By Aaron Olsen – @AO_GoLong13
What a month it has been for Liverpool.
At the end of the last month I mentioned December was going to determine our position in the league and whether or not the title challenge would be on, and did Liverpool ever impress.
The frustrating offensive display in November was a thing in the past by the end of December. Injuries hit our backline, but the defence held strong all month.
The Reds notched 23 goals compared to just three conceded – solid numbers during a busy month where games were coming consistently every few days.
Mohamed Salah was showing glimpses of his form last season, and looks to be hitting stride right when Liverpool need him. Instead of going through game by game and giving a full breakdown, I’ll highlight my favourite moments during the games.
Liverpool 1 – 0 Everton
Everton fans were right in saying their side would be on the front-foot, and it was a hard fought game for both sides. Sadio Mané was wasteful with his touches (a theme all month), and of course the moment came in the 96 minute.
A long ball in from Trent Alexander-Arnold was headed away and Virgil van Dijk’s sliced volley went skyward where Jordan Pickford’s tiny arms couldn’t parry it over the bar. We all know what happened next as pandemonium ensued in every corner of Anfield. What a moment for Divock Origi who became an overnight cult hero.
Burnley 1 – 3 Liverpool
Liverpool and Burnley’s game featured mostly in rain, with Joe Gomez went down early, many fans hearts were in their throats as his combination with van Dijk has been at the heart of Liverpool’s new found defensive prowess.
James Milner produced a man of the match performance as his well time strike tied the game at 1-1. His cool-headedness kept everyone grounded and the Reds pulled out a 3-1 victory, which continued our assault on Manchester City at the top of the league.
Bournemouth 0 – 4 Liverpool
Jurgen Klopp’s men ran out emphatic winners at the Vitality Stadium, with Mohamed Salah returning to his scintillating best by scoring a hat-trick.
The Egyptian completed his treble by sidestepping Asmir Begovic about six times before he finally fired the Reds into a four goal lead. The win was yet another example of the ruthlessness this Liverpool side possess, and a real sign of their ability to win the Premier League.
Liverpool 1 – 0 Napoli
Our Champions League struggles pitted us in a do-or-die situation at home versus Napoli. From the onset the high-press was fully on as Liverpool sought an early goal. Klopp utilized the 4-3-3 from last year as Firmino was slotted i the No.9 and our focal point for the press.
As the 33rd minute came, Mohamed Salah slotted in a goal to go 1-0 up. Alisson made the save of the season so far at the end when Arkadiusz Milik had their best chance in added time. The win saw Liverpool finish second in the group, and thus rewarded with a tie against Bayern Munich in the round of 16 clash.
Liverpool 3 – 1 Manchester United
José Mourinho’s tactics since Jurgen Klopp arrived have become a thorn in the Reds side the past three. He sits deep, gives players hardly any space and forces Liverpool to break them down. Xherdan Shaqiri’s brace sank the Red Devils – a double that was the final nail in the coffin of Mourinho.
Wolves 0 – 2 Liverpool
Torrential rain versus Wolves could have caused problems, but this performance is when the class of Liverpool started to show.
Always seemingly in control, and Alisson showed his price tag as he was consistent in what could have been a very tricky match. Virgil van Dijk’s first goal in the Premier League for Liverpool couldn’t have come at a more crucial time as the Reds ran out winners.
Liverpool 4 – 0 Newcastle
Boxing day versus Rafa Benitez’s deep-sitting Newcastle was a welcome reward for Jurgen Klopp’s team. I was very surprised at strong lineup put out and just how aggressive Liverpool were.
He must have thought a changed-out team would struggle to break down the disciplined Newcastle defence, but our performance blew the doors down and the 4-0 display was the perfect Christmas gift.
Liverpool 5 – 1 Arsenal
Going into this game six points clear at the top of the Premier League on the back of a crucial Spurs loss to Wolves, Liverpool went one goal down ten minutes in. Everyone probably thought the same thing: “Well let’s see how Liverpool responds being top of the league while losing at home.”
Did they ever respond, and immediately. Sloppy play from Arsenal saw Roberto Firmino pounce as he slotted in a brace within the span of about 90 seconds. His performance was man of the match material, and couldn’t have come at a better time for his confidence.
Goals from Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mané and a Roberto Firmino hat-trick strike blew Arsenal away, as Liverpool stretched their lead at the top of the Premier League.
Man of the month
Far too many to choose from! Salah, Shaqiri, Alisson, and Van Dijk were all key performers during this busy spell. However I think Jurgen Klopp deserves the accolade as he guided the side to a perfect winning record in a tough and busy month.
His substitutions and rotations in midfield see the Reds seven points clear of Manchester City with a mouth-watering clash with the Citizens on January 3rd.