Liverpool picked up a vital 3-1 win away to Aston Villa on Boxing Day, with a number of players showing signs of a return to form.
Aston Villa 1-3 Liverpool
Premier League (15), Villa Park
December 26, 2022
Goals: Salah 5′, Van Dijk 37′, Bajcetic 81′; Watkins 59′
Alisson (out of 10) – 8
Alisson returned to the starting lineup and we were reminded of his all-conquering brilliance yet again.
The Reds’ Player of the Year by a mile so far.
Trent Alexander-Arnold – 7
After a month of feeling a little unloved on England duty, Alexander-Arnold was back in his happy place and performing well.
The 24-year-old’s outrageous outside-of-the-foot pass opened up Villa’s defence for Salah’s opening goal and he was superb on the ball throughout.
Defensively, there were still a few minor errors, but he looked better in that area.
Joel Matip – 7
Matip was preferred to Joe Gomez and justified his selection with a largely assured performance.
On the ball, he was his typically slick self, and while he was solid in his defensive work, he was poor for Ollie Watkins’ goal, losing him.
Made some key interceptions, though, and the positives outweighed the negatives.
Virgil van Dijk – 8
There is no doubt that Van Dijk has been short of his best this season, but this was much more like it from him.
The Dutchman was a dominant presence, winning aerial duels and remaining unruffled, turning on the afterburners a couple of times.
Put Liverpool 2-0 up for good measure with an assured finish.
Andy Robertson – 8
Robertson has enjoyed a nice breather after playing no part in the World Cup and he looked refreshed at Villa Park.
One inch-perfect early cross should have led to Darwin Nunez opening the scoring, but he didn’t have to wait for long to register an assist after teeing-up Salah.
His energy up and down the left flank caused the ageing Ashley Young problems all evening and he was also faultless in his defensive work.
Fabinho – 7
Fabinho has been running in treacle for much of this season, but like so many Reds players, he was more like his old self here.
He appeared to cover ground more efficiently, sliding into one particularly strong tackle, and he was part of a dominant Liverpool midfield.
Curled wide from distance after the break, although his influence did wane.
Thiago – 7
Thiago has been the Reds’ best midfielder this season, but he was arguably the least noticeable in that position against Villa.
That’s not to say that the 31-year-old didn’t play well, however, as he knitted things together and bit into tackles in his own terrier-like manner.
Replaced midway through the second half after losing control of the battle and looking leggy.
Jordan Henderson – 7
Henderson had a resurgence for England at the World Cup and he looks to have taken his form with him back to Liverpool.
The skipper was good on Monday evening, full of industry and running, but one lovely choreographed pass to Salah showed his underrated quality.
Needs to find this level consistently from now on this season.
Mo Salah – 8 (Man of the Match)
Salah has broken record after record for Liverpool and this was another occasion that showed why he is now a truly great Anfield hero.
The Egyptian’s strike put him level with Sir Kenny Dalglish on 172 goals and there are hopefully still many more to come.
He was a menace to Lucas Digne, putting his pace and strength to good use, and almost scored after a lung-busting run half the length of the pitch.
A goal and an assist – his 50th for the club, a standard Salah performance.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – 7
The Englishman did well overall, even if he got quieter as the minutes passed, providing positive running from the left and showing an impressive work rate.
A summer exit feels likely, but if he stays fit, he will be a key squad player for the remainder of the season.
Darwin Nunez – 7
Nunez was recently described as being like a rogue horse causing havoc in a town centre – he epitomised that against Villa.
There was endless willing running and clever movement, but ultimately, the Uruguayan’s end product let him down, especially his finishing.
Excellent for Stefan Bajcetic‘s goal, however, bursting clear and sending in a dangerous cross.
Naby Keita (on for Oxlade-Chamberlain, ’66) – 6
Fairly unnoticed, barring one Paris-esque shot into the crowd.
Used on the left of the front-three. Relatively quiet but kept the ball at a time when fresh legs were needed.
Joe Gomez (on for Alexander-Arnold, ’78) – 7
Good pass in the build-up for Stefan Bajcetic‘s goal.
Stefan Bajcetic (on for Henderson, ’78) – 8
Scored a brilliantly-taken goal, in what was a memorable cameo for the teenager.
Ben Doak (on for Nunez, ’87) – 7
A Premier League debut for the 17-year-old Scot. One lovely dummy caught the eye.
Subs not used: Kelleher, Phillips, Tsimikas, Carvalho
Jurgen Klopp – 8
Klopp will have been delighted to be back in Premier League action and he got a performance that was far more good than bad.
Liverpool still look far too easy to create chances against, but their pressing was so much better than before the break, as was their all-round cohesion.
This is hopefully the beginning of a dominant run of form, although improvements are still required for that to happen.