Disturbances and irritations in the market, tranquillity and progress on the field.
Whatever uncertainties Liverpool might be feeling about the future of their leading man, there is nothing quite like a stroll in the sunshine to lift the mood.
There will be tougher days ahead, and they could occur this week if Saudi Arabia go to irresistibly silly lengths in their pursuit of Mo Salah, but this was a fun interlude. A quick, easy dance around the cones of Aston Villa.
Truly, it was a mauling, a collision between class and frailty, with two goals inside 22 minutes before Villa were finally pickled and put away on the shelf with a third on 55 minutes.
They were finished by then, of course, but the funny thing about that third goal was the roar it generated.
Dominik Szoboszlai netted his first goal since arriving at Liverpool from RB Leipzig as they eased to a win over Aston Villa
The Reds were in fine form despite disturbances off the pitch in the transfer window regarding the future of Mohamed Salah
Mohamed Salah scored the third goal of the game amid the speculation of a move as Liverpool dismantled Aston Villa
It was the loudest of the bunch and for the least impressive strike. It had none of the crackle and pop of Dominik Szoboszlai’s opener, and it didn’t feature the quality of assist that Trent Alexander-Arnold poured into the second, because it was a tap in. A nudge across the line from a yard or two.
But it was Salah and that counts for more right now. It might rank somewhere near the very bottom if we rank the 188 goals he has scored for this club, but they cheered, they sang his song, and within it all was the unspoken fear that it might be his last.
Plainly, Jurgen Klopp thinks otherwise, and doubtless he holds more facts on the matter of Al Ittihad’s interest than most, but the air gets awfully thin when a bid travels north of £150m. We wait and see if Mo walks when money talks.
For the sake of the division, you hope not, especially as Liverpool are taking on a far more competitive appearance than they did last season.
To lose Salah would be crippling at a point when all is looking rosy, especially in the wake of their most comprehensive performance of the campaign so far.
Indeed, this was a superb dismantling of a side not limited in quality. Villa were made to look poor, mostly via the rotating riches of Klopp’s attack, but also through the sturdiness of a Liverpool midfield that serves its purpose far more effectively than the one it replaced. Szoboszlai was excellent, ditto Alexis Mac Allister – they are each a shield and a spear in the armoury.
The backline and Alisson behind them had little to do, although that also points to Villa’s deficiencies. To summarise their day, consider the experience of Leon Bailey – brought on as a substitute after 19 minutes, he was hooked off again on 65. That kind of afternoon.
Szoboszlai has improved a midfield that needed it after arriving at Anfield for £60million and he found the net for the opener
Liverpool doubled their advantage when Matty Cash put through his own net as Aston Villa shot themselves in the foot
Such was the ineptitude of Unai Emery’s defence, they were two down before Emiliano Martinez made a save on his return from injury.
The first of those was a beauty in Szoboszlai’s execution, but a slight farce in how Villa allowed it to happen.
The initial difficulty was caused when Pau Torres was hassled by Salah and Nunez into conceding a cheap corner, and the clanger was really dropped in their response to Alexander-Arnold’s delivery.
Despite all 11 of Villa’s men defending the area, the cross was allowed to drop near the penalty spot, from where it bounced unhindered to Szoboszlai.
The technique of his half-volley was flawless and the flight was one of those slow-risers that look so nice. For good measure, he also nailed Lucas Digne with a challenge just as the trigger was being squeezed on Villa’s first chance.
The second goal owed everything to the ingenuity of Alexander-Arnold, who had shaped to roll a simple pass wide but instead shifted gear by pinging a 40-yarder up the line.
Mohamed Salah, who has been linked with an extraordinary £200m move to Saudi Arabia, scored Liverpool’s third goal
Salah was his usual dangerous self, coming close to adding to Liverpool’s tally here as they dominated Aston Villa
Digne was awfully slow to adjust, which allowed Salah the space to nudge a pass infield to Nunez. The forward’s shot rebounded back from the post, but clattered into Matt Cash on its way out for an own goal.
Joel Matip and Nunez missed good chances for 3-0 and Emery, who had already been forced into substituting the injured Diego Carlos, was growing exasperated. His side had made it too relaxing for opposition who had been required to come from behind in their previous two wins.
Nunez missed a reasonably easy header at the start of the second, but was a key component in the move for 3-0 with his flick from Andrew Robertson’s corner. Waiting at the far post, Salah stepped away from Digne and the tapped the finish. It was basic and it was easy. But was it his last?
MATCH FACTS AND PLAYER RATINGS
Liverpool (4-3-3): Alisson 6; Alexander-Arnold 7.5 (Quansah 70, 6.5), Matip 6.5, Gomez 6.5, Robertson 7; Szoboszlai 8, Mac Allister 7.5 (Endo 87), Jones 7 (Elliott 65, 6.5); Salah 7, Nunez 7.5 (Gakpo 65, 6.5), Diaz 6.5 (Jota 65, 6.5).
Subs not used: Endo, Tsimikas, Bajcetic, Doak, Kelleher.
Manager: Jurgen Klopp 7.5
Scorers: Szoboszlai 3; Cash 22 own goal; Salah 55
Aston Villa (4-4-2): Martinez 6; Konsa 5.5, Carlos 5.5 (Bailey 19, 4.5, Zaniolo 65), Torres 5, Digne 4; Cash 4.5, Kamara 5, Luiz 5 (Tielemans 72, 6), McGinn 5; Diaby 6.5, Watkins 5.5 (Duran 72, 6)
Subs not used: Chambers, Lenglet, Olsen, Dendoncker, Kellyman.
Manager: Unai Emery 5
Referee: Simon Hooper 7