So, it has been well documented amongst commentators and fans alike that this Liverpool side, charged by the wizardry of Philippe Coutinho and the heavy mental approach of manager Jurgen Klopp, look the real deal.
The reds so far this season have scored 40 goals, and after the 14 games we have had, this is the highest amount of goals at this stage we as supporters have experienced in 121 years.
The swashbuckling and sometimes (always) samba dancing front three of, Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho and Sadio Mane, have quite simply ripped teams apart, in the opening embers of the season.
But as always is the case, especially with us Liverpool fans, there is always the case of Nostalgia, if want of a better word. And if you are a regular viewer of my work this is one thing I can’t seem to look past.
Will it be the power of the trio, or the dynamic nature of the duo? The case for Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres vs the new school era attackers, I will put an argument for each, to reach a final conclusion.
A case for Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres
Revealing that playing with Torres made him feel invincible, the predominantly central midfielder Steven Gerrard, turned into one of the best no 10’s in the world, playing just in the Spaniard.
The duo had a well-documented friendship off the pitch that benefitted them on the field, to become Liverpool’s only really outlet of goals for three and a half years.
In arguably their best season together, in Torres’ debut season the stats for the duo are simply astounding. Together, Gerrard and Torres scored an incredible 54 goals between them in all competitions. What is even more impressive was the pairs league form, when each started together, I stress when each started together.
Torres scored 20 goals notching up two assists, meanwhile Gerrard scored 10 goals and matched this with 10 assists, in the 2007/08 essentially meaning the pair had a hand in 42 goals in 27 games, of which they both started.
The pair also averaged 1.4 goals scored and created per game and were additionally unbeaten in 85% of games started together.
The season also saw the pair named in the PFA Team of the year, and saw Torres break numerous records. The most impressive being he equalled Roger Hunt’s record of scoring in 8 consecutive league games and eclipsed Ruud Van Nistlerooy’s record of most goals scored by a foreigner in a debut season in Premier League.
It was a stop start season for Gerrard and Torres who due to injury and suspension only started 12 games together compared with the 27 of the previous season. In what was an almost season for the reds, who finished second, should the pair have played more together, the title would have surely headed to Anfield.
That being said, the Englishman and the Spaniard scored a combined 41 goals, with Gerrard averaging a goal every 147’ and Torres averaging every 164’.
Gerrard scored 24 for the season meanwhile an injury hit Torres scored an impressive 17. Furthermore, as was seen in the previous season, when the pair started together, the statistics were equally as good.
In the 12 games they started together, they scored an acute 20 goals scored whilst creating a similar number. They also averaged 1.5 goals per game and were unbeaten in the 12 games they started, winning 75% of these- impressive to say the least.
The pair were named in the PFA team of the year, for a second consecutive year and additionally, Gerrard was named the PFA Fans’ Player of the Year and came top in the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year award.
It what was the beginning of the end for an era on Anfield, the season in question was hugely disappointing, simply because the pair could not carry the side any longer.
The reds reliance on the duo was outweighed this season, but that being said the returned statistics on the pair are not by any means bad.
Gerrard managed 13 goals and 13 assists in the duration of the season, whilst Torres scored a hugely impressive 22 goals, averaging a goal every 116’, whilst the former managed a goal every 324’.
The duo was performing well, but with the departure of Xabi Alonso, the connection of the team was broken, Gerrard and Torres were no longer being fed with the opportunities they once enjoyed, although a European Semi-Final was reached it was to be the last full season the pair were to play with each other.
They scored 129 goals between them in their 3 seasons of playing with each other, a true exemplar.
“I had two years with Fernando when he made me feel invincible. I always knew where he was, where he was going to move next. I’m not a natural No 10 but, for a couple of years, Fernando helped me become one.” – Steven Gerrard [Source: Squawka]
A case for Firmino, Coutinho and Mane
Where Gerrard and Torres were magnificent in their day, ultimately the balance of Liverpool hanged on their performances. Where their downfall was, the trio of Firmino, Coutinho and Mane does not experience such.
I must reiterate this is not a ‘who was better piece’, it is looking at which option best suits the club and team, and can the trio replicate to dorm of Gerrard and Torres, as we do not have the benefit of European comparisons, or a full season of analysis.
However, this season the swashbuckling, samba dancing trio are hoping to eclipse the efforts of the aforementioned, and by each sharing the responsibility, they have split their jobs for the team equally.
For Sadio Mane, he has scored six goals this term, with the two Brazillians in close company each with five.
As was talked about with Gerrard and Torres it is not just their goal tally that is impressive, but it was their contribution to the team on the front foot that sees them enjoy so much success.
Coutinho creates a chances every 27’ of play, where Firmino creates one every 30’, allowing Mane to reap the rewards of their selfless work.
Not only is their play in front of goal ruthless, but the build-up play of the trio is equally as profound, with Coutinho enjoying an 84% pass competition rate, and Mane and Firmino each enjoying 79%. Unsurprisingly, it is Coutinho who possess the most successful take-ons, completing 65% of these.
Like Gerrard and Torres, the importance of the trio starting together can be identified, as they are unbeaten when all three have been announced on the starting team sheet.
Tactically it must be said Gerrard and Torres were deployed differently to FCM, as the latter often play within the lines, in the ‘half spaces’, Jurgen Klopp defines them by.
Meanwhile, Rafael Benitez had Torres playing on the shoulders of the last defender, allowing Gerrard to pick up the ball in deeper, it was a very complementary system, until defenders managed to unhinge it, usually employing heavy handed tactics to the Spaniard.
The difference between the two can be seen below.
In figure 1, in what was Torres’ first goal for the reds he was right on the shoulder of the Chelsea defence with Gerrard providing the assist. Whereas now, in figure 2, Klopp’s players utilise the spaces between the lines of the opposition defence, often interchanging as was seen in Mane’s goal against Hull.
Although, we have had Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge in 2013/14, this was not a partnership, one could argue it was more a competition, although a very good competition it was.
The Gerrard and Torres partnership upon reflection was simply astounding, it relied on telepathy and a belief in one another, and this is why this seasons elect is the closest thing to come to the Gerrard and Torres years.
Will the school of this season eclipse the efforts of 2007-2010? Individually, you would not bet against this. However, what will be of interest to see, is can the trio sustain the consistency of Gerrard and Torres throughout the season, and maybe into a European campaign.
The selfless work each individual puts in for the team is vital in order to be part of the Klopp machine, it is with belief that I feel the trio can replicate the efforts and the exemplar set by Gerrard and Torres.