There seems to be that new aura radiating from even this Suarez-less Liverpool FC, a certain confidence and style about the way they get about their football. It seems like Rodgers’ philosophy is finally starting to click.
Whilst it took a heroic penalty save from new signing Simon Mignolet, the Reds managed to secure 3 points – 3 points which they found so hard to come by at certain times last season. The display Liverpool put out was exemplary of how Liverpool have been playing last year, almost identical but with quicker passing and more decisive movement.
When you bring out the stats, the Reds had more possession – albeit less dominant than you would usually see – outwrestling Stoke City 52% to 48% when it comes to possession. When it comes to what either side did with the ball, Liverpool showed more initiative going forward, as seen by the 26 shots the Reds took over the course of the 90 minutes. Both sides exchanged blows early on, with both hitting the crossbar fairly early on.
But Daniel Sturridge showed why Rodgers had so much faith in him with an astounding finish into the bottom right hand corner – a goal reminiscent to the one which he scored against Manchester City last season.
Liverpool started with a conventional 4-2-3-1, with Aspas being the focal point up front, with Daniel Sturridge offering support through the middle. Jordan Henderson was active during the match, getting into good positions and being unlucky on a few occasions denied by the superb form of Stoke City goalkeeper and 2012/13 Stoke City player of the year Asmir Begovic.
Coutinho had a fairly decent time in the harsh rain in Merseyside, gaining freedom to drift in and away from players, although he got clattered on numerous occasions. He attempted some really cheeky chips in order to get away from his markers and it is that creative spark that Liverpool really need to have in order to break down opposition defences – much like Luis Suarez’s innate ability to create something out of nothing with his tricky footwork.
Aspas was in a couple of good positions as well, but like Henderson, was denied by superb stops by Begovic.
Toure and Agger were comfortable as a pairing, and as Lucas Leiva sat back as Liverpool charged forward, it gave Jose Enrique and Glen Johnson to go and stay further up the pitch with the added protection of the third defender at the back, in essence changing it to a 3-5-2, with Sturridge and Aspas up front.