Why Liverpool's Front Three Can Be the Best Attack in the Premier League Ahead of the New Season
Looking ahead to the new season, many will look at the solid purchases of Romelu Lukaku by Manchester United and Alvaro Morata by Chelsea as reasons to back them as having the best attack in the league.
While these strikers are proven goalscorers, the over-reliance on a single player to find the back of the net can be dangerous. The importance of having a true number nine striker is overrated, as shown by Jurgen Klopp's deployment of Roberto Firmino as the false nine.
Last season, many could have cited Firmino's second season in English football as a disappointment. Despite being his best season in a Liverpool shirt, he did not hit the elusive 20 goal mark that is expected of strikers within a top team. Scoring 11 goals, he assisted 10 but many overlooked this fact and were quick to label him a "failed striker", arguing for a return to his midfield role.
To put it bluntly, these people are thinking one dimensionally, unable to observe the role of Firmino within Klopp's Liverpool, and his importance being much more than scoring goals. Liverpool's top scorers in the league last season were Philippe Coutinho and Sadio Mane, both of whom played on the wings, notching 13 goals each last season.
Within Klopp's gengenpressing system, the attack is built upon having multiple threats all at once, preventing a player being marked out of a game.
The addition of Mohammed Salah to an attack with no singular focal point will make them all the more lethal. The addition of his dizzying pace to an attack that already features the rapid Senegalese will make Liverpool a defender's nightmare. Salah has scored on four occasions in Liverpool's pre season - prior to Saturday's fixture with Athletic Bilbao - displaying calm finishing and instinctive attacking positioning that could make him the deadliest of Liverpool's front three.
At this rate, Salah will make his name as a poacher, with two headed efforts from close range and a calm finish into an open net against Wigan. However, Salah has been most impressive when tearing defences apart with his pace, dragging players out wide or running in behind to get into goal scoring opportunities. His combination play with Coutinho has been fantastic to watch, and as the season rumbles on we will see more and more of this duo.
As for Mane, his influence is best observed when taken out of the side. With his absence during the African Cup of Nations and a knee injury sustained at the back end of the season, Liverpool looked lethargic and absent going forward without his cutting edge.
Liverpool picked up just 18 points out of a possible 33 without him in the side, and his return from injury in time for the new season is crucial for Liverpool starting on the right foot against Watford.
The Liverpool attack is one to be feared this season, a barrage of probing runs by Mane and Salah will be faster than defenders can react at times. Liverpool will be best at catching sleeping defences off guard, late into the game where fatigue sets in, these sort of attacks could result in lots of late goals, considering the emphasis Klopp puts on fitness.
Aided by the position change of Coutinho into midfield, his ability to thread the needle will be a welcome addition alongside Firmino, who makes runs with the intention of creating space for other players, sacrificing his own opportunities for the team.
The threat level of this attack is astounding, and could certainly result in Liverpool being the top scorers should all of the jigsaw pieces fit together.