Liverpool’s rivals all won on Monday, meaning the pressure was on as Stoke came to Anfield and thankfully, the Reds responded to going 1-0 down by hammering the visitors 4-1.
Having finally got a chance to re-watch the game in full, here are my takeaways:
Stoke’s formation was a bold one but it was a huge risk playing Pieters and Diouf as wing-backs and although it worked for their goal, it left huge spaces wide which Liverpool exposed. I think Stoke’s tactics to disrupt Liverpool early were right but playing wing-backs hurt them.
Liverpool’s use of the short corner was really good and created a few chances. There’s no point whipping balls in against a big team like Stoke and a few of Liverpool’s designed moves were excellent.
Sadio Mane is a winger and not exactly known for his defending but he was poor for Stoke’s goal. His control of a high ball is poor and falls to the Stoke man and then Mane fails to close him down to stop the cross. From there, Dejan Lovren’s marking is really poor and the goalkeeper probably should do better although the ball comes at him in a flash. Positionally, he looks a bit out-of-place, though.
Joe Allen had a good period in the first half and his use of the ball negated the press so well. He’s a good player but not a great one and to see how easily he went past some Liverpool players is a concern.
Divock Origi’s wonderful pass to Mane exploited the space out wide perfectly and got Liverpool their first goal. That’s the way to play against teams who use wing backs. Win the ball and get it wide quickly. It was excellent centre forward play.
The space that Stoke gave Roberto Firmino in their own penalty area was ridiculous but he was so switched on and took full advantage with an excellent touch and finish. I don’t think he was initially thinking of scoring when he got the ball but when he realises he has a yard of space, he reacts fantastically.
Once again, Liverpool made the in-game switch of moving Origi to the left and Firmino central. It worked as both were involved in the third goal. To have such flexibility is a huge weapon for the Reds.
Daniel Sturridge’s goal was a shocker by Ryan Shawcross but the striker deserves credit. He initially moves towards goal to cut off Glen Johnson’s pass back, so as Johnson gives it to Shawcross, the centre-back simply doesn’t expect anyone to be there. The way the striker rounded the ‘keeper with ease was spectacular too.
Also, after that goal, Shawcross and Johnson look absolutely knackered. Liverpool run teams ragged and as such, mental lapses will happen. It’s no coincidence that we see the Reds score late goals.