twice about what they are doing, it can sometimes make Liverpool quite predictable to play against. When Emre Can is in front of them, the speed of Liverpool’s defensive operation can become irritatingly slow. Liverpool were in control here but lacking in aggression and this increased the amount of nervousness inside Anfield as half time approached.
Having drawn with Everton and Arsenal in the last two weeks when a result in their favour should have been settled before recoveries were afforded, Firmino could have done with finishing off his chance shortly before the break when released by Salah but instead, he decided to try and beat Federico Fernandez again and the shot that followed was screwed wide.
There would be another opportunity for Liverpool through Salah before Firmino finally increased the lead. Coutinho’s right boot was again the origin, his scooped free-kick finding his compatriot at the back post all alone. Firmino would end up scoring twice after an unselfish assist from Salah while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain would later make it 5-0, but before that there was another moment to cherish and this time it did not seriously involve Coutinho.
It ended with Trent Alexander-Arnold lashing a half volley past Fabianski. The teenage right back has been compared to Steven Gerrard because he is local, he has already made it his public mission statement to become Liverpool’s captain and he has the technical ability that makes him a dangerous crosser. Here, he celebrated like Gerrard sliding on his knees in front of the Kop.
Liverpool (4-3-3): Mignolet; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Klavan, Robertson (Milner 75); Oxlade-Chamberlain, Can, Wijnaldum; Salah (Lallana 68), Firmino (Solanke 68), Coutinho. Subs not used: Karius, Lovren, Gomez, Mane.
Swansea City (4-3-3): Fabianski; Naughton, Fernandez, Mawson, Olsson; Carroll, Mesa, Fer (Sanches 77); Routledge, McBurnie (Abraham 62), Ayew. Subs not used: Nordfeldt, van der Hoorn, Rangel, Dyer, Clucas.
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