Liverpool’s attacking firepower will be needed in its full force as Jurgen Klopp looks to combat what feels like an endless list of injury setbacks.
So far this season, Mohamed Salah has clocked up seven goals, Sadio Mane four and Roberto Firmino with just the one. Summer signing Diogo Jota has scored three.
It’s not a bad start from the club’s pedigreed front-three considering collectively they have scored 12 of Liverpool’s 17 goals in the Premier League and Europe.
In the absence of Virgil van Dijk, Klopp has been forced to alter his tactical set-up which we certainly saw last week after the boss sought an element of surprise by ditching his usual 4-3-3 system for a 4-2-3-1 formation in the previous week’s hard-fought win over Sheffield United.
Liverpool’s onus on the attack is something we haven’t seen over a sustained period since the 2017/18 season – the inaugural campaign which saw the birth of the club’s renowned triumvirate of Salah, Mane and Firmino.
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What they did that season was pretty special, scoring 91 goals between them in all competitions. What made their figures even more incredible was that it was the first full-season the aforementioned trio had played together as Salah, Mane and Firmino announced themselves on Europe’s biggest stage inspiring the team all the way to the Champions League final.
Liverpool’s front three in 2017/18
- Mohamed Salah
44 goals and 13 assists
- Roberto Firmino
27 goals and 11 assists
- Sadio Mane
20 goals and 9 assists
Now add Diogo Jota to the Liverpool mix
That particular season, Liverpool’s front three were more than just prolific, they were the bedrock of Klopp’s attacking philosophy with a particular focus on outscoring opponents as opposed to keeping clean sheets.
The figures even compared to when Brendan Rodgers nearly inspired Liverpool to the title back in 2013/14.
Liverpool scored 101 Premier League goals that season – a club record – and conceded 50 as the Reds missed out on the title to Manchester City by two points.
In that particular campaign, we witnessed some iconic classics such as the 6-3 victory in Cardiff, a 5-3 win in Stoke and the classic 3-2 encounter against City.
There are parallels in the way Liverpool have started this season with crazy scorelines such as opening day 4-3 victory against Leeds as well as the embarrassing 7-2 capitulation against Aston Villa.
Another similarity is Liverpool’s focus on looking for an array of goalscoring options throughout the team with Klopp adding Jota to the attacking mix at Anfield.
Already Jota has found the net three times for his new club despite having started just once in both the Premier League and the Champions League.
If all four forwards play their part, this has the potential to be Liverpool’s most free-scoring season since 2014.
For reference, Liverpool’s top-scorers that campaign were Luis Suarez (31), Daniel Sturridge (24), Steven Gerrard (13) and Raheem Sterling (10).
This was 78 in total, 13 fewer than the trio of Salah, Mane and Firmino in 2018, and you could make the case that the rest of the team failed to contribute more considering the team finished 17 goals shy of Rodgers’ outfit in the league six years ago.
Keeping Liverpool’s attacking players happy was a delicate balancing act, and Klopp has to bear this in mind with the club’s current quartet.
So far, Liverpool’s front four have netted 15 goals combined this season, and they have only started together on just one occasion this season.
The surface has just been scratched on what this quartet is truly capable of, and it would not be a surprise to see them surpass the 91 netted by Liverpool’s attacking triumvirate 2017/18. The key too is also winning silverware to match individual and collective records.
Being able to deploy a four-man attack worked heavily in Liverpool’s favour as has enabled more space for creative players such as Firmino to break between the lines.
Strength in numbers is key, and makes Klopp’s selection decisions all the more endearing.
There is such a variety of talent available to Klopp, and it feels like he has now found the perfect alteration to ensure Liverpool are still able to thrive despite the huge number of casualties.
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