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Who's panicking now? Thiago, Jota and Mane have Liverpool's critics thinking again

08:00 BST 22/09/2020
Jota Thiago Mane Liverpool GFX
The Premier League champions had been questioned as the new season started but provided the perfect riposte on and off the field

Thiago Friday. Jota Saturday. Three points Sunday.

As weekends go, it was a pretty good one for Liverpool. On the pitch and off it, they took care of business.

What a difference a few days can make. How easily fears and concerns can be washed away. All it takes is £70 million ($90m) worth of new signings and a convincing win away at a rival.

Simple, eh?

It seems absurd to suggest that the mood has been transformed at Anfield. How, after all, could there be any negativity given what Jurgen Klopp and his side have achieved in the past two seasons? 

There was, though. Plenty were doubting whether the champions could really go again this season. Many were anticipating a drop-off in results and performances, wondering whether a lack of transfer activity would come back to haunt the Reds.

A madcap opening-day win over newly-promoted Leeds did little to convince the sceptics, either. ‘Where’s the depth?’ they asked afterwards. 'Why no new faces? Has the hunger dipped, have the levels dropped?'

They are singing a different tune now. The Twitter critics will have to find something new to complain about. Liverpool, not for the first time, have shut them up good and proper.

The arrival of Thiago Alcantara, confirmed on Friday afternoon, is a game-changer; a world-class midfielder added to a world-class football team.

At an initial fee of just £20m ($26m), his purchase is as much a bargain as it is a statement. He might just be the biggest, most pedigreed player the club has ever signed.

Liverpool followed it up, as well. The ink was barely dry on Thiago’s four-year contract before news of Diogo Jota’s signing broke.

The Wolves forward signed on the dotted line on Saturday, the Reds having agreed a deal which could cost them as much as £45m ($58m) in due course.

Two problems solved in the space of 24 hours. Thiago to bring class, poise and vision to the midfield, Jota providing threat, dynamism and versatility in forward areas, someone to push and cover for Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino. 

Suddenly ‘where’s the depth?’ has become ‘look at the depth!’ Liverpool’s squad, with Kostas Tsimikas bought earlier in the summer to deputise for Andy Robertson at left-back, looks stronger than ever - even if the greedier fans would quite like to see a centre-back added before the transfer deadline. You will never please everyone.

Goal , for what it’s worth, understands it is unlikely that there will be any further additions in this window. The focus now will be on trimming the squad. Rhian Brewster, Harry Wilson, Marko Grujic and Loris Karius are the likeliest departures from the first-team pool. 

So with Friday and Saturday taken care of, with the business done and the fanbase in raptures, it was time for that most pesky of distractions: a game of football. 

A big one, too. Chelsea away. Motivated opposition with a point to prove and a few new faces of their own. Another test for the team everyone wants to beat.

Another test passed, as it turned out. Victory at Stamford Bridge came with a bit to spare for Klopp’s side, who were dominant even before Andreas Christensen’s red card.

With a man advantage, and with Thiago summoned from the bench for his debut, Liverpool made their superiority count.

Their 2-0 win could, and should, have been more comprehensive, even if they owed their clean sheet to Alisson Becker’s penalty save from Jorginho, while they continue to wait nervously for news on Jordan Henderson’s thigh issue.

Klopp was happy enough, as you’d expect. “We had a lot of good weeks in the past,” he said afterwards. “And this was a good one as well. I get that.”

He will hope for a few more, too. With Thiago and Jota on board, with Salah and Mane looking razor-sharp and with the brilliant Fabinho proving that he can alleviate any centre-back worries, Liverpool look even stronger now than they did a year ago. And how scary a thought is that, given they won 27 of their first 29 league matches.

We can expect rotation this week, with League One side Lincoln City awaiting in the third round of the Carabao Cup. Expect to see Tsimikas and probably Jota in that tie, along with the likes of Divock Origi, Takumi Minamino, Neco Williams and Curtis Jones. 

After that, another biggie, with Arsenal heading to Merseyside for a heavyweight clash on Monday. 

The Gunners have traditionally suffered at Anfield – they have conceded 30 goals in their last eight visits in all competitions – but have started the season with two wins from two, and look an altogether more robust and organised outfit under Mikel Arteta.

This week, though, they will face the ultimate examination. Liverpool’s best may still be to come.