Talking Points: Liverpool 2 Newcastle 0

Liverpool produced yet another professional performance to claim a straightforward victory over Newcastle at Anfield on Saturday evening. Goals in either half from Mo Salah and Sadio Mane were enough to seal the three points for Jürgen Klopp’s side and move them back up to second in the table.

Patience pays…

One of the main criticisms of Klopp’s Liverpool was their ability to see out games and realise that they didn’t have to play at 100 miles per hour to win football matches. It is safe to say that the team has turned over a new leaf and the last few weeks have produced numerous wins where the tempo was slowed down slightly and only increased when needed. Against teams that will sit deep this is crucial, and a bit of patience goes a long way. Chances might not flow freely, but if you have enough quality players then a moment of magic or a defensive lapse from the opposition will come eventually. Liverpool started off perhaps a tad slow and pedestrian, but a few gaps were appearing when the right passes and movement was made, and just before half-time the breakthrough arrived. This came in the form of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s burst from midfield to set up Salah for the opener, and immediately the game became more stretched and this easier for the home side. The crucial second goal came from Mane’s precise finish, and with Newcastle posing little to no threat it was easy for Liverpool to see out the game. A little bit of patience to begin a match with evidently pays off.

Oxlade-Chamberlain provides needed pace from midfield…

The run through the lines and into space that allowed Ox to set up Salah is a hugely important ingredient when trying to break down parked buses. Runs that take opposition players out of the game and shuffle defensive lines out of position make such a difference. Emre Can is also capable of this, but while the German will likely depart in summer, Naby Keita will arrive and provide another player willing to run with the ball. Another key aspect Ox brings is literal pace. Can, Henderson, Wijnaldum, Milner etc are not quick players, but Ox is rapid and will always hurt teams with the kind of pace that is an integral part of modern football. WIth the results Arsenal have been producing recently and for most of the season, it is clear to see Ox absolutely made the correct decision to jump ship and is now a key cog in Klopp’s team. A run of starts is doing wonders for his confidence and goals and assists are now starting to flow.

Mane firmly back in-form…

Doubts about Mane’s form are in the wind, and five goals in his last three appearances indicate the winger is entering a purple patch. As a result, the Reds can rely on all of their tremendous trio at the moment, posing opposition defences all sorts of questions that they currently don’t seem to have the answers to. Even when Mane was performing under par, he was still contributing with goals and assists, which is the sign of a quality player, and now he is back in-form, the end product is really starting to arrive. It is a common factor of Salah and Mane to cause the most destruction when they cut inside into central areas, and this position was exactly where Mane was found by Roberto Firmino to score his sides’ second goal. It is evident just how much Mane is enjoying his football currently, and we were even treated to another edition of Mane copying Firmino’s celebration. Brilliant.

A top-four finish could soon be sealed for Reds…

It is obviously nowhere near mathematically confirmed, but the win over Newcastle edges Klopp’s men ever closer to securing a top-four finish, especially if Man City hopefully beat Chelsea on Sunday. If that is the case then Liverpool will be seven points ahead of Chelsea with just nine games to play, and you would like to think that that could well be enough of a gap to see Liverpool finish in the top-four. Of course, there are still tricky League fixtures to be manoeuvred, starting with a trip to Old Trafford next weekend, and a top-four finish will be the minimum Klopp and supporters want, with second place a realistic and possible target. At the start of the season, a top-four finish was a must for the Reds, and will certainly be impressive given the quality of one of the sides who will miss out. It’s within touching distance now.

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