Pass and move, it's the Liverpool groove. It sounds simple, and in some ways it is, but that doesn't mean it's easy. And despite some wonderful passages of play under Kenny Dalglish, Liverpool hasn't quite managed to make it click week in and week out like they might want to.
In the last two matches, however--against first Birmingham City and now Newcastle United--Liverpool's quality movement in and around the opposition box has lead to a sudden uptick in goals as the season nears its end.
This, then, is how Liverpool's movement against Newcastle--particularly from Maxi Rodriguez--and a heavy dose of attacking intent lead to the club's two goals from open play on Sunday:
Below, Maxi(1) begins on the shoulder of the right back, while Kuyt's central run drags Newcastle's shielding midfielder Cheik Tiote(2) deep in the center.
Kuyt, Suarez, and Meireles flood the box, and as Kuyt drifts left Newcastle's Tiote switches to cover Suarez(1), Liverpool's most central attacker, while the right fullback has no choice but to now track Kuyt, the most dangerous man in his area. As Liverpool is attacking on the break, Newcastle's own narrow outside midfielder--Joey Barton on their right side of the field--is ten yards away from being able to offer support(2). Liverpool's three attackers drive Newcastle's five defenders deep as the cross comes in, then, leaving a sizable gap between the back line and the rest of Newcastle's returning midfielders.
As both Kuyt and Suarez React to the ball, Maxi(1) checks his run in the gap between the outnumbered backline and the returning midfielders, a space that might last for a second or two after the ball arrives ahead of him. As a desperate Mike Wiliamson(2) does all he can to get to the ball and deflect it away from Kuyt and Suarez, Maxi's intellegent filling of vacated space immediately behind the attackers pays off.
For the second week in a row, Maxi is in the right place at the right time, largely because he recognised that the three nearest defenders were already occupied and so stopped in the uncovered space between the defensive lines. Though as much as the goal owes its existence to an intelligent checking of his run, it owes at least as much to Kuyt, Suarez, and Meireles in front of him. Without all three of them driving the Newcastle defensive line back, it is likely the right fullback would have switched to cover the fairly centrally trailing Maxi as Flanagan sent the ball into the box. As he couldn't do so without leaving Kuyt uncovered, he chose what seemed the lesser of two evils and left Maxi unmarked.
One-nil to Liverpool.
Suarez receives the ball on the edge of the penalty area, and it appears as though he has two attacking options. Kuyt(1) is on his right and being played onside by the left back, and while it is directly in his line of sight the angles are tight. Meanwhile Maxi(2) is attacking the box from the left, and while a pass to him might be easier, it would be harder for Suarez to pick him out immediately after turning with the ball.
Suarez does see Maxi's run, but it's a split second too late--the Newcastle center backs have both closed on Liverpool's striker, cutting off his lane to either run or pass straight towards goal.
However, Suarez still attempts to flick a pass to Maxi. It is blocked, but falls kindly to Kuyt(1) while Maxi(2) has continued his crossfield run, dragging along the right back who hadn't been able to cover him on the first goal because of Newcastle's back line being outnumbered and overrun on that occasion.
With the center backs flat-footed from their efforts to block his initial pass and the fullback rightly tracking Maxi's dangerous run, Suarez(1) rounds the the defence's helpless right flank and cooly finishes off a flicked pass from Dirk Kuyt. Another goal scored due to attacking the box with numbers, and with smart runs and movement around it, with Suarez this time being the beneficiary of Maxi's run dragging the defenders.
With Dirk Kuyt's conversion of the penalty earned by Suarez in between the two goals, that made it three-nil for Liverpool and the game comfortably won.
In neither case was Newcastle's defense particularly out of position, with Liverpool even needing a bit of luck to help create the third goal. In fact, the defenders directly involved covered the men and passing lanes they were supposed to cover in both cases, and to not have acted as they did would have only left more obvious holes for Liverpool to exploit. In the end it was down to good movement and smart runs--with Maxi Rodriguez being the central component of that in both cases. And it was also down to Liverpool attacking the box with enough players to occupy all the defenders so that a smart run such as the ones Maxi made could lead to moments that made a difference and won Liverpool the match.
You need both that good movement and the numbers to make it effective in order to regularly beat an opponent with team brilliance instead of individual moments, and against Newcastle--as against Birmingham before them--Liverpool got just that.