The first game of the new season can often be a tricky one to predict, with new signings keen to impress, but the gelling of the two sides can be unpredictable.
When Liverpool beat West Ham United 4-0 at Anfield on Sunday, two new faces started the game – Alisson Becker and Naby Keïta – with Xherdan Shaqiri coming off the bench and Fabinho an unused substitute, but arguably the most important performance in a red shirt - at least from a personal point of view in terms of individual players - came from Joe Gomez.
The 21-year-old defender spent most of last season playing at right-back, but has always maintained that he sees himself playing in the middle long-term, and he kept a clean sheet alongside Virgil van Dijk, in front of Brazilian number one Alisson.
Gomez's display provides hope
Had he not performed to the level which he did, Jürgen Klopp might have had qualms about playing him there again, but as it was, he excelled.
Klopp will hope that the triumvirate, along with Andy Robertson on the left side and Trent Alexander-Arnold on the right, Liverpool's first choice full-backs, can fully remove the question marks over the Reds’ defence.
Those suspicions surrounding Liverpool's backline still exist despite the Reds not conceding a goal at Anfield in the Premier League since February when Michail Antonio scored a consolation for West Ham in a 4-1 win, so a solid start was significant to continue that run.
With Dejan Lovren potentially missing for a couple of weeks, Joel Matip out, and Ragnar Klavan potentially being allowed to move on, Gomez, Van Dijk and Nat Phillips, who impressed during pre-season, are Liverpool's only central defensive options.
Van Dijk, though, who remains the world’s most expensive defender at £75 million, is certain that he and Gomez can strike up an effective partnership.
The Dutch international said: “I was not really worried, to be fair. I’ve played a couple of games in pre-season with Joe at centre-back and I have a very good relationship with him; a very good understanding outside of the pitch as well.”
Goalkeeper Alisson has been imposing so far
Van Dijk was also impressed with goalkeeper Alisson, who himself was a world-record buy in his position until Chelsea spent around £6 million more on Kepa Arrizabalaga from Athletic Bilbao to replace Thibaut Courtois.
He said: “We speak a lot. He’s very vocal and that helps. It helps me and everyone in the backline. I think his presence is very good as well.”
Liverpool face a significant challenge to rein in Manchester City, who finished 25 points ahead of them in the league last season, but having a defensive setup that is settled could be crucial.
Van Dijk is keen for Liverpool not to get ahead of themselves, though, and knows it is still early days.
He added: “[Alisson] has a lot of qualities on the ball that help us playing. We’ve worked on [our relationship] the whole pre-season and we’ll keep practising. There’s still a lot to do.
“It’s just one game. We had a good pre-season with good results and games where we’ve played very well. We can do a lot better and it’s just the start. I think the key is we need to be very consistent and do it every game.”
Liverpool face Crystal Palace next in the Premier League at Selhurst Park on Monday night.
That is likely to be a much more of a challenge for Liverpool's backline to withstand than West Ham managed on Sunday, and Liverpool will hope Van Dijk's assurance will be proven correct again.