LIVERPOOL — Three thoughts from Anfield on Liverpool’s 5-0 win over Watford in the Premier League.
1. Liverpool bounce back in style
Responding positively to defeats is part of Liverpool’s DNA under Jurgen Klopp. Mohamed Salah’s sensational performance against Watford on Saturday ensured that Liverpool maintained their record of having never lost consecutive games in the league under the German.
A tough loss to swallow at Manchester United last weekend was followed up with the easiest of victories over Javi Gracia’s side at Anfield — thanks in large part again to Salah’s heroics.
Salah’s four goals — his first ever hat trick for Liverpool — took his season’s total to 36 goals in all competitions. And that wasn’t his only contribution either, as he also provided the assist for Roberto Firmino’s goal shortly after half-time.
Although United did not feature in the league this weekend, the win sees Liverpool apply pressure in the battle for second, cutting the gap with United down to two points again, while overtaking Tottenham Hotspur, who played Swansea City in the FA Cup on Saturday.
It took just four minutes for Liverpool to take the lead against Watford. With the match being played with a white dusting of snow lying on top of the surface, Salah danced past Miguel Britos, leaving the Watford defender hapless, before remaining ice cold in front of goal to slot past Orestis Karnezis.
The 25-year-old cites his manager’s request to operate more in central areas as the reason for his prolific goal scoring form since joining Liverpool in the summer. That tactical instruction was evident when he scored his second of the evening, two minutes before half-time.
Salah was in the right place at the right time as he tapped in Andrew Robertson’s perfectly executed cross from close range.
The three points were then all but secured in the 49th minute when Salah turned provider to cross for Firmino, who performed an outrageous flick at the near post that ended up in the far corner.
That wasn’t the end of the scoring. Thirteen minutes from time, Salah displayed all the best attributes of his game — strength, speed and skill — to secure possession of the match ball as he held off two Watford players before poking the ball home. His fourth, eight minutes later, was more simple, trashing in the rebound from Danny Ings’ saved shot.
Liverpool head into the international break well-placed domestically and in Europe. Klopp’s immediate concern now, however, is that Salah and his other Liverpool players return from national team duty unscathed as they enter the home straight of the campaign.
2. Salah continues to rewrite the record books
Talking about responding well, Salah had arguably his worst game in a Liverpool shirt at Old Trafford seven days ago. But on Saturday, he delivered his very best.
Harry Kane’s ankle injury means the Egyptian now has chance to build up a lead in the Premier League Golden Boot race. The opening goal against Watford took Salah to 25 for this league season, moving him one ahead of Kane. That gap continues to grow while Salah keeps scoring and Kane continues his recovery.
The records keep tumbling as a result of Salah’s goal-scoring form, and Saturday’s first strike saw him become the second Liverpool player in the past 22 seasons to reach the 25-goal mark in the Premier League. To put that achievement into context. Luis Suarez, whose 2013-14 campaign nearly propelled Liverpool to the title, is the other player.
Liverpool will not win the title this season — a second-place finish is the best they can hope for. But with Salah scoring at a record-breaking pace and help from his other two lethal forward partners, it is no wonder Liverpool and their supporters remain confident in the Champions League, despite drawing one of the favourites, Manchester City, in the quarterfinals on Friday.
Salah has now netted more goals than any other Liverpool player in their first season at Anfield — besting Fernando Torres’ record of 33 with his second of the night. He is showing no signs of stopping, which, in turn, means Liverpool aren’t either.
3. Doucoure auditions for the big six
Watford have a battle on their hands to keep Abdoulaye Doucoure, their star of the season, beyond this summer. The Hornets are hoping the midfielder signs a new contract, but Gracia is unsure what the future holds. Doucoure steadfastly admits that a number of Premier League heavyweights are keeping tabs on him.
Having starred at Arsenal and now Anfield in the past two weeks, these type of high-profile encounters should be treated as an audition for the Frenchman to prove to potential suitors that he can, indeed, cut it at a level above.
Doucoure’s performance at Anfield, with a crowd of over 53,000 in attendance, was subdued, but contained a few glimpses of quality that justified interest from teams bigger than Watford.
Remarkably — in a team with Richarlison, Troy Deeney and Andre Gray — Doucoure, who often operates in a holding midfield role, finds himself as Watford’s top scorer in the league with seven goals.
Pouncing on Liverpool’s mistakes in midfield, Doucoure was really the only player in yellow to allow Watford to switch from defending to counterattacking. In terms of his defensive work, he failed to entirely neutralise the threat of Liverpool’s front three. However, players with far bigger reputations than his have also struggled to do that this season.
On the whole, it was a decent outing in testing circumstances. Doucoure’s impressive body of work is building game by game as the summer and transfer window approaches.
Glenn is ESPN FC’s Liverpool correspondent. You can follow him on Twitter: @GlennPrice94.