Makeshift Liverpool Front Three Offered Jurgen Klopp Something Different - And it Worked

Divock Origi, Federico Fernandez
Divock Origi led the line against Newcastle | Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Newcastle 1-3 Liverpool; in many ways, it was the perfect ending to an historic season for the Reds.

The performance was ugly and the football was far from fluid, but cutting through the white noise was a relentless desire to win.

It's a trait that, over the past 11 months, has earned them the moniker of 'mentality monsters', and against Newcastle, it yielded three moments of magic that ensured they finished the season with more wins and more points than ever before.

The third came straight from the hymn sheet we've been reading all season. Sadio Mané gets the ball on the left flank, glides into the box, guides shot into the far corner. Job's a good 'un.

By this point, Jurgen Klopp had called each of his usual front three into action from the bench, proving an effective strategy when, moments after Mohamed Salah had rattled the post, Mané put the game to bed.

By the time the German gestured for that triple substitution, however, the leg work had been done by three players champing at the bit for a bigger role within the squad: Takumi Minamino, Divock Origi, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

That trio wasn't as good as Salah, Mané and Roberto Firmino. There's no way it could have been; besides just not having the talent possessed by the fearsome trident, this was just the fifth time all three had been on the pitch together - and the first time they had all started.

As much as they looked disjointed, and lacked the verve and swagger possessed by the three who had knocked up 57 goals between them in all competitions, it was clear that Minamino, Origi and Oxlade-Chamberlain offered something different entirely.

Matt Ritchie, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Naby Keita
One of many clashes between Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Matt Ritchie | Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Where Klopp's three pronged attack normally utilises Firmino's genius movement to act as a smokescreen for Mané and Salah to wreak havoc in the inside channels, this was more free-form.

Minamino, who started off the left, regularly switched positions with Origi, which had Javier Manquillo and Federico Fernandez completely bewildered at times. Oxlade-Chamberlain, typically adventurous with his movement, often acted like a byline winger, terrorising Matt Ritchie and constantly looking for a free head in the area.

It played directly into the hands of Naby Keita too; Origi's lateral movement meant the Guinean was free to roam the space normally home to Firmino, with James Milner and Georginio Wijnaldum fulfilling slightly deeper roles to compensate for their third man.

The proof of the new system was in the pudding. Minamino might have had his first Liverpool goal when he drifted intelligently in from the left and forced a great save out of Martin Dubravka; Oxlade-Chamberlain assisted Virgil van Dijk's equaliser with a temptuous cross; Origi's sixth goal of the season - floating in from the left flank - arrived when he smashed the ball into the far corner.

It shouldn't be lost that the drop in quality was evident. But a new setup, featuring three second-string forwards, was comfortably able to get the better of a solid Newcastle team who have previously proven to be a match for Liverpool even at full strength.

There won't be many games in the months ahead where all three of Klopp's lead instrumentalists can be rested, but if he can learn to work elements of what we saw on Tyneside into his main arrangement, then he may find he has another string or three to his attacking bow.