Liverpool’s surge towards the Premier League’s top four took a massive boost yesterday, with the Anfield club proving their credentials with an impressive 2-1 victory over champions Manchester City.
The win makes it 11 Premier League games without a defeat for Brendan Rodgers’ men, with the feel-good factor certainly coursing through the veins of the Kop.
At times in yesterday’s clash Liverpool’s quick passing, lightning-fast tempo and desire to win was reminiscent of the club’s superb form during the second half of last season, where the Merseysiders captured the imagination of the English footballing populace.
At the heart of this free-flowing, penetrating football was attacking midfield pairing Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana, whose contribution was the most positive feature in a very good day for Rodgers’ men.
The Brazilian will claim most of the plaudits, and rightly so, with a sublime long-range winner nestling in the corner of Joe Hart’s goal to make it two spectacular (and vastly important) strikes in two domestic games. Coutinho was the match-winner in the corresponding fixture last season, but has ebbed and flowed this terms at times, largely down to finding his feet after a change in formation at Anfield in my opinion.
However, in recent weeks the former Inter playmaker has been in irresistible form and exuded confidence from the first whistle yesterday.
Despite Manuel Pellegrini’s men having arguably the most complete central midfielder in English football in the boiler room, Yaya Toure, and designated enforcer Fernandinho, the Liverpool schemer repeatedly eluded the pair to take up excellent positions between the City midfield and defence.
The way the Brazilian found free space and quickly utilised it to link-up with Lallana and Raheem Sterling was a joy to behold, with Coutinho the standout player on the pitch despite illustrious company. Liverpool fans will be glad to see the South American bolster his goal tally to four Premier League strikes in recent weeks, while on Sunday’s showing his assist total will surely rise in upcoming fixtures.
Coutinho has laid on four goals for team-mates this season and with Liverpool looking back to their best of late, the Brazilian attacking midfielder will be charged with orchestrating the side’s attack in important upcoming fixtures.
Meanwhile, Lallana’s influence is starting to grow after a slow start on Merseyside due to injuries, with the England international full of running and showing real poise in possession yesterday. The former Southampton man displayed his versatility to fill in at wing-back late in the game, but having the 26-year-old alongside Coutinho behind a central striker is surely Lallana’s best position.
As the pair continue to play together their mutual understanding will improve, while having the visionary pair behind a number nine appears to have nullified the creative void left by the summer exit of Luis Suarez.
With lightning-quick Sterling continuing to impress and Daniel Sturridge back in the mix following injury, all of a sudden Liverpool look like one of the most devastating and potent attacking units in the Premier League.
However, with four stars and only three attacking berths in Rodgers’ bespoke formation, the Northern Irishman has selection decisions to make in upcoming weeks.
That said, despite the penetration of Sterling and the clinical finishing of Sturridge, the attacking midfield partnership of Coutinho and Lallana could well be the creative fulcrum that continues the club’s great recent form and secures a top-four finish.