Jurgen Klopp has said he is not getting too carried away after Liverpool's 5-1 win over Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday and does not believe his side's performance was world class, but he was full of praise for "little annoying" striker Roberto Firmino.
According to Ian Doyle of the Liverpool Echo, he said:
"I don't like too much to be so over the moon after a game like this. Last year, a few of your colleagues [in the media] said we didn't have a plan for bus parking teams, however you want to say it.
"But now we score five, we score three, we do things like this and it's all good. It's development.
"I'm happy with the performance, of course. But to be honest, I don't think it was world class or anything like this. It was doing the job."
Emre Can opened the scoring at the Amex Stadium after half an hour when he headed home Philippe Coutinho's corner, and a minute later the Brazil international combined with Mohamed Salah and Firmino for the latter to score.
Goal's Melissa Reddy waxed lyrical about the move:
Melissa Reddy @MelissaReddy_
Everything about #LFC's second was stellar. Firmino's touch to Salah off Lovren's ball. The Egyptian holding the attention of five markers, freeing up Coutinho and Roberto on either side, with the pair making it count with a fine ball across goal and the finish respectively2017-12-2 15:57:04
Firmino had his second after a surging run by Salah early in the second half.
Glenn Murray pulled one back from the penalty spot before Coutinho got on the scoresheet with a clever free-kick under Brighton's wall, and it was the Brazilian's ball that Lewis Dunk turned into his own goal to round out the scoring.
This Is Anfield writer Jack Lusby praised the display, while colleague Leanne Prescott noted the turnaround in the Reds' fortunes in recent weeks:
Jack Lusby @jacklusby_
Truly formidable display from Liverpool today. Firmino, Coutinho, Can, Alexander-Arnold all excellent. Such an important time to win too. ☝️2017-12-2 16:52:16
Leanne Prescott @_lfcleanne
Klopp deserves huge credit for adapting the system to make us far less predictable. 16/18 points since the Spurs defeat is some turnaround.2017-12-2 19:04:45
It was an impressive performance, and it will be encouraging for Liverpool to be able to unlock the door against defensive sides after struggling to do so consistently earlier in the campaign.
Liverpool are only one point above fifth-placed Arsenal, though, and will face sterner tests than the one they received at Brighton, so Klopp is perhaps doing the right thing in keeping his feet on the ground.
The German also singled out Firmino for praise:
"Roberto scored twice, but what he did around these goals is what excites me the most, to be honest.
"In all the counter-attacks, pretty much, he won the ball. By being here, by being a little annoying, a little foot, a little toe, that for us is important. Then the ball is go."
While Coutinho was involved in four of the Reds' goals and deserves plenty of praise, Firmino earned the plaudits with his superb outing.
The Brazilian is not as prolific as he could be—he has only surpassed 12 league goals for a season once in his career—and he isn't typically as eye-catching as his team-mates. He doesn't have the blistering pace of Salah or Sadio Mane, nor does he quite have the creativity of Coutinho.
However, the forward is the glue that holds the forward line together, thanks to his boundless energy, work ethic and excellent link-up play.
Liverpool writer Jack Sear applauded his contributions at Brighton:
Jack Sear @JackSear
Firmino was pretty much unplayable yesterday. Insane work rate. Didn't stop the whole game. Exceptional both on and off the ball. Such an important player for the team.2017-12-3 22:19:31
Firmino is now on 11 goals for the campaign in all competitions and needs just one more to match last term's tally, and he may even reach the total of 22 he scored in the 2013-14 season with Hoffenheim.
He is already a big asset for the Reds in the final third, but his improvement in front of goal could play a key role in Liverpool enjoying a successful campaign this year.