It was one of the most convincing 2-0 victories you’re likely to see, and Liverpool saw off one of the Premier League‘s standout sides.
Liverpool 2-0 Sheffield United
Premier League, Anfield
January 2, 2020
Goals: Salah 4′, Mane 64′
Liverpool finished this game having enjoyed 75 percent possession. There was a period in the first half where it seemed almost impossible for Sheffield United to get the ball, and there were a couple of chances for the Reds to double their tally during this time having taken an early lead.
In the game against Leicester, widely considered one of the best performances of Liverpool’s season so far, the three starting midfielders all clocked a pass success rate of over 90 per cent.
Here, five players completed more than 100 passes, while six (Van Dijk, Gomez, Robertson, Wijnaldum, Henderson and Milner) finished the game with a pass success higher than 90 percent.
Liverpool's back four plus Henderson each made more than 100 passes in that game #LIVSHU
— James Nalton (@JDNalton) January 2, 2020
Liverpool also made more passes in this game than any team has in the Premier League era.
Deserving of his own midfield related TIA Talking Point ™ is Jordan Henderson.
He was once a player who once looked like he was filling in as a No. 6, doing a job he wasn’t really suited to while Liverpool waited forever to sign a Javier Mascherano replacement, eventually doing so in the shape of Fabinho.
He’s now a player who looks comfortable in the position, picking passes to team-mates in all directions.
His improvement might be down to his use throughout 2019 in a more advanced position, where passing needs to be more urgent and a midfielder needs to have a better picture of everything around them.
He has retained this alertness and willingness to play the more difficult passes in the deeper role and has improved defensively, too.
One of the most important aspects of this position is to recycle the ball and keep things ticking over, but quickly.
The previous version of Henderson the No.6 appeared to be keeping it safe, but also emerging from games with pass success between 70 and 85 percent, which wasn’t good enough.
Now, he’s regularly registering more than 90 percent success, and here he finished the game having made four key passes, with only Robertson managing more.
Firmino often gets labelled a false 9 when in truth he’s just a complete forward, but this 4-4-2 diamond system is probably the closest he gets to meeting the false 9 definition.
This works against a back three as he is able to try to pull the central defender of the three out of the line, leaving the other two isolated one on one with Salah and Mane.
Firmino roamed between the middle centre-back John Egan and the deepest midfielder Oliver Norwood, and was always available to receive the ball as a result.
When Robertson crossed to Salah for the opening goal, the Egyptian was in the centre-forward position, able to get in front of the left-sided centre-back, Jack O’Connell.
The Brazilian should have done better with a couple of opportunities he had to play in more advanced team-mates, and it could be argued that he was the worst of a very good bunch, but positionally he was important.
It would be no surprise to see Minamino in this position at some point later in the season.
Clean sheet sequence
At the beginning of the season, Liverpool struggled to keep clean sheets despite their dominance and winningness.
They have now registered five clean sheets in five Premier League games, after just two in their first fifteen games.
Monterrey were the last side to score against Liverpool in all competitions, while Everton were the last to do so in the league.
It’s some turnaround, and is testament to how this side defend a unit. It also bodes well for the partnership of Van Dijk and Gomez in front of Alisson, who himself was called upon on a number of occasions to make important saves and diffuse potentially dangerous situations.
There was also a bit of luck as Oliver McBurnie spurned a great chance, but this balances out some of the unfortunate moments earlier in the season.
Minamino in the frame, but Keita injury limits rotation options
This was the strongest team Klopp could have picked given the players available to him, but it will be interesting to see how much he rotates in the next game.
For periods of this game Liverpool were cruising, resting on the ball and conserving energy, but the number of games they have played recently will begin to take its toll.
James Milner replaced Naby Keita at the last minute after the Guinean picked up a groin injury in the warm-up, and there will be a concern if he and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are out at the same time for a prolonged period of time.
Centre-back Nathaniel Phillips was an unused substitute after returning from a loan spell with Stuttgart, and is yet to make his first-team debut for the club.
Klopp has said he will need all of his squad at some point, and we might now have reached that point.