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With Daniel Sturridge on the way back from injury and the emergence of Phillipe Coutinho as a player of real class, suddenly Liverpool's attacking options are looking distinctly less limited. How will Brendan Rodgers choose to employ his front men?

Clive Brunskill

As the summer drew to a close, Brendan Rodgers had a plan. He would move on Andy Carroll, initially on loan, and begin the campaign with Luis Suarez ably assisted by the promising Fabio Borini and the seasoned Clint Dempsey, fresh from a hugely impressive Premiership season.

That, as we know, didn't pan out as expected and Suarez was left to carry the club through the first half of the season. The way the Uruguayan responded was nothing short of miraculous. Suarez showed brilliance, strength of character, tenacity and leadership but his world-class form was too often undermined by the fact that, if he did not score, then no other Liverpool player seemed inclined to share the burden.

Academy youngsters Suso, Shelvey and Sterling shared attacking duties with mixed and often underwhelming results, thrust into the first team as regulars when they would have greatly benefited from a more staggered and incremental introduction. Jordan Henderson was, and remains, criminally under-utilised and Stewart Downing, until recently, was Stewart Downing.

Some adroit purchasing in the January sales saw the situation vastly improved, with the arrivals of Daniel Sturridge and Phillipe Coutinho. To the bewildered delight of most fans, these two players added immediate value and made the attack instantly more potent, motile and pleasingly unpredictable.

There can be very few Liverpool fans who are jaded and cynical enough to remain unexcited at the potential of a Suarez, Coutinho and Sturridge combination. The three have different qualities but they share the most important of all - the ability to penetrate a defence with a turn, a dribble, a snapshot or a deft pass.

For too long, we have lamented the sickeningly familiar narrative of possession-domination and multiple efforts on goal followed by the concession of goals against the run of play. Possession is nothing without penetration, and in Coutinho and Sturridge, Rodgers has found a pair of delightfully direct footballers, liable to slalom through a defence or finish a move clinically.

It is in midfield, however, that the basis for such extravagant attack is formed. Too often this season there have been gaping holes for opposition attackers to pass through. The level of pressing and the crispness of passing has not been what it might. This was the one area in which fans might have hoped to really see the manager's influence. There are indications, however, that his ideas are starting to take hold.

Steven Gerrard has clearly got a portrait with Dorian Grey qualities in his attic. His ever-present status and fitness are remarkable. That his form is excellent of late too, is a real boon. Henderson, much admired in this corner of the interweb, is vital to the dynamism of the side, in this scribbler's humble opinion. Joe Allen may be recapturing his impressive early-season form and Lucas Leiva is starting to have that imperious look about him again.

With the afore-mentioned kids as support, these four men are the platform on which the attack is built. Their screening, tackling, intercepting and pressing is vital if the team is to play the kind of football Rodgers seems to favour.

How then, should Liverpool line-up as the season moves into its final ten matches?

At home, at least, many would expect to see Sturridge and Suarez in tandem, with Coutinho and Downing flanking them in a fluid front four. Others would argue for a front three with Sturridge central and the perpetual motion machines of Coutinho and Suarez cutting in from the sides.

It would probably be prudent for Raheem Sterling and Suso feature in small amounts and it would be a nice indicator of the much heralded 'open communication' between the academy and the first team if the likes of Ryan McLoughlin, Jordan Ibe and Jerome Sinclair were rewarded for their excellent form with an appearance or two in the squad.

It's far too early in the development of Rodgers' Liverpool to form comprehensive judgements, especially given the impact of the two most recent introductions, but it is interesting that the penetration, so badly lacking at times in the first half of the season, seems to be far more evident now, with the Wigan game bearing the clearest testimony. Liverpool had only eight shots, of which six were on target and four found the net.

A new, efficient, high-pressing Liverpool, with a goal-threat from multiple sources? We may need to lie down in the dark. This kind of excitement is very unfamiliar to us.

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