Liverpool vs. Fulham: 6 Things We Learned
If last weekend was supposed to be a reality check, then this one underlined just where Liverpool are at the moment.
Unable to stop the Arsenal juggernaut at Emirates last Saturday, the Reds were terrific in swatting aside an admittedly poor Fulham team 4-0 at Anfield to move back into second place in the Premier League.
Liverpool might have come unstuck when playing against a team of the quality of the Gunners last Saturday, but they possess the ability to overwhelm the also-rans of the division and looked like doing so long before Fernando Amorebieta turned the ball into his own net for the opening goal.
A thumping header from Martin Skrtel and a clever Luis Suarez finish from Jordan Henderson's superb through ball made it 3-0 before the break, with Suarez typically adding another with a composed finish early in the second half.
It was a result to heap the pressure on Fulham boss Martin Jol, but for Brendan Rodgers this must have represented one of his most satisfying afternoons in charge of the Reds.
Here are six lessons learned from Anfield:
"Death by Football"
Brendan Rodgers has many sayings, and he's never too shy when it comes to saying them.
One of his most eye-catching during his Liverpool tenure has been when he's discussed the hope that his team could make their opponents submit through the intensity and quality of their play. "Death by Football" as he so eloquently put it.
Well, Liverpool pretty much achieved that here, especially during a first half performance which left Fulham gasping for air.
At one point the strangulation was so intense that Pajtim Kasami—the former Reds youth player who scored that memorable goal at Crystal Palace recently—was reduced to simply booting the ball out of play midway inside his own half, such was the pressure placed on his side.
They couldn't breathe.
Suarez's Surprising Stepover
He scored two goals and forced another, but arguably Luis Suarez's most impressive moment of the afternoon was one that would have been easily overlooked.
Perhaps it wasn't noticeable to those watching on screens and not at Anfield, but his tracking back in the second half underlined his work ethic here, which at one point combined with his showmanship as a Suarez stepover led to the ball trickling out for a Liverpool goal kick.
Maybe it looked a little thing to most observers, but the crowd at Anfield loved it.
They love him too.
Coutinho's Return Adds a Bright Spark
He'd been out for almost two months with a shoulder injury, but shouldering the burden of being Liverpool's bright spark is seemingly no problem for Coutinho.
He was brilliant again here, with his trademark nimble feet and perfect weight of pass showcased amongst his team's many other qualities.
Keeping him fit and firing will be key to Liverpool's sustaining a challenge for the top places in the table, something which—if the little Brazilian is involved—it'll be fun to watch them do.
The Formation Goes Back to Basics
Liverpool managed their first clean sheet since the win over Manchester United in early September here, and whilst much of that has to do with Fulham's meekness in attack, the fact that Rodgers reverted to a back four must also play a part.
That decision ensured that Daniel Agger returned to the side—even taking the captain's armband for half an hour when the excellent Steven Gerrard was withdrawn early—and saw Liverpool demonstrate increased fluidity and comfort.
Glen Johnson in particular was excellent, and with this setup not deterring from the potency of the Reds' attackers, it could be here to stay.
Time Up for Jol at Fulham?
Liverpool were very good, but regular Anfield attendees won't have seen visitors as bad as this for a while.
Fulham have always been notoriously poor on the road, but here it seemed beyond poor. There was no fight or passion from the visitors, whilst manager Martin Jol often stayed stuck in his chair in the dugout, seemingly helpless.
Dimitar Berbatov barely moved, and although Scott Parker and Steve Sidwell were a lot more mobile, they were only chasing lengthening shadows on a cold early evening on Merseyside.
Perhaps manager and club parting ways on the banks of the Thames could be right for all concerned.
The Top Four Is Starting to Become Expected, Not Hoped for
As last weekend showed, title talk surrounding Liverpool might still be hugely optimistic, but why can't they expect to make a proper tilt at the top four now?
Seven wins from 11 league games is a pretty good ratio, and so long as the Reds keep swatting aside teams in this manner then those hopes are only likely to increase.
Chelsea needed a slice of luck to earn a draw against West Brom on Saturday, whilst Tottenham and Manchester United haven't convinced this season and either the latter or Arsenal or both will drop points at Old Trafford tomorrow.
Brendan Rodgers indicated that a top-three finish could be possible for his side in his programme notes ahead of this game, and whilst a match against an opponent such as this shouldn't be leading to anyone getting carried away, a little positivity never hurt anyone, did it?