Who would have guessed that having both Sturridge and Coutinho in Liverpool's starting XI would improve Liverpool's goal-scoring?
Also, Aston Villa are really bad.
It was a lot like the last time that Liverpool scored six goals. Which, incidentally, was also the last time that Daniel Sturridge started. A couple of early goals, with Sturridge playing a crucial part, then an excessive mauling as the opposition fell apart, repeatedly picked apart on counter-attacks.
Liverpool weren't even that good, at least in the first half, but Liverpool were clinical. That's been the difference all season long, why we've seen 4-1 City and 6-1 Southampton, but also 0-2 Newcastle and 0-1 United and and...
Daniel Sturridge has a lot to do with that. But so did Philippe Coutinho. His perfect cross assist for Sturridge's headed opener – which looked an awful lot like Milner's cross to Firmino for Liverpool's first against Sunderland. He won the the free kick for Liverpool's second, one of those dangerous positions where if it's on goal, it's often in, even if no one touches it. Which is exactly what happened when Milner stepped up. And then another assist, a divine throughball to Origi, during the second half demolition.
You've got to have someone who can play the damned piano. Ideally, more than one person. And Coutinho with attackers to pass to – you know, like Daniel Sturridge, or even Divock Origi – is much much better than Coutinho attempting to score unlikely goals from any and all angles from Benteke's layoffs.
So while Liverpool weren't any great shakes in the first half – at least, like we've seen before, Liverpool were unable to convert possession into lots of chances – Liverpool took the chances they had. That Sturridge seized Liverpool's first chance is no small matter; confidence is intangible and often inexplicable, but having Sturridge score early clearly boosted the side. And while last week demonstrated that 2-0 can be a dangerous lead, even against horrific opposition who'd done nothing in the opposition half, Liverpool made the match absolutely certain early in the second half.
We saw goals from two Liverpool strikers: Sturridge's opener and Origi for the fourth. We saw a goal from a wonderful through-ball and when one-on-one with the keeper: Again, Origi. We saw set play goals: Milner's direct free kick and Kolo's (KOLO'S!!!) header from Henderson's corner. We saw goals from crosses: Sturridge's opener and Kolo's header. We saw goals from pressing: Can's game-killing third. We saw goals from counter-attacks: Can, Origi, and Clyne. We saw goals from outside the box: Can, Origi, and Milner.
We saw Liverpool take just 11 shots, but nine of those 11 shots were on-target, and six ended in goals. We saw Liverpool create three clear-cut chances for the first time since beating City 4-1 in November, and Liverpool scored all three, the first time this season that Liverpool have scored three clear-cut chances in the league.
We saw Aston Villa take just six shots – half of them after Liverpool already had a six-goal lead – with only one on-target. We saw Villa offer absolutely nothing, partly because Villa don't have much to offer, but also because Liverpool didn't allow them opportunities to offer anything. Even when Villa had too much first-half possession in Liverpool's half, they couldn't do much with it.
Today truly couldn't have gone any better.
And yes, Aston Villa, now assuredly relegated, had more than a bit to do with today's successes. Still, Villa had been "in-form" coming into today, at least for Villa, with two wins and two draws in the last five matches, a vastly better short-term record than Liverpool's.
Liverpool owed Aston Villa that. Liverpool have been frustrated by almost-as-bad Villa sides in the past. Liverpool have dropped points to Villa in each of the last nine seasons; the last time Liverpool did the double over Villa was 2005-06. There's 1-2 in the FA Cup semifinal last year, 2-2 in 2013-14, 1-3 in 2012-13, etc., etc.
No matter the opposition, this was an important win. With Sturridge, Coutinho, and Origi returning (and, of course, if they can stay fit), this can be a form-changing win, especially as Liverpool's fixture list starts to lighten. But Liverpool have been ruthless before, and Liverpool have regressed before. 6-1 over Southampton was followed by 0-2 Newcastle and 0-0 Sion; 5-4 over Norwich was followed by 0-1 Stoke, 0-0 West Ham, and 0-2 Leicester.
This is just a start, and Liverpool still need to build on this. Liverpool need to ensure this isn't another one-off false dawn. But, at the very least, they've again shown what they're capable of doing.