Liverpool romped to a 6-0 thrashing of relegation doomed Aston Villa on Sunday, with the Reds showing the attacking potential now at Jurgen Klopp’ disposal.
Prior to Sunday’s thrashing, Liverpool had scored more goals at Villa Park than at any other Premier League ground. Klopp’s Reds went on to inflict Villa’s biggest home defeat since before the second World War.
Nobody can quite have expected the mass destruction that unfolded in the Midlands, as Klopp watched his side hit Remi Garde’s relegation favourites for six with a ruthless attacking display.
It was a blitzing offensive performance from the Reds, who finally fielded the attacking options that Kopites have waited so patiently to see – showing an exciting glimpse of the forward potential Liverpool boast.
First Choice Attack Deployed
For the first time this season, Klopp had the luxury of naming what is unanimously viewed as Liverpool’s strongest attacking trio.
Playing together for the first time despite all being at Anfield for seven months, Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Daniel Sturridge spearheaded the Reds’ attack, joined by James Milner.
Whether the German would have deployed all three this early after injury returns had Adam Lallana been fit remains unknown, but a calf injury to the England man proved a blessing in disguise as the Brazilian’s and Sturridge ripped the home side to shreds.
For too long, supporters had been left to dream about the potential devastation the trio could cause to opposing defences – Reds everywhere were finally able to witness it on the spacious Villa Park pitch.
With the youthful legs of Divock Origi and back-up Plan B, Christian Benteke on the bench, Liverpool’s final third options were numerous and quality-filled for the first time in the Premier League since Klopp’s arrival.
The Reds boss took full advantage, blooding the trio for the first 60 minutes to seal an important win capping off a dominant display, before rightfully withdrawing them all within the space of 10 second half minutes with the points firmly in the bag.
But prior to their substitutions, Coutinho, Firmino and Sturridge provided a brutal demonstration of the offensive force Liverpool will now carry.
It normally takes time for injury returnees to find their rhythm, and players who haven’t played together before – in Firmino and Sturridge’s case – to develop partnerships.
But it took the blistering threesome barely any time at all against Garde’s passive Villa – in fact all of 16 minutes.
After some early sloppiness with quick exchanges not read by the other and clever touches not quite coming off, Coutinho’s pin-point cross picked out Sturridge, who found the net on his first start since December, with the routine nature to it making it feel like he had never been away.
Overloading the left side to maximise the threat of Coutinho – with the assistance of the marauding Alberto Moreno – Firmino and Sturridge drifted across to produce some slick, link-up play.
Pulling apart a weak Villa rear-guard with their movement and intelligence, the three proved too much to handle for the clueless home defence, who struggled to track the darts between defenders, moves between lines and quick, quality play of the trio.
After Milner added the second with a free-kick that found the far corner of the net to put the Reds 2-0 up at the break, Firmino’s desire to pounce on the loose ball forced by Emre Can’s pressing saw the Brazilian roll invitingly for the German to slam home a third.
Without playmate Sturridge, withdrawn for fit-again Origi, Coutinho provided once more sliding the an exquisite through pass to release the young Belgian in on goal which he finished perfectly to make his own instant impact, finding the net just 37 seconds after coming on.
Two assists for Coutinho, one for Firmino and a goal for Sturridge – their first deployment leading the attack for Klopp’s side could hardly have gone better, despite the lack of resilience from the spiritless Villans.
There can be no doubt that having them before this point would have seen Liverpool still fighting for fourth place, but it’s key to look forward rather than back from this point on and strive to replicate the Villa Park massacre started by Coutinho, Firmino and Sturridge.
A close range finish from Nathaniel Clyne and header from Kolo Toure added deserved gloss to the score-line, but it was the work of the first choice attack that set the Reds on their way to a memorable victory.
Firing the Reds to six goals away from home for the second time this season, it was a brilliant way for Liverpool to display their offensive potential.
Having struggled for goals this season, a welcome cutting edge was back with a vengeance, and it was delightful to witness such ruthlessness in front of goal to finish the sort of chances that have all too often been passed up this campaign.
Perhaps most impressively, was the unforgiving, relentlessness of the Reds trio along with Milner and the changes thereafter, who gave the Villa defence not even a moments peace in their work off the ball, to match their picking apart in possession.
Last time Liverpool netted six times away from home it was followed up with a sloppy defeat in which Sturridge suffered a fresh injury set-back.
While there is little more to do than hope over injuries, it’s vital that there is no repeat this time, with the recommencing of the all-important Europa League campaign on Thursday night.
If injuries stay away and Klopp continues to manage them correctly, a miserable season could yet be transformed with the attacking prowess the Reds now boast.
An enjoyable trip to Villa Park – for the last time in a while.
ASTON VILLA 0-6 LIVERPOOL
- REPORT: Coutinho and Sturridge inspire Villa Park rout
- REACTIONS: With a fit squad, this is what we’re capable of
- PLAYER RATINGS: Coutinho takes man of the match
- TACTICS: Reds close to Klopp’s attacking vision
- PRESS CONFERENCE: Watch Klopp post-match