A new year brings new hopes, new dreams and new ambitions. Liverpool were more than ready for the turn of the calendar year after ending 2021 with a pathetic performance against Leicester City and seeing fellow title challengers Manchester City charge ahead to open up a nine-point gap in the table.
And so onto 2022, where we stared down the barrel of a Naby Keita, Sadio Mane, and Mohamed Salah absent January. Not ideal when you have a semifinal tie and need to be perfect in the league to have any chance of catching City. Oh, and throw in some COVID-19 positive tests for Jurgen Klopp, Alisson, Joel Matip, and Roberto Firmino that would rule them out of the new year’s opening match against Chelsea. Thiago would miss out with a hip injury, and Andy Robertson would as well due to him serving the final match of his suspension. What a lovely start to the new year for the Reds.
But the show must go on.
The Reds headed to Stamford Bridge without their manager, top goalkeeper, and preferred centre-back pairing. What could go wrong?
Well, judging from the start of the match, not a lot. Liverpool jumped on Chelsea from the opening whistle (Mane did quite literally) and found themselves 2-0 up in the first half-hour. Mane punished a poor decision made by Chalobah and dribbled Mendy to end his goal drought and open the scoring. Roughly fifteen minutes after that, Trent Alexander-Arnold curled a scintillating ball over three Chelsea defenders that Salah took in stride and calmly placed over Mendy’s near post shoulder. He makes it look so easy — the best player in the world at the moment.
Things would quickly come undone as Kovacic hit a once-in-a-lifetime volley, and Pulisic fired home a bouncing ball to tie things up just before the halftime interval. Easily the best 45 minutes of Premier League football we’ve seen this season.
The second half would feature some brilliant saves from Mendy and Caoimhin Kelleher to keep the match level and see Liverpool walk away with a somewhat disappointing point. Kelleher was fantastic in goal and deserves high praise for his performance in London. It wasn’t the most ideal way to send off our AFCON trio, but the goals from Mane and Salah were quality and they played a vital role in the draw.
The FA Cup rolled around next, where the Reds had little trouble with League One side Shrewsbury Town. After falling behind early, a heavily rotated Liverpool side sorted themselves out and slotted home four goals to secure the 4-1 victory. Promising youngster Kaide Gordon leveled the match with some quick feet and a well-placed shot, his first senior goal making him the second-youngest scorer in club history.
Fabinho found his way onto the scoresheet with an unlikely brace — a well-taken penalty and a rebound finish that found the roof of the net just before the final whistle. Firmino came off the bench to score a cheeky backheel, Bobby loves himself a backheel doesn’t he? A match that featured a number of young stars and saw us advance to the 4th round of the FA Cup against Cardiff City.
Liverpool then played host to Arsenal in the first leg of the League Cup semifinal. There’s no way around it, this was a frustrating match. A bright start to the match where Liverpool could have easily scored one or two but failed to cash in. Arsenal’s Xhaka was sent off in the 24th minute after he kicked a through on goal Diogo Jota in the chest. A clumsy challenge resulting in a red, something we’re used to seeing from the Swiss international.
A man up with more than sixty minutes to play, surely Liverpool would find a way through. They did not, similar to the match against Chelsea at the beginning of the season. Arsenal bunkered in for the remainder of the match and to their credit, they did it well. The red card seemingly worked in favor of the Gunners who solely focused on defending to keep themselves in the tie. Liverpool’s midfield lacked creativity, and the frontmen struggled to create any meaningful scoring opportunities. Takumi Minamino had the best chance of the match when a deflected cross fell to him in the 90th minute. Ramsdale was out of his net and the goal was wide-open, but Minamino lost his composure and skied the shot. Disappointingly, we would head to the Emirates for the second leg level at 0-0.
The second leg a week later was a different story. Kelleher, who will start the cup final, started the match after being on the bench for the first leg. The talented young keeper made a fantastic stop early in the match when Lacazette hit a freekick that was headed straight into the top corner. Liverpool would play on the front foot after this, and a Jota brace would see us through to the cup final. The outside backs were fantastic in this match, flying up and down the wings creating dangerous scoring opportunities. Alexander-Arnold reaped the rewards with a pair of assists. Liverpool’s first win in London this season is a 2-0 win in the League Cup semifinal that sets up a Wembley clash with Chelsea on February 27th.
League matches against Brentford and Crystal Palace saw the Reds add six points to their total. A dominant showing against Brentford where Liverpool outshot their opponents 27 to 6. A pair of headers from Fabinho and Oxlade-Chamberlain found the net and Minamino rolled home an easy finish to wrap up a 3-0 win over the Bees. Yet another match where wingbacks Alexander-Arnold and Robertson showed their class, each added an assist to their running total.
The Palace match was less convincing but a 3-1 victory, nevertheless. Goals from van Dijk, Ox, and Fabinho were enough to take three points from Selhurst Park. Robertson assisted twice and Fabinho continued his red-hot January, but the headlines rightfully belonged to Alisson. The Brazilian bailed out a sloppy Liverpool defense multiple times and made some incredible saves you must see to believe.
The start of the new year was a successful one. The Reds coped well without Salah, Mane, and Keita, securing a cup final trip to Wembley and a chance to close City’s gap to six. Alexander-Arnold and Robertson were lively going forward the entire month — contributing four and three assists respectively. Fabinho was potent in front of goal — scoring four out of Liverpool’s fourteen this month. And both keepers played key roles in this month’s success — Kelleher stepped up against Chelsea, Shrewsbury, and Arsenal while Alisson ensured Liverpool took three points off Palace with a remarkable performance.
Rush The Kop Player of the Month: Fabinho
The Brazilian midfielder was sensational all month long, outside of a bizarre performance against Chelsea. He stepped up with some massive goals when needed most, ending January as Liverpool’s leading goal scorer for the month. He was vital in connecting the defense to the attack as he showed us how important he is to make this side tick. Hopefully, more top performances to come from Fab.
Liverpool ends January with a record of four wins and two draws. A positive start to the new year is now behind us as we head into February where Champions League football awaits us. The Reds open the short month with a FA Cup tie against Cardiff City and close the month in Wembley Stadium fighting for the League Cup trophy against Chelsea. With loads of entertaining football in between and the AFCON trio back in Merseyside, we expect another successful calendar month with plenty of goals, clean sheets, points, and maybe even a trophy to add to our collection. Up the Reds!