If the pre-match talk was to be believed, Midtjylland’s dead rubber contest with Liverpool would have little in the way of talking points. In the now famous words of Roy Keane, nonsense!
And don’t worry, @LFCUncensored already knows that VAR is an embarassing travesty. This article will be a VAR-free zone from here on out.
1. A dream came true
It was only Midtjylland they might say. It was a dead rubber some could say. True, but speak those words within earshot of Trent Alexander-Arnold at your peril.
The homegrown ace was selected to wear the captain’s armband from the off for the first time in his already storied Liverpool career.
In 2019, the right-back spoke to the Athletic over what one day skippering this side would mean deep down.
“Hopefully one day that will happen. Becoming Liverpool captain has always been a dream of mine. I’m learning a lot from all the leaders we’ve got in the dressing room currently. I watch what they do and I pick things up on a day-to-day basis from them. It’s a privilege to be a Liverpool player and I want to stay here for as long as I possibly can.”
Scouser. 𝐒𝐊𝐈𝐏𝐏𝐄𝐑. ©️
Trent will captain the Reds tonight for the first time ❤️ pic.twitter.com/voszzdJAWX
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) December 9, 2020
Sometimes fairy tales do come true.
2. Return of the speedy welcome
There was a time when you’d move heaven and earth to avoid missing the first few minutes of a Liverpool match
In the exhilarating but ultimately ill-fated campaign of 2013/14, Liverpool notched seven goals inside the opening 15 minutes of matches by this stage of the season (19 games).
Another seven goals were plundered by those same parameters last season, but this year things have progressed at an altogether slower pace.
Just four goals have been scored in the current campaign inside quarter of an hour of matches in all competitions.
55 – After just 55 seconds, Mohamed Salah's goal is the quickest Liverpool have ever scored in a UEFA Champions League game. Warm-up. pic.twitter.com/ouOecdhwaV
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 9, 2020
We’ll come on to the joys of this goal for a variety of reasons very shortly, but it filled us with great pride to see the blitz return.
A significant number of teams face Liverpool in their present form knowing deep down they don’t stand much of a chance.
Break the deadlock early and their mental hurdles reach greater heights.
3. More high lines please
Liverpool don’t come up against too many high defensive lines anymore, and for good reason.
Whether it was a hint of naivety, overconfidence or some inexplicable tactical machination, Midtjylland opted to deploy one.
Within 55 seconds, the trap was sprung, Salah was away and the rest, as they say, is history.
Here’s hoping the sterner tests that await in the knockout rounds were late to tuning in.
4. Record breaker
Salah’s early strike did more than provide us with a good old laugh at just how he manages to somehow bundle those chances over the line. It also broke a club record.
The Egyptian King now sits atop the charts for Liverpool’s scorers in the Champions League.
All-time great Steven Gerrard’s mark of 22 was surpassed, with the question now turning to how high of a benchmark will Salah set?
It also brought perspective to this current squad. When players have long since retired, three things are frequently cited to measure a player’s impact and legacy. Memories, trophies and statistics.
Salah’s goal-scoring feats on a per-season basis are as good as any Reds striker you’d care to name. Sure, he doesn’t (and won’t) have the longevity of Ian Rush for example, but that is through no fault of his own.
These aren’t just modern-day Liverpool legends we’re watching. When all is said and done, some of these players will be spoken of in the same breath as Dalglish, Rush, Hansen, Gerrard and co.
— Amazon Prime Video Sport (@primevideosport) December 9, 2020
The most startling aspect of the above graphic is the absence of certain centre-forwards you’d have staked your mortgage would be near the top of the charts.
Between them, Fernando Torres (8) and Michael Owen (6) have 14 Champions League goals. Sadio Mane (17) and Roberto Firmino (15) both have more individually. It speaks volumes.
5. Looks can be deceiving
When the team news broke, you’d have been forgiven for raising an eyebrow.
The line-up was stronger than most would have predicted, with three guaranteed starters and a handful of players good enough to at least make the bench on Premier League matchdays in the eleven.
Yet despite that, this was Liverpool’s youngest ever starting line-up in the Champions League.
24y 26d – With an average age of 24 years and 26 days, Liverpool have named their youngest ever starting XI for a UEFA Champions League game, with this their 128th match in the competition proper. Opportunities. pic.twitter.com/QQbue5XStT
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 9, 2020
Jurgen Klopp’s squad has been carefully assembled from the ground up, and the transfer policies of owners Fenway Sports Group has and will continue to ensure that Liverpool are never likely to suffer a decline through a collective aging of their players.
Simply put, the profile of this squad is perfect for an extended period of success.
6. Fabinho’s contract
A recent report from The Guardian suggested Liverpool are on the verge of tying the Brazilian to fresh terms.
He currently pockets £100,000-per-week, but is set to see that sum bumped up to the ballpark played in by the club’s top earners.
Liverpool’s injury crisis this season has shown the true value of an often overlooked trait in football – versatility.
Fabinho has played central-midfield at an elite level. No surprise there. But his centre-back play in the absences of Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk has been nothing short of sensational.
His last-ditch clearance to prevent a goal versus Ajax in October was outstanding. It was so nice he decided to do it twice.
Fabinho 🤝 goal-line clearances. pic.twitter.com/LjxUMj3shv
— Watch LFC (@Watch_LFC) December 9, 2020
Our advice to The Reds’ hierarchy? Hand Fabinho a blank contract and let him fill in the numbers. Then whatever he writes, double it.
He’s worth every penny.