When the news broke that Joe Gomez had suffered a worrying knee injury on international duty, you could almost hear the collective groan from the red half of Merseyside.
The England international is set for a lengthy period on the sidelines alongside his defensive partner Virgil van Dijk, plunging Liverpool’s defensive injuries ever closer to crisis territory.
Jurgen Klopp has already discussed potential centre-back plans following the injury to Van Dijk, with Andrew Robertson and Jordan Henderson cited as potential understudies to Fabinho and Joel Matip.
Whether Klopp opts for youth – with Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams debuting in recent Premier League and Champions League matches – or experience, Liverpool’s best form of defence may well be attack, as the old adage goes.
Get all the latest updates on Joe Gomez’s injury after he underwent successful surgery on Thursday, plus breaking news and analysis of what’s next for the Reds.
You’ll also get the latest transfer talk and analysis straight to your inbox every day with our FREE email newsletter.
The Liverpool manager sprung a bold tactical surprise at the Etihad Stadium by altering from his usual 4-3-3 system and fielding four forwards. The opening half an hour of football from his side was breathtaking, with Manchester City suffocated and unable to move through the lines and out of defence.
The form of Diogo Jota had handed the Reds a timely fourth-prong to their already widely-feared attack and it may serve them well to follow the Etihad blueprint as the season progresses, given Gomez’s latest injury.
Liverpool’s attacking numbers are the best in the Premier League, according to the underlying data. Only Chelsea and Tottenham have scored more this season but the quality of the Reds’ output is unmatched.
As shown below, no team is creating a higher volume, or a higher quality of chances per 90 minutes in the Premier League.
Aston Villa are the Reds’ closest competitors when it comes to the average number of shots taken in a match, while Tottenham are also boasting strong non-penalty expected goals numbers, but not at the same rate as the Premier League champions.
It highlights that the more firepower Liverpool have on the field, the more likely they are to blow away the opposition. Liverpool’s main goal-scorers are Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, with Roberto Firmino out of form. Taking away goals from Van Dijk and Trent Alexander-Arnold – in the short-term – will leave a void that no midfielder has proven they can fill.
The case for all-out attack grows when you consider Liverpool’s defensive data too. The number of shots that the Reds’ backline has conceded this season is low; only Brighton and Manchester City have protected their backlines better from incoming shots.
Unlike the Seagulls and their Premier League title rivals, the quality of chance surrendered to opposition attackers is much higher and these numbers are, of course, with one or both of their first-choice defenders in the team.
The quality of Liverpool’s attacking play against Manchester City in a fluent front four shows that if they’re capable of pinning in the opposition, they are likely to outscore any team in the division. Defences win you titles, usually, but this has already shown to be a funny old season in an unprecedented year.
Only the very best sides in possession or on the counter-attack, such as Liverpool’s next opponents, Leicester City, may be able to combat the aggressive press from the Liverpool front four, whilst others will simply crumble.
Klopp can not – and will not – simply abandon all defensive structure and organisation but considering the problems in defence, coupled with the dilemmas in attack could marry to the perfect solution. All-out-attack.