A potential stumbling-block was duly taken care of when Liverpool skilfully and in a confident manner easily disposed of Burnley at Anfield yesterday. The 2-0 win was necessary and kept us close to Champions League spots in the table.
Liverpool was expected to win against the 19th placed team and did it without fuss. Burnley had earlier managed draws at Chelsea and Manchester City but this time they were never near getting a result. The Reds dominated from start to finish and could and should have won by a larger margin. We missed several good chances. The finishing is still one of our weak points, but it´s improving and is at the moment sufficient enough to lead to victories. Especially as the defence has improved beyond recognition compared to the months before of Christmas. Liverpool has recorded six clean sheets in the last eight matches. Before Christmas we shut up shop just four times in 17 fixtures. A remarkable sea-change.
It was also nice to see Liverpool putting in the same effort versus Burnley as we did against Manchester City a few days ago. No slacking and believing it would be an easy match. Everyone gave 100 percent in running, working, pressing and even mentally. Right from the off Liverpool sat themselves down in the front seat and didn´t even invite Burnley to the ride. It was never going to be anything but a home win. The attacking play was inventive, quick and highly entertaining.
Several player had good games. Emre Can defended an created intelligently and skilfully in a couple of positions. He´s becoming a real Kop favourite. Martin Skrtel is starting to be the effective hardman he was a few years ago. Adam Lallana was all over the pitch trying to unlock the away defence with smart moves and trickery. Joe Allen is also growing into the team and is offering fine passing and the ability to slow down or speed up the game at he right moment.
Jordan Henderson does the same and his passing is brilliant, whether he chose the short, the long, the difficult or the smart one. In recent weeks he has grown immensly compared to the figure low on confidence a few months back. Now he holds his head up high, bossing midfield football-wise and has the aura of a true leader, in fact more of a general than a captain.
His tranformation is fantastic and one I never anticipated. Every aspect of his football has improved aswell. I take my hat off and bow to the new Liverpool enforcer. We don´t have to worry about Steven Gerrard leaving anymore. Henderson is ready to step up and be the main man in the middle.
Furthermore, together with Joe Allen he has formed a well-oiled and well-working tandem in the middle of the park. If one of the two attacks, the other one holds the defensive fort and vice versa. If anyone a while ago had suggested that they could be a successful duo in central midfield that person would have been laughed off. Not anymore. Let´s hope Allen and Henderson kan keep this performance level up for at least ten more league games. And hopefully manager Brendan Rodgers doesn´t split up the partnership when Steven Gerrard is fit again. We are more dangerous offensively and more secure in defence with the present duo in midfield.
Here are my ratings for the Reds who participated in the 28th league match of the season (on a scale from 1 to 10):
GK Simon Mignolet 5.
Hardly anything to do but dominated his area and looked assured.
RB Emre Can 7.
Strong in defence and active and creative going forward.
CB Martin Skrtel 6.
Didn´t lose anything in the air and made no errors.
LB Dejan Lovren 4.
Defensively okay but missed several passes, many of them hoofs.
RWB Adam Lallana 7.
A gifted display with a lot of running, trickery and creativity.
CM Joe Allen 6.
Another fine performance from the Welshman. Hardly missed a pass all evening.
CM Jordan Henderson 9.
Perhaps his best effort in a red shirt. Was everywhere, passing, probing, breaking up play and always being at the right place doing the right thing. Capped it with a smashing goal and a perfectly crossed assist.
LWB Alberto Moreno 3.
Didn´t create anything offensively. Must improve his final ball.
RF Raheem Sterling 5.
Seems speedier now than just some weeks ago. Offered some new tricks but is still too much in love with the ball.
CF Daniel Sturridge 5.
Missed two or three gilt-edged chances but finished cooly with his head. Still not in his best form.
LF Philippe Coutinho 6.
Wasn´t as involved as he can be but on the ball he made things happen. Close to another wonder goal.
RB Kolo Toure 4. (Replaced Alberto Moreno after 73 mins).
Played it safe and never let anyone past him.
RWB Glen Johnson 2. (Replaced Daniel Sturridge after 83 mins).
No particular actions, good or bad.
CF Rickie Lambert 1. (Replaced Raheem Sterling after 90 mins)
Too little time to have any impact.
All four rivals for a top four finish won their mid-week match so it was important Liverpool did the same. For the first time this season we have won four league matches in a row and clocked up twelve games without defeat. And we must stretch the sequence to 15 because the next three fixtures are extremely important. They could be decisive in Liverpool´s top four chase. We face Swansea, Manchester United and Arsenal and probably need to pick up at least seven points to still be in the mix. Bearing in mind the way we play right now I wouldn´t bet against us to manage that as:
We Go Again.