Liverpool moved level with Tottenham at the top of the table on Sunday with a convincing 3-0 win over Leicester City that belied the injuries that have ravaged Jurgen Klopp's side. Despite being without three of their first-choice back four, Liverpool restricted their visitors, who had topped the Premier League at the start of the weekend, to just four shots on target whilst impressing in the final third themselves.
Each of their three goals came from headers, the first seeing Jonny Evans head into his own net before Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino scored to secure a 64th consecutive league game without defeat at Anfield.
Read the talking points from Liverpool's win below.
Liverpool show their inner steel
For a Liverpool defense without three of their first-choice back four there were few greater tests than an explosive, pacy Leicester City attack spearheaded by Jamie Vardy. That certainly appeared to be the case from the outset, but the composure with which the battle-scarred side smothered the early part of this game showed the mark of champions.
Liverpool kept the back door locked through the impressively diligent Georginio Wijnaldum in particular but this was largely a game where the hosts throttled their opponents through possession. Playing Joel Matip and Fabinho fresh from a muscle injury seemed to invite pressure on the counter but it equally made for an assured base from which the rest of their team could build plays.
Fabinho did not misplace any of his first 50 passes and took an hour to give the ball away, Matip ended the half with a 93.9 percent completion rate, all of which allowed Liverpool to have two-thirds of the half's possession. Leicester were so often on the back foot that when the ball did eventually come their way it was all they could do to punt the ball long, particularly against the intense pressing of Jota, Sadio Mane and Firmino.
Once Jota secured the 2-0 lead Liverpool set about the territory game, keeping men in reserve to protect against the counter and setting up calm in the Leicester half.
Even amid this brutal run of injuries this Liverpool side was riven with internationals and players who rank among the best in the world at what they do. Leicester might point to injuries of their own. But those truths shouldn't take away from the impressive manner in which this team took hold of the contest, marked their will on it and effectively killed off Leicester before the break.
Leicester struggle to find the right plan
There was probably very little any Leicester team could have done with Liverpool in this mood. The challenge was all the greater for this particular Foxes side, without their best defender (Caglar Soyuncu), their most assertive midfielder (Wilfred Ndidi) and two top-tier wing-backs (Ricardo Pereira and Timothy Castagne) among others.
And yet there was something frustratingly passive about how Leicester went about their business at Anfield, particularly when Liverpool were rolling out an untested defense. It is fair to note that Fabinho and Matip passed the ball with unerring accuracy but they were able to do so because there was little pressure on them.
It is certainly a challenge to work out a system to beat Liverpool. Press too aggressively and you are at risk of being undone by the ball over the top so Brendan Rodgers opted for the latter, sitting deep and inviting his hosts to break down the Leicester defense. Perhaps that strategy could work but it is asking a lot of teenager Wesley Fofana and repurposed left-back Christian Fuchs to hold their own in one-on-one actions against Jota and Mane whilst the full-backs in red pin back the visiting wing-backs.
Firmino rises to Jota challenge
With such a range of analytical tools and the ability to review any incident from any angle it feels insufficient to ever ascribe an incident to something as simplistic as luck but how else to describe some of Firmino's misses during a relatively barren 2020. After all if the goal line had been one centimeter nearer the Brazilian he would have had a goal in the 77th minute after a bizarre sequence of events that followed his fine spin of Fofana.
First the initial shot clattered off the post without rolling in before Firmino poked the rebound goalward only to see Marc Albrighton scramble back to clear the ball off the line. Meanwhile the man many assume is a rival for his starting berth, Jota, was getting deliveries as brilliantly tempting as that from Robertson that brought the second half.
There is more to Firmino's limited goal return of six in 2020 than pure misfortune, his finishing has lacked the composure of old, but what Klopp will have welcomed is that against Leicester his No. 9 kept getting himself in positions to test Kasper Schmeichel as he took six shots on goal, the last bringing a much-needed goal as he flicked home James Milner's corner.
Andrew Robertson: A display of customary excellence from the Scotland captain, whose delivery for Jota's goal was the sort that belongs in a textbook, the prime example of how to flash the ball into the corridor of uncertainty. RATING: 8
Christian Fuchs: It feels rather unreasonable to chastise a 34-year-old left-back playing out of position for flaws that can largely be attributed to his being a 34-year-old left-back playing out of position but this was a torrid day for Fuchs against perhaps the most swaggering forward in the Premier League right now in Jota. There was one great clearance off the line but all too often he struggled to contain his opponent. RATING: 4
Curtis Jones: At 19 years of age he looks completely at home in the Liverpool midfield, combining excellently with Roberto Firmino and finding pockets of space around the Leicester defense. RATING: 8
Liverpool face Atalanta in the Champions League on Wednesday at Anfield before traveling to Brighton on Saturday. Leicester travel to Braga in the Europa League on Thursday and will return to Premier League action against Fulham next Monday.