When there was a clamour throughout the summer for Liverpool to sign anybody and everybody, Jurgen Klopp remained calm.
The German coach knew what he wanted and why he wanted it. Aside from Virgil van Dijk, those targeted at the start of the summer have become, or will become, part of his squad at Anfield.
Naby Keita was arguably the player he wanted most and he finally secured him, albeit in a year’s time, in a sensational late deal.
There is good reason that trio were identified and signed.
All three bring something to the line-up which Liverpool lacked at times last season.
The ability to carry the ball at speed; to penetrate deep-lying defences, or ‘low block sides’ as is common phraseology nowadays.
The games in which Liverpool struggled against these tactics are easily remembered. All four games with Southampton, for starters, which yielded no goals. The home stalemate with Manchester United, the 2-0 defeat at Hull, and even the FA Cup draw with Plymouth, all exemplified how the Reds lacked that incision from deep to break through defensive-minded set ups.
No surprise Sadio Mane was absent for all but two of those games, with his start against Hull in February his first in over a month.
But in Oxlade-Chamberlain, Salah and Keita, Klopp has brought players into the club capable of matching what Mane can do when on the ball. The Senegalese star averaged 2.5 successful dribbles per game last season – comfortably better than his nearest team-mates Philippe Coutinho (2.29) and Roberto Firmino (2).
Keita is the standout when it comes to moving the ball past the opposition. Last season, he was second in the entire Bundesliga with 77, putting only Ousmane Dembele above him. It is a similar story this season too, albeit after just two games – with 10 successful, four more than his nearest competitors.
Oxlade-Chamberlain leads the Premier League for successful take ons in this campaign, while he was second in Arsenal’s side last season with 62, with just Alexis Sanchez bettering him.
Salah has already demonstrated his dribbling ability, although it does not necessarily reflect in the statistics from last season, with just 36 completed, putting him third-highest in the Roma side.
Lies, damned lies, and so forth – but there is a clear desire for Liverpool to be quick in transition, their counter-attacks under Klopp often frightening.
Just ask Hoffenheim and Arsenal, both victims to the red arrows at Anfield in the space of four days.
Fresh research from OPTA also shows how Liverpool’s attacks average a speed of 1.72 metres per second – one of the quickest in the league. Salah’s goal against the Gunners was registered at a pace of 9.9 metres per second, the quickest of the season so far, while the Reds have scored four of the fastest 20 goals in the league.
No surprise, then, that Klopp identified players who could fit into this style. The wait for Oxlade-Chamberlain and Keita in red goes on – the Guinean especially – but expect both to make an impression and fit into what Liverpool are trying to do.