It's most likely a good thing that Liverpool's best preseason performance came in the final preseason match.
It was the first time we've seen 4-2-3-1 this preseason, with Coutinho ahead of Can and Gerrard, Sturridge flanked by Henderson and Sterling. Liverpool stayed in that formation until the 80th minute, when Allen replaced Henderson, forcing a switch to the more-common 4-1-2-3.
And that XI and formation looked very, very good.
It's always dangerous to predict what Rodgers will do, but it makes sense to assume that'll be Liverpool's starting XI in a week's time. There are a few possible changes: Enrique or Flanagan for Manquillo, Allen or Lucas in place of Can, but it says a lot that this was what Rodgers went with in the last practice match, against strong opposition.
When Liverpool attacked, they looked dangerous, with Sterling and Coutinho superlative. When Liverpool defended for long stretches, as they did for most of the last 20 or so minutes in each half, they looked resilient, restricting Dortmund to few chances, most from outside the box and none threatening Mignolet. It was a balanced side, not quite as devastating in attack despite the four goals, but much, much more defensively secure. And that was without Markovic, Lallana, and potentially both the left-back and striker that Liverpool should still sign.
We saw the full range of Liverpool's powers in the four goals. The first, a direct, quick counter-attack: Lovren's long ball, a sprezzatura flick-on throughball from Coutinho, Sturridge sprinting through Dortmund's defense before finishing with aplomb. Three minutes later, a set play, Lovren hammering Gerrard's corner in after bullying his marker. Just after the interval, pressing from Henderson and Sturridge forcing a Dortmund giveaway in their own defensive third, Coutinho's goal set up by Sterling's clever centered pass. And then the fourth. That amazing fourth. Sterling, Coutinho, and Henderson dicing through Dortmund at ludicrous speed, Sturridge not quite keeping the ball in play but allowed to play on, then laying it on a plate for Henderson.
Yes, Liverpool's new center-back was involved in both first half goals, and smothered Dortmund's front three when he wasn't contributing to the attack. As always, it's dangerous to read too much into preseason, but Liverpool's back four looked far more organized with Lovren in it. The Croatian was calm, collected, and absolutely two-footed, playing long passes with both left and right, blocking shots and winning headers.
But both Anfield debutants were outstanding today. Manquillo certainly didn't look like a 20-year old who'd made all of 16 first team appearances making his first start for his new side in a new country. He was comfortable in possession and getting forward, positionally sound, and blocked crosses at will. Neither he nor Lovren could have asked for a better start to their Liverpool careers.
But Coutinho and Sterling were the stars of the show. I'm still not sure how Coutinho kept finding space throughout Dortmund's midfield, but there it was and there he was, dictating play time and time again. He's so much more effective when deployed centrally. Meanwhile, Sterling remains a spark plug, absolutely torturing Lukasz Piszczek, who's no slouch.
Just watch the fourth goal again (via @MubzyLFC).
Coutinho was probably offside, Sturridge probably didn't keep the ball in play, but neither referee nor linesman stopped the game. Because they didn't want to deny a move of such brilliance. It's hard not to get carried away after a goal like that.
Yes, yes. Still preseason. Still pretty much meaningless in the greater scheme of things. But that's the way you want to end preseason.
Be afraid, Southampton.