Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane do not have a catchy acronym. They may not be called the MSN or BBC, but they have placed themselves among the pantheon of great forward lines.
Tuesday night’s evisceration of Roma was another example of that. This season they have left pitches resembling battlefields, with defences downed one after another in the face of their onslaught.
Liverpool have scored at least five goals against each of the teams they have faced in the Champions League this season and that comes down to, in the main, the terrific trio. Sportsmail has taken a look at the secrets behind their succes.
Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino have become an exceptional front three
Both Firmino and Salah managed to score two goals against Roma on Tuesday evening
Mohamed Salah — the false winger
Take a piece of paper and a pen and write out Liverpool’s team in formation. You will almost certainly have written the front three as Mane/Firmino/Salah.
That placing of Salah on the right implies a few things. It suggests he’s tied to the wing. And it probably makes you assume that Firmino is often the main man and the most advanced player when Liverpool go forward.
That simply is not the case. Salah might be the best example of a false winger there has ever been in football.
The Egyptian is nominally playing on the right but tends to pop up in central areas. More importantly, he is generally the furthest forward of himself and Firmino.
Mohamed Salah makes runs that would be expected of a striker from his right sided berth
He is essentially playing as a striker, despite initially lining up on the right wing of the front three.
For both of his goals against Roma on Tuesday night, Firmino has the ball in a deeper area of the pitch. Salah moves into an advanced position.
What is incredibly notable is the movement he makes for the opener. It is a classic striker’s run. He works his way along the defence, shoulder in line with Roma’s backline.
He then moves at the ideal moment to ensure he will find space in the box. It is exactly what a poacher would do in the same situation.
In the build-up to his sensational opening goal, he made a brilliant run along the defensive line
The same happens for the second goal. Firmino and Salah work the ball up the field together well but it is Salah who knows to burst forward.
And Firmino feeds the ball to him well again. It is a pure striker’s run, cutting through the centre of the Roma defence and putting him in an ideal position to score.
When setting up Mane for the third, he was again the most advanced player and made another striker’s run to cut out the Roma defence.
For the second goal, he made an excellent burst past Roberto Firmino through the centre
Salah is effectively playing as a striker on the right side of the pitch, not a traditional winger
He also did the same when he set up their third goal, making a run into an advanced position
Managers often spring tactical surprises but this was not exclusive to the Roma game. The same occurred against West Brom.
Again Liverpool built up the pitch. But it was Salah, not Firmino, who made the run through the middle.
Salah is very much playing as a striker — just because he starts on the right does not mean he is the main man.
In the build-up to Liverpool’s second goal against West Brom, Salah did exactly the same
He ran through the middle, to the left of Firmino, before firing a shot into the back of the net
Roberto Firmino in the Messi role
When Jurgen Klopp called Firmino ‘world class’ earlier in the season, it seemed like a slight overstatement. He has since been proven entirely correctly.
So much of Liverpool’s incredible attacking play stems from Firmino, who grafts like few other strikers.
Not content with just joining Salah as the highest ever scorer in a Champions League season for Liverpool, with 10, he has also made more tackles than any other forward in the competition — 15.
But, as mentioned above, he also does exactly what he needs to do to help get the best out of Salah.
That involves dropping deep to start moves for Liverpool and provide the final ball where required for his Egyptian team-mate.
The Brazilian brings to mind another South American — Lionel Messi. Messi innovated with false nine role, where he would play as a central striker but drop deep and offer creative impetus.
Firmino does the same. Everything flows through him. He is simultaneously false nine and target man. Without him to hook the rest of the front three around, it simply would not work.
For the build-up to Liverpool’s second, Firmino received the ball deep in his own half
It was the Brazilian who played the through ball for Salah, speaking for his role as a false nine
Sadio Mane is no longer the star — but he’s still key
Remember Liverpool’s utter reliance on Sadio Mane last season? If the Senegalese forward went down injured, it felt like someone was hovering over the balloon of Liverpool’s Champions League hopes holding a needle.
That is no longer the case. Mane has managed to be surpassed by both Firmino and Salah in terms of stardom in the Liverpool side.
But the winger is definitely still a key man in the side. Ringo Starr is regularly criticised for being a questionable drummer, but without him, The Beatles’ sound would not have worked (and Tomorrow Never Knows proves those critics wrong).
Ditto Mane. He helps drive Liverpool up the field and works very effectively with the players to either side of him.
And he deserves full compliments for not being too disheartened with his two misses in the first-half. They did not stop him or Liverpool from playing, and he got his reward with his strike.
Sadio Mane missed two chances but was rewarded for his continued efforts with a goal
How the trio dovetail
|Player||Assists to Firmino||Assists to Salah||Assists to Mane|
Salah, Mane and Firmino all played in Europe in the 2015-16 campaign. Between them, they managed three goals in their 23 matches. This season, they have 28 strikes in 31 games.
Klopp has managed to turn the trio into top level forwards, but it also speaks for how well they all work together. The chemistry is simply there.
Firmino’s record of eight assists for Salah over the course of the campaign in all competitions is staggering — some strikers do not manage that for an entire team. Mane has also provided the Egyptian with six.
It has already been covered above, but their movement just makes them devastating to deal with. They simply know where they should each be when the other moves into a certain position.
The best example of this is probably the third goal. The three players essentially take on Roma’s four-man defence by themselves. Salah picks up the ball on the right, comes inside, and both Firmino and Mane are waiting in the box for his cross.
Either could have scored.
Both Firmino and Mane made themselves available to Salah for Liverpool’s third goal
The three-man forward line essentially took out the entire Roma defence by themselves
The fourth also speaks for the simple relationship between all three of them.
Again, Salah is on the right. This time, Firmino and Mane tread divergent paths with their runs inside the area.
The Brazilian goes to the back post. Mane takes a defender out because he comes short, which means Firmino has space.
He converts. All three involved in a dynamic manner, all three contributing. Liverpool’s front three give them hope.
For the fourth, Mane and Firmino made clever runs and made the defence doubt themselves
Mane went deep, Firmino went to the back post, and Salah picked out the Brazilian brilliantly