Opinion: Liverpool 5-1 Hull City - Scintillating Reds suggest they might be the team to look out for

Opinion: Liverpool 5-1 Hull City - Scintillating Reds suggest they might be the team to look out for

Liverpool mauled Hull City at Anfield on Saturday afternoon for a comprehensive 5-1 win that sees them remain the Premier League team to talk about for the time-being - but are they really a title contender this season?

Charlie Malam

This was about as emphatic as they come.

Statistics don't always tell the story of the game, but here they did. 32 shots. 74 per-cent possession. 698 passes completed. 

Hull City's stats? One shot and a measly 190 passes completed. Liverpool completed twice as many passes in their opponent's final third than the visitors did altogether. 

90 per-cent of their passing came in the opposition half, with 354 passes in the attacking third of the pitch alone. 

Not enough for you? How about the fact that Jordan Henderson completed 107 of his 111 attempted passes. That's roughly 56 per-cent of the number of passes that Hull, albeit down to 10 men, completed as a whole.

Make no mistake about it, this was total domination.

5-1 was arguably a kind scoreline on Mike Phelan's side, who were convincingly second-best from the first whistle to the last. 

This past week has been dominated by debate over whether Liverpool could challenge for the title. Amidst much of the talk, the bar was set by general consensus for Jürgen Klopp's men.

Coming up against Hull, many insisted they must prove they can pass the kind of test that they have so often crumbled against in recent years.

Too many times had a team come to L4, set up to soak up pressure and hit Liverpool on the counter-attack, and returned back home with a point - or even all three - to show for their efforts.

Last season, West Ham United, Norwich City, Southampton, Crystal Palace, West Bromwich Albion, Sunderland and Newcastle United all did via such a game plan. 

Though that was last season, doubts remained, largely due to the loss at Burnley a month ago. 

While Liverpool won away at Chelsea and Arsenal, bettered Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane but could only draw, and also hammered champions Leicester City on Merseyside - the scars of the Burnley result remained.

Reds categorically dismiss the doubts that they can't break teams down

Despite the actual positives that came from aspects of the performance up in East Lancs, the defeat hung over the club like the Main Stand looms over all of Anfield and its nearby surroundings. As a result, Hull was billed as a massive game.

But the answers to the concerns over this Liverpool team's ability to develop a ruthless streak were as convincing as the gulf in quality between Liverpool and Hull.

You could be forgiven for thinking this was the kind of routine win the club have enjoyed in home games of these natures for years gone by, such was the confidence with which they buzzed about the pitch.

Perhaps this wasn't the toughest challenge Liverpool will face, but given the pre-match conceptions that Hull would come to Anfield and leave the handbrake of their bus on between the two posts of the Kop end, the hosts will be delighted with the ruthless and unforgiving manner in which they tore through a side supposed to be solid at the back.

Klopp and co. didn't give them the chance to even park the bus. The ball didn't breach David Marshall's goal until the 15th minute, but it was long coming by the time it did. 

Liverpool were electric, fizzing around the pitch with the kind of tempo that defined their stunning 2013-14 campaign. Their effervescent energy and enthusiasm was too much for Hull to live with, as they were outworked and outperformed across the pitch.

Klopp eulogized his side's counter-pressing, calling it their most-effective showing under his management, and it's hard to argue against that. Indeed, this was about the most efficient they've been in all areas of their game under him.

And to think that this was largely without Daniel Sturridge, who watched on for the first 69 minutes before winning a penalty after just 90 seconds on the pitch. Otherwise, Divock Origi was sat on the bench and Danny Ings wasn't in the squad. 

Staples of Klopp's side at the end of last season, Dejan Lovren was absent with a virus and Emre Can was also only fit enough for the substitutes' bench. Though on this evidence - and that of the win at Chelsea - Can will have some battle to break back into the team.

Earlier this week, the German midfielder spoke about the need to "start from zero" to get back into the manager's starting line-up - but it might take more than that.

Goals shared across the side as all the Reds get in on the act

After a few games of the season, huge question marks surrounded Jordan Henderson's ability to play as the deepest-lying midfielder of a three-man centre - in the 'No.6' role - while there were doubts over the role of summer signings Georginio Wijnaldum.

Those worries have both been quashed in some style in recent performances, with it clear that the pair - as well as the rejuvenated Adam Lallana in a deeper central midfield berth - help provide the advantageous blend of industry, technical skill, tactical intelligence and goalscoring threat that this team requires from its centre.

That last one is extra important. Wijnaldum waits for his first Liverpool goal, but here he could have had three. Lallana continued his excellent form, with three goals and three assists, meaning he has averaged a major contribution every 81 minutes this season. Coutinho was back to the kind of brilliant individual best that makes him seem a shoe-in for the Barcelona midfield in the future. 

None of Liverpool's out-and-out strikers are yet to net in the league, with three from Lallana, Coutinho, Mane and Milner respectively. Firmino, who has largely led the line so far, also has two. The goals are being well and truly spread across the board, which makes a refreshing change to recent years.

It's no surprise that since Klopp took over at Anfield on October 8th 2015, no club has scored more goals in the Premier League than Liverpool's total of 71. That time spans 36 league games, or in other words, two games short of a full season.

Compare that to Liverpool's goalscoring records in the Premier League since 1992-93, and only twice have they managed more than 71 goals in a campaign. In 2008-09 they mustered 77, while the 2013-14 saw them blitz numerous teams and fire a dumb-founding 101 goals.

Both of those seasons, however, are remembered for how Liverpool went close to winning a long-awaited league title. In 08-09 they missed out by four points to Manchester United, in 13-14 it was just two, this time to Manchester City.

While, even if were Liverpool to continue their rich vein of goalscoring form it doesn't necessarily guarantee a title challenge - it certainly points towards positive signs.

And their front-line is more than equipped to continue in its current fettle. They have 24 after eight games in all competitions so far, their highest total in 121 years, and that's having played three of their toughest away games of the season.

How far can this Liverpool team go?

This team is one to be feared and if they can produce this kind of attacking performance on a regular basis, Hull won't be the last team they blow away so convincingly. Far from it.

But, unlike in 08-09 and 13-14, there are no one (or two) talisman(s) leading the charge. Sturridge, a major catalyst of the most recent title charge, is still around but there are no longer cries of worry when he's not involved.

He spent much of this game on the bench second to a man who embodies the improvement made by this Liverpool team over the last 12 months: Roberto Firmino.

He was plagued by inconsistency in his opening months, partly because of poor man-management on the part of Brendan Rodgers, also likely because he was settling in to a new team, a new country and a new league.

But it is no coincidence that his form sky-rocketed shortly after the arrival of Klopp. Now, it's hard to imagine this Liverpool team without him. All of his qualities - his work ethic, his in-game intelligence and the class of his touch and input on and off the ball - reflect the team as a whole.

As do Lallana's, and Coutinho's, and even Mane's. All four - plus Wijnaldum, Henderson, Nathaniel Clyne, James Milner and more - are major components of a team that is much more than the sum of its parts.

Robbie Savage calling this Liverpool team also-rans in a recent Daily Mirror column may be a touch of hyperbole, but there is no doubt that the direction and belief injected into the players by Klopp has helped them exceed all expectations. 

The real question is, how high can this team realistically aim? Of that we're sure to find out, and at this rate it's going to be an incredibly entertaining watch along the way - especially given that Klopp believes his side can improve further.