Very rarely last season did an opposition’s attacking set up disrupt Leicester’s defensive shape in the fashion Liverpool did at the weekend.
Jurgen Klopp’s side strived to further its progress from simply being labelled a high pressing, hard-working set of players to being an explosive and an increasingly ruthless force.
Only the run of games ahead will answer the question as to whether Saturday’s victory came about as a result of a lackluster Leicester performance or a dominant and superior Liverpool team.
The reds well and truly put on a show for the Anfield crowd and especially those watching on from the new and very impressive main stand, so much so that Klopp’s glasses, not for the first time, bore the brunt of the manager’s wild celebrations in reaction to an emphatic attacking display.
A 4-1 win against the Champions without Philippe Coutinho on the pitch for the majority of the game will have given fans a huge boost and good reason to be excited about the squad’s strength in depth in forward areas.
Method to Liverpool’s attacking madness?
Saturday’s win saw Daniel Sturridge, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and even Adam Lallana defy the type of conventional and rigid formation fans are so used to. Their ability to do so means pre-match visuals of the starting lineup will have been the most helpful yet an also deceiving way of recognising where each of Liverpool’s attacking players were supposedly set to play.
The erratic yet intelligent movement of Klopp’s forward men not only stretched and disorganised Leicester’s defence but it also demonstrated what a range of attacking dynamics Liverpool have at their disposal.
For two men believed to be setting up on either side of Daniel Sturridge in a front three, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino often found themselves taking it in turns in driving into central areas, as evidenced by the latter’s opening goal.
Firmino does not open the scoring on the day without Daniel Sturridge’s run out wide that drags Wes Morgan and Danny Simpson from the space the Brazilian eventually moves into.
Mane’s goal similarly draws on this interchanging of positions that troubled Claudio Ranieri’s men all evening with the former Southampton man bursting into the central area Sturridge leaves in order to pick up the ball and set up his new teammate.
The combination of three men all with a natural instinct to get themselves into goal scoring positions and the added ability to play as technicians worked perfectly when it came to ensuring teammates always having an option and space rarely being wasted.
Supporters will want to see the same front three continue to play with the freedom and in the joyous way they did at the weekend.
The impossible task of pinning Roberto Firmino down to one position has seen him become a key player at the club. The instruction to him is very clearly to continue what he is doing when it comes to occupying different areas of the pitch.
His tendency to drift is often fuelled by the work he puts in to retrieve the ball when his side are not in possession- a trait to his game that is becoming more recognisable each week.
If it wasn’t Firmino working with James Milner on the left hand side, linking up with Adam Lallana or Daniel Sturridge in the middle or carrying the ball past one or two players himself, it was Sadio Mane on the other side making surging runs with the ball from deep, latching onto passes in behind or creating the room for Clyne to burst into from right back.
Mane’s more obvious free-flowing runs and his energy contrasted the less predictable and more easily disguised movement of Firmino in a way that tired out Leicester physically as well as putting their tactical brains to the test.
Unselfish work was the motto for Liverpool’s attacking performance and something that was perhaps surprisingly led by Daniel Sturridge.
Liverpool’s main man worked as hard as fans could have asked for, making runs to open up space for teammates to work in, tracking back to recover the ball and also making himself available to receive the ball on every possible occasion.
The sight of him sprinting onto passes in behind the opposition and him being confident enough to put himself in scenarios capable of giving him an injury was a pleasure for all those who, at least still for now, fear he may never rediscover his match sharpness.
Early days, of course, but signs that he is becoming more assured of his health and thereby a greater attacking asset.
Mane’s more direct running seemed to invite Sturridge to mix up his game at times in a way that saw him make more of a noticeable impact than when he has recently featured ahead of Coutinho and Firmino who often take a more calculated approach.
Those in red finally looked prepared to take responsibility and lead by example, looking to get involved throughout and making the right decisions in the final third more often than not for a change.
The high press has become methodical since moving the team’s most hardworking player in Adam Lallana into a deeper midfield position and there finally appears to be an obvious purpose to Liverpool’s play.
An intention to mix things up by inviting the likes of Nathaniel Clyne and James Milner higher up the pitch when the forwards tuck in or looking to feed Mane’s runs in behind, is now more apparent.
Klopp’s array of attacking weapons are beginning to find some form and the manager may have finally found a set up that can bring the best out of Daniel Sturridge.
If this set of players can achieve some consistency then they have enough to punish any Premier League defence.