Liverpool soundly crushed newly promoted Burnley on Saturday, sending out a message to the so-called lesser teams that the frustrating draws and disappointing losses of last season to such teams will not be tolerated this campaign.
The undisputed star and very deserving man of the match was of course the mercurial Yossi Benayoun, who notched up his third hat trick for the rampant Reds.
However, the blueprint of this emphatic display at Anfield was forced upon Rafa Benitez.
The sometimes stubborn Liverpool coach was required to make the change that pundits and fans alike have been calling for after some lacklustre performances that have seen the Reds suffer a far from expected start to the season.
Already this year, Liverpool’s midfield has looked devoid of creativity, lacked penetration, and been downright boring. While losing Alonso and waiting for Aquilani, Rafa Benitez has persisted with deploying a central midfield pairing of Mascherano and Lucas.
The two holding players in central midfield were both asked to play roles to which they were unaccustomed. Many would argue they were unequipped for the position. They hardly sparked fires of invention let alone provide the ammunition for the more attack-minded players around them.
But stubborn as Rafa is, he persisted in asking Mascherano to play in the playmaker’s role and Lucas to provide the steel and grit that Mascherano usually does.
This selection policy was, however, thwarted when the Argentine captain picked up a muscle injury while on international duty and did not return to Melwood immediately but chose rather to seek immediate attention from the Argentine medical staff.
Faced with this dilemma, Rafa reshuffled his pack into the lineup that so many analysts and fans alike have been calling for: Steven Gerrard being pushed back into central midfield.
The results of such a tactical switch were evident for all to see and enjoy.
Lucas played the holding midfield role, breaking up play and giving the simple ball to other more creative players around him. To Lucas’ credit, he seemed to flourish in the role and arguably gave his most accomplished and confident performance of the season so far.
This left Gerrard to do, albeit from a slightly deeper role, what he does best: terrorise defences with surging penetrative runs, provide accurate intelligent passing, and control Liverpool’s offense like a seasoned quarterback.
Starting from a slightly deeper position, defenders were not sure whether it was their midfield that was to pick him up or whether it was for them to attempt to thwart his powerful runs and pin-point passes.
If one scores a hat trick, it is only right that they are in the spotlight. However, the foundations of such fluid attacking play that Benayoun himself and ultimately Liverpool benefited from, came from the midfield pairing of Lucas and Gerrard.
Liverpool’s central midfield had a balanced and creative look that has been so sorely missed in previous matches. There was a fluency and control to the rest of the team’s play that emanated from this solid foundation.
On Saturday Liverpool epitomised LG’s slogan of “Life’s Good” with their very own LG combination of Lucas and Gerrard.