Liverpool Make Welcome Return to Their 'Blitz' Attacking Approach

Nick Miller@NickMiller79Featured ColumnistSeptember 1, 2014

Liverpool's Raheem Sterling, center, celebrates with teammates Joe Allen, right, and Alberto Moreno after scoring against Tottenham Hotspur, during their English Premier League soccer match at White Hart Lane, London, Sunday, Aug. 31, 2014 (AP Photo/Bogdan Maran)
Bogdan Maran/Associated Press

Liverpool's charge at the Premier League title last year was one of the most entertaining runs of form seen in recent years. Watching them was exhilarating in a number of ways, partly because it looked like someone new was going to win the title, but also in the way Liverpool approached their games.

At times in their run-in they appeared to pay no attention whatsoever to caution and received wisdom, attacking teams with almost reckless abandon. It seemed not to matter who their opponents were, playing in the same manner against Manchester City as they did against Norwich, or whether they were home or away.

Bogdan Maran/Associated Press

And it wasn't an altruistic move on the part of Brendan Rodgers to provide us neutrals with some entertaining football to watch. This was a clear plan, designed to blitz opponents from the off and put the game out of sight in the early stages, and it very often worked.

The Reds were 4-0 up against Arsenal inside 20 minutes, two ahead of Tottenham after 25 minutes, the same again versus Manchester City, 2-0 up over Norwich after 11 minutes—the strategy was a pragmatic, as well as entertaining.

Of course, it inevitably had its drawbacks, with early goals conceded against Cardiff, Swansea and Fulham among others, while it backfired spectacularly against Crystal Palace in their penultimate game of the season.

All these occurrences might have persuaded Rodgers to opt for a little more caution this season, particularly after the departure of Luis Suarez.

In Liverpool's first two games of this season, it was difficult to tell whether a change in approach had been adopted. Rodgers admitted, as per Sky Sports, that they were a little out of sorts in the opener against Southampton, while they were simply outplayed and punished for defensive mistakes in the 3-1 defeat to City.

However, against Tottenham on Sunday they looked back to their old selves, attacking their opponents from the first whistle with something close to the ferocity of last season.

Suarez has, of course, gone and has been replaced with Mario Balotelli. While the Italian didn't provide anything close to the dynamism of the Uruguayan, his build-up play was at times superb and, if anything, provided Raheem Sterling with more freedom to attack with gusto.

Bogdan Maran/Associated Press

Again, this is an approach not merely based on a gung-ho preference for attacking football, but a sensible use of the attacking talents available to Rodgers. What would be the point in having players as dynamic as Sterling and Daniel Sturridge if you're not going to let them off the leash?

Rodgers seems to recognise that this is the best way to use the resources at his disposal, and thus deployed them on Sunday in a manner that was both best for Liverpool and for the neutrals looking for an entertaining match to watch.

Tottenham were more or less blown away, overwhelmed by the pace of Liverpool's play before they could really get into the game.

Indeed, Rodgers has returned to this strategy while at the same time thinking about tightening up at the back, concentrating on their defensive organisation in his post-match comments. He said, as quoted by Sky Sports:

Our quality was exceptional. We got three goals and could maybe have had more. Defensively we were resolute, kept the lines tight together to minimise their chances, and closed the game out very well, so all round it was a great three points for us...

I thought the back four and goalkeeper were excellent, and we created protection in front of them with our diamond and the two guys up front worked their socks off.

In order to avoid the problems that came with this approach last season, Rodgers has strengthened his defence with the purchase of Dejan Lovren and a specialist left-back in Alberto Moreno, but he could perhaps do with a genuine holding midfielder.

Steven Gerrard performs the deeper role at present but is not a true midfield destroyer, and his 34-year-old legs might not be able to cope with the rigours of a full Premier League season along with the Champions League as well.

Indeed it would be odd if, as was hinted at by Rodgers after the game, per the BBC, Lucas was allowed to leave and no replacement was brought in on transfer deadline day.

Overall, though, it was refreshing to see Liverpool return to the attacking, blitz approach that served them so well in the latter half of last season. Both their fans and neutrals alike should hope it continues.