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Soccer

Liverpool Has So Many Cool Guys

Harry Maguire of Manchester United looks on as Sadio Mane of Liverpool runs with the ball during the Premier League match between Liverpool and Manchester United at Anfield on April 19, 2022 in Liverpool, England.
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

It’s not particularly clear when it happened, but Liverpool now has the most weapons of anyone in the Premier League. Really, the only competition comes from Manchester City, as is often the case with these two clubs, but thanks to Liverpool’s transfer strategy of “never miss on a single transfer, ever,” the Pool Boys have stocked up an arsenal of dangerous players both in the starting lineup and on the bench.

Tuesday’s 4–0 thrashing of Manchester United is perhaps not the most indicative of this new normal, since Liverpool probably could have trotted out some academy players and still picked up the three points against its overwhelmed rival. Still, the match was revealing for how it was won, with a parade of very cool players having very good games. One such player was, naturally, Sadio Mané. Check out this hockey assist laser of his that sprung Mohamed Salah ahead of Luis Díaz’s opener:

He even one-upped himself a little later with this ridiculous pass for Liverpool’s second goal:

Mané has been having a hell of an April. Starting with the first leg of Liverpool’s Champions League quarterfinal tie against Benfica on April 5, the Senegalese star has scored five goals in five matches in all competitions, including two goals in a man of the match performance against Manchester City during last Saturday’s FA Cup semifinal victory.

Nevertheless, Mané was not Liverpool’s best player on Tuesday—nor, for that matter, was Salah (who had two goals and one assist) or Díaz (who had a goal and an assist to his name). That honor went to Thiago, who had what is now his signature game at the club. When Liverpool purchased Thiago back in the summer of 2020, it was with the expectation that he would put on displays like Tuesday’s. Injuries have limited his opportunities to hit those heights, but the Spanish No. 6 looked as good as ever against United. His cross-field passes, especially from the left side of the field to Salah and Jordan Henderson on the right, repeatedly carved open United’s defense and led to chance after chance, while his underrated defensive work kept United’s midfield from ever finding its feet:

For the game, Thiago completed 96 percent of his passes, despite a high degree of difficulty with a handful of them, while also progressing the ball forward with three successful dribbles. Add in three tackles on the other end and a calming presence as the adrenaline wore off early in the second half, and he was the perfect player for Liverpool on this particular day. His counting stats will never wow anyone, not in Liverpool’s system that funnels most of the chance creation and conversion to the front three, but a midfield anchored by Thiago is one that can win any type of game, whether it be a romp like Tuesday, or a more stodgy affair.

The United win was notable for just how many of Liverpool’s headliners played great, but even more remarkable is how the team doesn’t have to rely on any one of them in order to play well generally. Outside of probably Alisson and Virgil van Dijk, Liverpool can afford out- or off-days from any other player, secure in the knowledge that somebody else is fully capable of picking up the slack. Mané and Salah are known quantities, as is Roberto Firmino, who is once again healthy and looks perfectly poised to play a supporting rotation role during the run-in. Filling out that forward line are Diogo Jota, who scores all the time, and Díaz, who has been a revelation since signing in January. In midfield, there is a fully fit and in form Thiago, plus the regular stalwarts Fabinho and Jordan Henderson, plus Naby Keïta, who, like Thiago, is having his healthiest and best season with the Reds. In defense, the team has the best full back duo in the world, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson, and of course van Dijk, but also Joël Matip and Ibrahima Konaté, the latter of whom has scored in each of his last three appearances.

As you can see, manager Jürgen Klopp has an abundance of weapons at his disposal, and enough depth to ensure that no particular player gets over-worked. That’s one of the reasons Liverpool came out sharper against City on Saturday, despite both teams having played midweek Champions League ties.

It also serves the Reds well for the remaining month of the season. Though Liverpool has an easier opponent than Manchester City does in the Champions League semifinals, at least on paper—the former plays Villarreal, while the latter takes on a deadly Real Madrid side—the Premier League schedule is harder for the team in second place. Liverpool still has to play Tottenham and Wolverhampton, plus a Merseyside derby, which is never something to take lightly, even in Everton’s current state. There’s also an FA Cup final against Chelsea.

Liverpool’s depth means that any of their best 15 or so players could win a crucial three points whenever the club needs it, though, and were it to just come down to which side has more of that depth, it would be Liverpool hoisting the Premier League trophy in late May. That’s not how soccer works, but the last couple of months have shown that Liverpool has the ability and talent to make up huge deficits by sheer force of indestructibility. Now, it just needs to make up one more point to win it all.

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