Liverpool's Ruthless Attacking Efficiency Exposes Fragile Fulham

Matt Ladson@mattladsonFeatured ColumnistNovember 9, 2013

Brendan Rodgers had the rare luxury of having his full attacking options at his disposal for Liverpool's 4-0 defeat of Fulham at Anfield on Saturday.

The return of Philippe Coutinho, combined with a makeshift Fulham defence and Steven Gerrard looking to make amends for his poor performance last week, meant this was one-way traffic throughout.

Rodgers' side have become extremely efficient in these matches at home to sides they "should" be beating, something that had been an Achilles' heel in recent history. Not only are they winning them, they are doing so comfortably.


Goals Galore

Half-time saw the home side 3-0 up, just as they were against Crystal Palace last month. By full-time they had four, just as they had against West Brom in their last game at Anfield, for a total of 11 goals in their last three home games.

Liverpool were outplayed by Arsenal's midfield last week, but against the teams outside the top six they have become ruthless—pressing high up the pitch and creating chance after chance. As recognised by the following stat from Opta:


32 - Liverpool's total of 32 shots vs Fulham today (inc. blocked) is the most recorded by a team in a PL game this season. Rampant.

— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 9, 2013


SHOT MAP: Liverpool have had 29 shots against Fulham. Peppered. #LFC #FFC

— Squawka Football (@Squawka) November 9, 2013


So often you hear managers, pundits and supporters say that "it could have been more"—and at Anfield it really was the case.

As is often the case, everybody wanted to get their name on the scoresheet. Coutinho had efforts but often they were lacking any real conviction, while Daniel Sturridge fluffed his lines on a couple of occasions too.


Change in formation

Rodgers took the decision to change from a back three and employed what he described pre-match as a fluid 4-4-2 shape, with Coutinho and Jordan Henderson more often central. Those two not only pressed high up the pitch, but dominated the midfield.

Glen Johnson in particular profited from this, overloading the right side for Liverpool and cutting inside with great effect.

Perhaps against tougher sides such a formation may see Liverpool vulnerable to the counter-attack, but they can comfortably achieve their aim of a top-four finish by continuing to efficiently see off teams outside the traditional "top six."


Top-Four Finish on Course

The average points required to achieve a top-four finish in the past decade is 68.4 points—a team who wins all their matches against the teams in seventh to 20th would have 84 points. This is where a high finish is won or lost, not against Arsenal, Manchester United or Chelsea—as much as victory over those sides are pleasant.

Consistency is key and this victory represented the ninth consecutive time that Liverpool have won the League game directly following a defeat.

Liverpool are showing the ruthless efficiency and mental strength to achieve their goal—and perhaps more.


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