Football Features

‘Best in the world? I think he’s top of the tree’ – Five things learned from Watford 0-5 Liverpool

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 14:53, 16 October 2021

In a devastating afternoon of Premier League football, Liverpool demolished Watford 0-5 at Vicarage Road.

The win sent the Reds to the top of the table. What did we learn?

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1. Mohamed Salah is the best in the world (right now)

Before the game began, Jurgen Klopp bemoaned the early kick-off time given his squad travelled around the world. For his part, Mohamed Salah was in Benghazi five days ago but you’d never have known it the way the Egyptian started the game.

The first 10 minutes of the game consisted of, essentially, Mohamed Salah punching Danny Rose in the mouth over and over again. His pace, power, skill and focus left Watford in general but Rose in particular gasping for air. By the time the gameclock struck 12, Salah had hit the bar, pulled a massive save from Foster and created the opening goal with a turn and pass so seductive in its beauty that a gif of it could and should be hanging in The Louvre.

As if that wasn’t enough, Salah then made it eight straight games with a goal later in the second half. In simple terms Salah dribbled away from three Watford defenders, sat one on his backside and curled a leftie effort into the back of the net. But that is reductive to merely what occurred, rather than what happened. In truth there’s no describing this with words, go and find the clip and then also get some Arnicare for the bruise on your chin after your jaw hits the floor when you see what the Egyptian did to Watford.

“It’s a player from another planet playing against mere mortals in the Premier League… Mo Salah at the moment looks like the best in the world,” said Darren Fletcher on commentary. A bold statement, but one Jermaine Jenas agreed with: “It’s hard to say no. There’s Messi, Ronaldo, Neymar and the likes, but this man… I think he’s top of the tree right now.”

Obviously Leo Messi is the best on the planet and will get up to speed as he settles into life in Ligue 1, but right now? In the Autumn of 2021? Salah is on a different level. As Klopp said post-match: “In the moment it’s clear there’s nobody better than him.” Today saw only a goal and an assist, but it was such a supremely good goal and assist that you can’t deny Mohamed Salah his crown. World’s finest.

2. Ranieri has a colossal job

Everyone loves Claudio Ranieri, of course they do he’s wonderful. But anyone who anticipated him performing Leicester-style miracles with Watford are completely unaware of the size of the task facing him at Vicarage Road.

Forget the quality of the squad, although it is pretty far from Premier League standard in some areas, there wasn’t even any new manager bounce which is always accepted as inevitable. After the match, Joe Cole said “one of the worst performances from a Premier League club,” and he wasn’t wrong. Obviously it’s early, but given the lack of a reaction to Ranieri, Watford look in big trouble.

3. Bobby on the road again

Roberto Firmino only scored 9 goals in 48 games last season. That’s pretty terrible. However the good news for the Brazilian is that in just 7 games so far this season he’s bagged 6 goals, meaning he’s two thirds of the way to beaten last season’s abysmal total in just October.

Firmino’s goals were simple as you can imagine. All one-touch finishes from within six yards, but the fact that he was putting himself into those kind of positions, showing that kind of sharpness and hunger, bodes very well for him having a great season.

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4. Milner The Ever-Living

Firmino’s first goal came as a culmination to a lovely Liverpool attacking move and the assist came from James Milner. That assist meant that Milner has now created a goal in the Premier League for 18 straight seasons. That’s right, Milner has been creating goals in the league as many years as Harvey Eliot has been alive. That’s nuts.

Only Ryan Giggs with 21 straight seasons of assists (and goals!) sits above James Milner on the eternal creative carousel. And given his ridiculous fitness levels and the obvious trust Jurgen Klopp has in him; would you put it past him to at least equal the record?

5. The goodest team

Sadio Mané, a player whose form had plummeted to absurd depths last season, has now scored twice in a row for the first time since December 2020. His goal today, a lovely finish, was his 100th Premier League goal. He is just the third African to reach this milestone after Didier Drogba and Mohamed Salah.

That’s a really impressive stat that will go largely ignored because of how many other good things Liverpool are doing right now. Seriously, they’re ridiculously, stupidly good. While the game against Manchester City at Anfield showed that perhaps Pep Guardiola’s men are still the best team in the Premier League, no one could deny that right now Liverpool are the goodest team. Yeah, that’s right, goodest. There’s just goodness dripping from every inch of their play.

They fight for each other, they work hard defensively, their fluid front three is impossible to handle and then they havce Mohamed Salah just running riot up-top. And then you have Jurgen Klopp going in two-footed against the anti-vaccine dullards, the human rights nightmare of the Saudi-controlled PIF takeover of Newcastle United and finally broadcasting requirements that see teams play midday Saturday after an international break. Good manager, good man. Just an abundance of goodness on every front.

The goodest team.