For much of the season, the victory against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane was seen as the level for Liverpool to reach during months of struggle for last season's entertainers. Not only was the midfield diamond seen as the solution to Liverpool's travails, the pressing along with the number of chances created were all familiar from last season's impressive run.
Intensity. That was what Brendan Rodgers got from his players on that special day in London and it became a buzzword of what Liverpool lacked in attack. After a convincing victory against Swansea to end 2014, have we witnessed a new template for 2015? What effect will the return of Glen Johnson, Steven Gerrard, Rickie Lambert, and Mario Balotelli have on Liverpool's ability to press and play football with the intensity required to succeed under Rodgers?
Interestingly, two of those players — Steven Gerrard and Mario Balotelli — featured against against Tottenham Hotspur in Rodgers' 100th match as Liverpool manager, providing evidence that they can be part of a successful attacking Rodgers side. When Liverpool won 5 nil at White Hart Lane last season, the absence of Steven Gerrard was cited as crucial in a functioning midfield with Jordan Henderson, Joe Allen, and Lucas Leiva working excellently in midfield. It can be difficult to make sweeping judgements on the basis of one game, but the inclusion of a couple of absent players shouldn't detract from vibrant performances if they're utilised correctly.
That line-up was very different to the one that continued Rodgers' excellent record against his former Welsh employers. Alberto Moreno and Javi Manquillo impressed early on in their respective Liverpool careers as fullbacks, the captain operated at the base midfield, Mario Balotelli and Daniel Sturridge starred up front, Dejan Lovren and Mamadou Sakho were partners in while defence ahead of Simon Mignolet, Jordan Henderson and Joe Allen provided energy in midfield, and Raheem Sterling continued to sparkle as a ten.
Five of those who started against Tottenham didn't start against Swansea City. Adam Lallana, Emre Can, and Lazar Marković didn't start in August but are becoming increasingly important for Liverpool in different ways. Philippe Coutinho started on the bench against Pochettino's side but conducted an effective orchestra on Monday. Injuries prevented Daniel Sturridge and Joe Allen from making the matchday squad against Swansea but were key cogs in the victory at White Hart Lane. We shouldn't forget that Jon Flanagan, one of the heroes at another signature victory at White Hart Lane last season, is on his way back too for his inevitable conversion to a tough tackling right-sided centre back in a back three.
Keeping track of who missed what underlines the fact that there is enough depth for Rodgers to make a few changes to keep the side fresh or make a tactical switch. Four of the summer signings are young but they've been more impressive than the more experienced players recruited with the exception of the silky Adam Lallana. These young players along with Lallana should all get better as the season progresses, and the others can come in to a functioning side. Liverpool don't need Dejan Lovren to be a defensive leader or for Balotelli to ignite the attack. They just need to do their job in a system that's currently working. Balotelli came on against Swansea and could have scored his first league goal for the club, showing some promising signs for 2015.
Swansea and Tottenham are both decent opponents in the Premier League that are likely to finish between fifth and tenth. They represent a good challenge that Liverpool shouldn't expect to dismiss by a three goal margin, but that's exactly what happened. The results matched the performances, and generally reflected Liverpool's superiority. Liverpool now have a second game as a reference point for the rest of the season: press, create chances, move, and generally display the characteristics Rodgers desires in attack along with a customary defensive error or two (see Lovren and Sakho going for the same header against Spurs).
If Liverpool continue with this formation, Sturridge's supposed return next month would probably push Sterling to compete with Lallana, Coutinho, and possibly Marković for the two attacking midfield slots behind the striker. There may be a lack of quality depth in goal and up front, but Brendan Rodgers has some decent tools to work with even if reinforcements in key areas fail to arrive in January.