The old saying goes that “attack wins games, but defence wins titles.”
Now, that’s not to infer that Liverpool are going to be challenging for Premier League silverware just yet, but the Reds have certainly started their season strongly enough to suggest that might not be all too far away.
Brendan Rodgers has been as busy as ever in his recruitment drive this summer, with five of the eight transfers completed boosting his defence.
Kolo Toure and Simon Mignolet arrived early in the summer months and have had more time to adapt to Anfield life, and they have already formed a crucial part of the Reds’ back line in recent weeks.
However, the business didn’t stop there as BBC Sport announced that Mamadou Sakho and Tiago Ilori had been brought in on deadline day from Paris Saint-Germain and Sporting Lisbon, respectively, as well as the earlier arrival of loanee Aly Cissokho.
Winning all three of their opening fixtures, including a deserved home triumph over bitter rivals Manchester United, Rodgers’ side sit comfortably at the summit of the English top flight.
B/R UK were on hand to point out just how big a shift this is for the club:
Binary Liverpool. Start season 1-0, 1-0, 1-0 for the first time since 1912.— Bleacher Report UK (@br_uk) September 1, 2013
However, with all of those wins coming with a scoreline of 1-0, it’s not a fluid and well-gelled attack that has earned the nine points so far.
In a way, the Reds’ start to the season perfectly illustrates the quote mentioned at the beginning of this article.
But it’s the defence that has really allowed those solo efforts to count come the final whistle, enduring their portion of the opponent’s scrutiny, Mignolet’s 90th-minute penalty save against Stoke being a perfect example.
Aside from the summer arrivals, Rodgers already had a very capable defence at his disposal when fully fit. Last season, the club managed to keep 16 clean sheets across 38 league displays, a total that only Manchester City managed to better.
Can Liverpool maintain their stern defensive record?
Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel, Glen Johnson and Jose Enrique already form a reliable back four on their day. This is made even better by the competition coming through from the likes of Andre Wisdom and Martin Kelly, both of whom look extremely promising.
At one point this summer, it looked as if Skrtel was a certainty to leave Anfield, but the Slovakian returned in the absence of Toure with a Man of the Match display against United, instantly enamouring himself with the club's fans once again.
The Liverpool Echo's James Pearce has reported the player as saying that a move away was never an option in recent months, adding another aspect of solidity to the centre of defence.
Sakho has played top-flight football for the best part of six years but the marauding centre-back still has some of his development to run at the age of 23.
Twenty-year-old Ilori is more of a prospect for now, perhaps coming in to eventually replace Sebastian Coates, whose injury-hit time at Anfield hasn’t allowed the Uruguayan to live up to expectations.
Whereas this time last week Rodgers’ defence looked strong but shallow, the Northern Irishman now has options in every position, and the team has the depth necessary to cope with the injuries that a Premier League campaign is bound to produce.
Just how swiftly things will come together in attack is another debate entirely, but for now at least, the Merseysiders boast a defensive line as stubborn as any other in English football.