Divock Origi has provided moments of brilliance over the years, and Takumi Minamino has at times shown in a flash what he is capable of, but Diogo Jota seems to have fitted in very well with the team.
For the first time since the meeting of the dynamic Liverpool stormtroopers, Jurgen Klopp seems to have a real option should he want to give one of them a breather from the Reds’ hectic schedule in 2020/21.
The Reds took advantage of a 4-2-3-1 win over Sheffield United at the weekend, and at times on Tuesday evening against FC Midtjylland.
In an attempt to get the best out of his newly formed attacking quartet, Klopp started them all in a 4-2-3-1 formation against Sheffield United on Saturday. Mohamed Salah led the line while the trio (from right to left) Jota, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane were stationed behind him.
The Portuguese international has already scored two league goals for the club and one in the Champions League, after scoring in the opening game against Midtjylland, where Minamino has yet to make his mark in domestic competition and Origi’s last two goals in the league date back to December.
Admittedly, they didn’t lose any of those encounters either, but a similar draw would not get Liverpool where they want to go in view of this season’s big prizes.
At first glance, the system didn’t work very well. However, in a game where things were not going so well, Firmino scored the equalizer, Mane assisted Jota to score the winning goal, and Salah narrowly (but correctly) defended a goal and also hit the goal frame. Imagine what will happen if the four players all play well together.
And yet, in a way, we have been here before. Liverpool had a “fabulous group of four” in Salah’s first season with the club, as Philippe Coutinho was part of the team at the time. As impressive as this line-up sounds, the Reds won only three of the ten matches they played in.
What worked – or didn’t work – against the Blades on Saturday is interesting when you look at the heat maps of the foursome from the game, which show where they touched the ball.
You might think that Salah played in his usual position on the right side, depending on where his actions took place, and there was a significant overlap with the position where Jay was involved. Meanwhile, Mane was most busy right in front of the penalty area, where Firmino was expected to be most active.
Of course we shouldn’t write off this attack in its new guise after a game. It will take some time for the players to adjust and figure out how it will work. But it remains to be seen whether this revised system will prove to be a success or not, if Klopp wants to stick with it.
The Brazilian failed to get a chance or pass into the Sheffield United penalty area and although he only missed one of his 35 passes, only 10 of them went forward.
The Liverpool manager, however, experimented with this formation in the preseason – albeit before Jay’s entry – so he obviously had this formation in his mind for a while.
Since Firmino is no longer the goal threat he once was – although he did score a goal on Saturday – he might fall back on the bench if his system knitting genius wasn’t too much missed.
Given Jota’s performance in Amsterdam, it might prove more productive to play him on the left side of the standard front row. In this position he was electric against Ajax and was also from there one of the better performers of the Reds in Villa Park (for which this faint praise is worthy).
Whichever system Klopp chooses, he certainly has a quartet of elite attacking capabilities at his disposal, which makes the decision a big problem.
Mane was the most frequent goal scorer of the top three teams in the last two seasons, scoring in each of the last two seasons in the league without a penalty shootout, and she is again leading now, so Klopp could play him centrally and keep Salah on the right side.