After Sunday’s comfortable 3-0 win away to Manchester United at Old Trafford, Jack Lusby (@LusbyLatest) takes a look at the talking points for Liverpool.
A match at Old Trafford, regardless of the home side’s form or league position, will always be a game approached with a measure of trepidation.
Naturally though, David Moyes’ side chose this fixture to lie down and allow Brendan Rodgers’ Reds to romp through another contest in what is becoming an unprecedented title charge.
With superfluous performances across-the-board, there was a lot to be learned from another demolition act courtesy of Rodgers’ ruthless side.
A Consistent Defence is Vital
This particular shut-out marked the first run of consecutive clean sheets for Liverpool in the league this season since the opening three 1-0 victories.
The first two clean sheets of the season bore a striking resemblance to these two: a consistent back-four.
Rodgers had a poser on his hands in the build-up to this fixture with the return of French international Mamadou Sakho in the 2-0 U21s victory over West Ham the week before.
Nonetheless, Rodgers remained with the back-four that kept the clean sheet at St. Mary’s, and was rewarded with aplomb.
This, along with the assurance provided to goalkeeper Simon Mignolet by a consistent back-four, proved vital as Rodgers’ side kept another clean sheet.
Flanagan Has Proved his Mettle in the Big Games
Whilst toeing the line somewhat during this contest, with a fair few robust challenges, Jon Flanagan proved once again that he is fit to contend for a starting place under Rodgers at Liverpool.
Gone are the days when the 21-year-old would be considered a peripheral figure at best – at this current juncture Flanagan is the most in-form full-back at the club.
With United generally forming their attacks on the flanks, Flanagan was deployed on the left hand side of the back-four on this occasion, often working in tandem with Raheem Sterling to quell the danger of Adnan Januzaj and the roving Rafael.
Establishing himself initially in Liverpool’s 3-3 derby draw at Goodison Park back in November, Flanagan proved once again that he is built for the big games.
A versatile full-back who is defensively diligent and solid in the tackle, Flanagan is now developing his game going forward: a notion which suggests a blooming confidence.
As a local-lad with a burning desire to succeed, Flanagan proved once again a trusted disciple at the Rodgers altar.
Johnson is Regaining Focus
Criticised recently, Glen Johnson has had a season to forget so far in 2013/14.
This is something that the England international has seemingly, rather cynically, blamed on an ongoing contract dispute with the club as an “unnecessary distraction”, as the Liverpool Echo reported.
Following an injury layoff, Johnson has come back into Rodgers’ starting eleven and, on the whole, performed admirably; not least in this game.
This graphic, via BBC Sport, outlines the impressive performances of Johnson and Flanagan.
With a total of five tackles, and 25 passes in the opposition half, this showed Johnson’s ability to contribute to both the attack and the defence.
Whilst his contract continues to run down, expiring at the end of next season, hopefully this performance is an indication of Johnson’s commitment and regained focus for this hugely important end to the season.
Rodgers Has a Midfield Selection Headache
One of the key decisions likely in Rodgers’ tactical setup prior to the game was who to deploy as part of the midfield.
Akin to the Southampton victory, Rodgers deployed his midfield in a diamond shape, with Joe Allen and Jordan Henderson pressing and, replacing Coutinho further up the field, Sterling continued to show the immeasurable talent at his disposal.
In particular, Allen again proved why his manager has shown such faith in him since his move in 2012.
According to Squawka, Allen completed six tackles, consistently harrying the meagre United midfield of Michael Carrick and Marouane Fellaini.
Coutinho was duly introduced after 72 minutes, with Lucas replacing Gerrard on 83’, and Liverpool’s Brazilian duo slotted in adeptly.
With a near-fully fit squad to choose from, Rodgers will surely continue to nurse a welcome selection headache when it comes to his midfield options.
There’s Life in the Old Dog Yet
As Liverpool fans, understandably now, get caught up in the furore of this most unexpected of title tilts, one man who encapsulates the feelings of millions is club captain Steven Gerrard.
Dismissed by many when initially moved into the central defensive midfield role, particularly following a pair of poor initial showings, Gerrard has arguably made the regista role his own.
Playing with a fervour that belies his passion for the club, Gerrard was the backbone that supported this immense team display.
According to AnfieldIndex, Gerrard won four tackles, made three interceptions, had a pass accuracy of 89 percent, and boasted 78 percent of duels won: an impeccable captain’s performance.
After the game, Gerrard outlined his and the club’s ambition (courtesy of GameFollowUp):
With the Anfield club in their best position in years to challenge for the Premier League title, Gerrard’s words echo those of the club and its fan-base.
What are your thoughts on yesterday win? Are Liverpool now, as Gerrard says, genuine title contenders? Let us know in the comments below.