There truly was a Valentine’s Day Massacre at Villa Park on Sunday afternoon.
87 years on since Al Capone’s men shot down members of the Bugsy Moran gang, Jurgen Klopp’s side did similar to those in Claret and Blue.
Turn of fortune
Following a disappointing week, which involved throwing a two-goal lead against Sunderland and being heartbroken by a last minute Angelo Ogbonna header to send them out of the FA Cup, Liverpool needed a massive pick-up to reignite their campaign.
And their victory against Aston Villa should certainly get the wheels rolling. Klopp, for the first time since before Christmas, had his chief protagonists available for selection.
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A returning Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho meant the Reds’ attack was arguably the strongest it could be when Klopp’s squad is at its peak.
Entering the match with a negative goal difference, the Merseyside outfit fired six past Aston Villa, scarring the Birmingham side with their worst defeat for over 80 years.
When assessing such one-sided matches, it's usually difficult to pin the blame on certain individuals or hail certain players; in this case, it was a mixture of both.
Villa look doomed
Based on the scenes at Villa Park, it’s easy to see why Villa are rooted to the bottom of the Premier League and look destined for relegation. Remi Garde knew he had a job on his hands when he took the reins from Tim Sherwood in November. He was unable to attract sufficient recruits last month to help forge a fight for survival; the Frenchman has now likely accepted defeat.
Liverpool’s lack of goals this season has been alarmingly worrying. They’ve missed a striker with a killer instinct, mainly due to the injuries Sturridge has faced.
The England international has split the opinion of Kopites; many want to see him leave as he is a liability and for Liverpool to find a suitable, more reliable replacement.
However, his goalscoring record at Anfield is impeccable and he once again proved how deadly in front of goal he is and why Klopp has waited so long for his return.
He and Coutinho have a superb understanding of one another's game, with the ability to read each other’s movement based on instinct. The Brazilian whipped an inch-perfect ball into Sturridge, who got away from the static Joleon Lescott and easily headed past a helpless Mark Bunn, whose day was only to get worse.
It was Sturridge’s fifth goal from just eight matches this season. If he can remain fit until the end of the campaign, he could spearhead an assault on the Europa League and possibly even a top-four spot.
Liverpool’s lead doubled just nine minutes later when no Villa player took charge to meet James Milner’s dangerous free-kick that sailed all the way into the back of the net.
Coutinho took the limelight in the Midlands, but his compatriot Roberto Firmino was also in fine tune, much like he has been for the past few weeks. After a slow start to his Anfield career, the ex-Hoffenheim man is starting to become a serious threat against each opponent he comes up against.
Based on previous results, the game was far from over despite heading into half-time with a two-goal lead. The Sunderland draw was still fresh in the minds of many and a goal from the home side would have certainly spiced things up.
It’s likely Klopp empathised the importance for his side to keep their foot on the throttle and put Villa to the sword. Liverpool have been too soft on their opponent’s countless times in the past and ultimately paid the dear price come the final whistle.
Flurry of goals
However, four goals in 13 minutes meant that they did not give Villa a flicker of hope. Instead, the Reds sent home fans for the turnstiles before the game was over.
Emre Can’s contributions – or lack of – have been flagged up in recent weeks. Having not registered one goal nor assist in the league previously this term, the German scored a near perfect goal by bullying Leonardo Bacuna off the ball and played a neat one-two with Firmino before firing past Bunn.
Whereas Klopp’s attacking options were strung out in December and January, they now look to be a great deal stronger. Divock Origi was showing positive signs before he was sidelined with a hamstring injury and he looks to have started where he left off. Little more than 30 seconds after coming on as a substitute, he had himself a goal, using his pace to leave the statue-esque Lescott for dead.
The party did not end there. Nathaniel Clyne’s goal was the product of another shambolic piece of Villa defending and Kolo Toure’s free header he didn’t even need to jump for was something a manager of an under-9s Sunday league team would be left furious at.
Simon Mignolet had a quiet afternoon in goal and he’ll be pleased to have kept another clean sheet. Scott Sinclair’s late effort rattled the frame of the target, but it would have been a consolation and nothing else.
Don't get carried away
Klopp got the response he was looking for after last week's misery, albeit against a side who lacked identity, coherence and look doomed to the Championship for the foreseeable future.
The German was respectful in defeat towards Villa. He knows the history of a side who’ve won the European Cup and are in turmoil behind the scenes.
Klopp also seemed wary of keeping Liverpool’s feet firmly planted to the ground and not to get carried away with the manner of the win. It was a good one nonetheless, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement.
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