Liverpool gave league debuts to no less than four of their summer acquisitions, left-back Jose Enrique joining midfielders Charlie Adam, Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson in the famous red of Liverpool for the first time. Sunderland themselves have brought no less than 10 players in the summer, and Steve Bruce gave debuts to Wes Brown and Sebastian Larsson, with David Vaughan made to wait until the 80th minute to renew acquaintance with fellow Blackpool old-boy Charlie Adam.
Somewhat surprisingly, Liverpool lined up in a 4-4-2 formation. Charlie Adam partnered Lucas Leiva in central midfield, with Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson working the wings. Fans’ favourite Dirk Kuyt surprisingly relegated to the bench. The back four was also not what had been expected. New boy Jose Enrique, ink still wet on his Liverpool contract wore the number 3 at left-back, and at right back John Flanagan was preferred to Martin Kelly.
In truth, Liverpool’s formation was far more fluid than suggested by their line-up. Lucas and Adam both sat pretty deep, with Adam pulling the strings – although he played far less of his “Hollywood” balls than he did with Blackpool. Perhaps the reason for this is the better quality of his team mates, Adam felt less need to try the more audacious of his ideas. Stewart Downing started on the left, but was all over the pitch, and his most telling contribution came when cutting in from the opposite flank, striking the crossbar with a rasping shot after an impressive run. It has been expected that Carroll would play target man up top, but Liverpool linked with him far more successfully along the ground than by pumping high balls for him to challenge for as they did towards the end of the game as Liverpool searched for a winner. He was overshadowed yet again by Luis Suarez, already looking a fantastic piece of business, but to be fair Carroll was unlucky to have a goal ruled out for a foul. Replays showed the lightest of touches on the back of Anton Ferdinand. Carroll and Suarez both came deep to find the ball. At time Liverpool’s 4-4-2 evolved into 4-2-3-1, with either Carroll or Suarez taking their place at the pinnacle of that formation – Carroll actually had more deep touches than Suarez.
Sunderland in contrast deployed a 4-2-3-1 which could also conceivably be described as 4-4-1-1. Gyan supported by Benin international Sessegnon from an attacking midfield position. In reality the two formations are very similar but 4-4-1-1 is seen as far more conventional, it’s merely a 4-4-2 with one of the forwards withdrawn. Sunderland’s was probably more of a 4-2-3-1. The two central midfielders Cattermole and Colback are not the most attack minded of players, and they player with wingers high up the pitch.