Finally, after what felt like an interminable series of 2-1 victories, Liverpool have begun winning games by scoreline’s that don’t look like Azealia Banks songs.
The 5-2 Merseyside Derby victory over Everton was followed by a 3-0 win away to Bournemouth as the Reds began to hit their attacking straps for what felt like the first time this season.
The most notable feature of these two wins — apart from the combined 12 changes made by Jurgen Klopp, as his seasonal rotation policy began in earnest — was the variety of goals among the eight scored.
Whether from long passes, counter pressing that clogged passing lanes or from slick passing moves, the European Champions showed a variety to their attacking weaponry which should fill their fans with hope for the rest of the season.
Having a familiar pattern of play and tactical identity is what every coach wants from their team. An underpinned default tactical life raft to turn to in the choppy waters of a league campaign.
When you think of the best team’s, you associate a certain style of football or goal with them. With Manchester City, the back to back Premier League champions, images of the ball being worked to the back post before being crossed across the face to be tapped in spring to mind.
Liverpool, too, have a solid tactical identity, with their high tempo counterpressing and their equally fast transitions being the foundation upon a European Cup win and unbelievable Premier League run in 2019 have been built upon.
But not every game can be played in a teams terms and there will come a time when the opposition stop them from doing what they would ordinarily look to or want to do.
That’s why the different ways in which the Reds scored against both Everton and Bournemouth are so encouraging. As well as being brilliant exponents of Klopp’s idyllic brand of football, the Premier League table toppers can adapt to different in game scenarios and hurt teams in a myriad of ways.
In the Derby at Anfield, the hosts took the lead through a Divock Origi goal crafted by only three passes. A clearance found Adam Lallana; the Englishman found Sadio Mane and Mane found Origi who, after rounding Jordan Pickford, scored.
Almost like they were in competition with themselves to lower the number of passes it took to score, Liverpool’s next goal was borne from only two passes.
Trent Alexander Arnold, in a manner Kopites are becoming accustomed to, switched the play brilliantly to find Mane on the left flank. Beautifully controlling the pass, the Senegalese dribbled with the ball until the opportune moment came to release a pass. Xherdan Shaqiri’s arching run found Mane’s pass and the Swiss international delicately slid in the second goal.
Perhaps predictably, the third goal on the night for Klopp’s men saw Everton prised open with just one pass — a feat they would replicate against Bournemouth days later.
Dejan Lovren, in the role of a quarterback, hit a long pass from inside his own half perfectly into the stride of Origi. The Belgian, as he seems to invariably do in Derbies, then proceeded to produce an excellent first touch — killing the ball dead in a manner that would make Denis Bergkamp blush — before lifting the ball over Pickford and into the net with the minimum of fuss.
A minimal amount of passes were required to manufacture the fourth goal, too. Mane this time turned goal scorer as he caressed home Alexander Arnold’s pass in a goal that was created by two passes; Mane to Alexander Arnold and Alexander Arnold back to Mane.
The fifth goal arrived when Georginio Wijnaldum was fed the ball by Roberto Firmino, whose turn on the left flank left Mason Holgate with twisted blood, and powerfully fired low past the beleaguered Pickford.
The Reds didn’t leave their big attacking play book on Merseyside and they tortured Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium on Saturday last with three very different goals.
Alex Oxlade Chamberlain’s opener was almost a carbon copy of Origi’s second versus Everton. Jordan Henderson — with a pass that would have yielded an assist in the Derby if it wasn’t for a bad Mane miss — found the run of his England team mate with a 60 yard pass over the top. Oxlade Chamberlain, only had to touch the ball past Aaron Ramsdale, such was the quality of the skippers assist.
The second goal was a weaved tapestry of a passing move. Naby Keita, receiving the ball high and between the lines, fed Mohamed Salah with an ambitious pass. The Egyptian returned the favour was an outrageously executed back heel pass. Finding himself one on one with Ramsdale, Keita — who thoroughly impressed throughout — fired home with the outside of his foot.
From Klopp’s perspective, the third goal was perhaps the most satisfying. With the passing lanes cut off for Bournemouth, who were attempting to play out from the back, an errant pass found Keita just outside the box. The Guinean slalomed to the danger area before beautifully sliding Salah behind the Cherries defence and the Egyptian, in the style of a left footed Thierry Henry, coolly slid the ball into the back of the net.
There will be times this season when Plan A won’t work for Liverpool, but rest assured the Reds have the required skillset to score any kind of goal against any type of opposition and in any sort of game.