Liverpool have long been blessed with tremendous attacking partnerships; there was Emile Heskey and Michael Owen, the brilliance of Torres and Gerrard, the magic of SAS and this season’s elusive ‘Fab Four’. Now, following the departure of Philippe Coutinho last month, a new partnership beckons for The Reds.
Joining from Atletico Madrid, Fernando Torres formed one of the most deadly partnerships in the Premier League alongside Steven Gerrard, netting 54 times between them by the close of the 2007/08 season – 33 for Torres and 21 for Stevie. Torres’ debut immediately showed what the duo were capable of producing, with a sumptuous outside of the foot through ball finding El Niño in behind the Chelsea defence. Gerrard’s conductor role in the attacking midfield put chances on a plate for the Spaniard, who went from strength to strength, breaking the record for the most goals scored by a foreign player in their debut season in the Premier League. There was such telepathy in their play; Gerrard understood Torres’ game like no other, knowing where he was and when he was going to move allowed him to thread defence-breaking passes game after game. One of the best partnerships ever seen, both deserved to mark their time together with the title.
Things moved on.
Torres became known as ‘the traitor’ following a move to Chelsea, with his exit paving the way for a new dawn at Liverpool. Replacements Luis Suárez and Andy Carroll enjoyed very different fortunes at Anfield; the latter never truly made his mark bar the odd stunner against Manchester City while the former was part of the next ‘deadly duo’ at the top of Liverpool’s team. The original ‘SAS’ – formed of Shearer and Sutton – combined to win Blackburn the title in the 1994-5 season with 49 league goals between them. Sturridge and Suárez were of a similar mould; their goal-scoring prowess was unrivalled while their individual games complemented each other so perfectly. Scoring a combined 53 goals, their unpredictability made them one of Europe’s most potent attacks, with Gerrard feeding them in a deeper midfield role. Four seasons on and their moments of brilliance remain fixed in the memory; Sturridge’s sensational chip against Everton at Anfield is a particular highlight, alongside the arrogance of his celebration where he and his partner stood in front of the away fans with their arms extended as if to say ‘try and stop us.’ Add to that the iconic dive in front of David Moyes’ managerial box at Goodison Park, where the Uruguayan launched himself to the ground in humorous fashion. Suarez’s mesmerising goal against Newcastle will forever be one of the best goals I’ve seen, beautifully controlling José Enrique’s long-ball before calmly slotting into the net. The way he single-handedly picked apart Manchester United, with his dazzling footwork cutting the ball back across the goal mouth before Kuyt slotted home. They were capable of the impossible, destroying defences at will with their talent and skill. The 13/14 season ended with heartache though, with a Crystal Palace turnover and Jose Mourinho’s subsequent double-decker bus handing the title to Manchester City as another deadly partnership failing to get the ending they thoroughly deserved.
Suarez’s departure sparked a severe downturn for The Reds, who were tasked with the impossible in trying to replace the irreplaceable. Moves for Rickie Lambert and Mario Balotelli can be filed under ‘bloopers’, with the squad scoring just 52 goals in 14/15. The ‘Fab Four’ was more than worthy of the wait though, with Coutinho, Mané, Firmino and Salah offering a variation on the theme of potent attacks on Merseyside this season. Where Torres and Gerrard and Suárez and Sturridge had been two terrific duos delivering the lion’s share of goals, the awesome foursome gave Liverpool numerous avenues of attack with Klopp’s team-orientated outlook on goal scoring coming to fruition. Coutinho was the talisman, laying things on a plate for those ahead of him as Mané and Salah both took to Liverpool like a fish to water in their debut seasons. The former bullied Arsenal on his debut, cannoning the ball into the roof of the net after a brilliant solo move before riding on Klopp’s back while Salah’s tally of 22 league goals in 24 starts (according to Who Scored) reflect his phenomenal contribution. While Coutinho has since moved to Barcelona, Liverpool’s potent attack has shown no signs of slowing down, with the weekend’s game against Southampton providing proof of the new attacking combo that’s brewing.
Picking up the ball just inside the opposition half, Matip pinged the ball into Salah’s feet before an intricate one-two with Firmino allowed the Egyptian in on goal, dually delivering another precise finish. Firmino’s sheer arrogance to attempt, let alone pull off, such a stunning flick on the edge of the area represents the stark improvement he’s made in terms of direct contribution in the final third with 21 goals and 11 assists this season. Yet, what has stood out is the telepathy of the movement between the duo. Not dissimilar from the passages of play witnessed by Torres and Gerrard or Sturridge and Suárez, Firmino and Salah are forming a very dangerous partnership up front for Liverpool, learning more and more about each other’s game as the weeks go by. This is only the third time in the last 16 seasons that Liverpool have had two players on 20 goals or more in a campaign across all competitions and the duo show absolutely no signs of slowing down. The 5-0 demolition job over Porto was a testament to that, with both players getting on the scoresheet once more. Firmino capitalised on a great cutback from James Milner after Mo Salah delivered the most Messi-esque goal you’ll ever see. Showing a composed head, the Egyptian did keepie-up before hammering in his 30th pal of the season – the first player to reach such a tally since Suárez in 13/14. The duo have been involved in 72.1% of the club’s goals this season, delivering a performance oozing in class. Mané even showed signs of returning to top form, netting three goals in Portugal to give Liverpool a strong foothold in the contest as the current top goal scorers in the Champions League (28).
Rest assured, this team is blessed with a ferocious attack, reminiscent of the deadly partnerships of years gone by.