Liverpool have produced many impressive performances since Jurgen Klopp arrived on Merseyside almost a year ago, many against the stronger teams they have come up against. Klopp's side have comfortably defeated top sides like Arsenal, Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United but against the so-called "lesser opposition" Liverpool often have been found wanting.
This was something Klopp addressed in his pre-match press conference ahead of his side's 5-1 demolition of Hull City last Saturday, and overcoming this issue is the single biggest key to Liverpool being successful. Put simply, teams win titles by beating the teams they are supposed to beat. Taking points off your rivals near the top of the table is important too of course, but it's rare that any side will win a title having frequently dropped points to teams in the bottom half.
Take Leicester City last season for instance, who were unbeaten in 20 games against the clubs who finished in the bottom half of the table, winning 16 and drawing four. By contrast, Liverpool won only half of their games against the bottom ten and were actually beaten in four of them. You can't win titles like that, or even finish in the top four for that matter.
So having already lost to Burnley this season, the visit of Hull was an important test for Klopp's in-form side and it was a test they passed with flying colours. Klopp described the first half as "the best display of counter pressing" since he arrived and Hull's beleaguered players would no doubt agree. Tigers' skipper Curtis Davies said afterwards that "they didn't give us a chance to breathe".
While being reduced to ten men didn't help Mike Phelan's side, they were already under siege even before the dismissal of Ahmed Elmohamady half an hour into the game. Liverpool were brilliant both with and without the ball, and the tempo they set was too much for Hull to deal with. Too often in these type of games Liverpool have failed to play at the intensity Klopp demands and as a result they've frequently found it difficult to break down packed defences.
Since the disappointment at Burnley, however, they've had no such problems. Burton Albion, Leicester City, Derby County, Hull and even Chelsea have all set out to play in a way that Liverpool usually find difficult to counter. All have been dealt with comfortably by the Merseysiders. That's an encouraging sign indeed, although for Kopites to truly be convinced this run of form will need to be extended to ten or twelve games rather than just five or six.
Nevertheless, Liverpool's form, especially at home, certainly appears to be much improved on recent seasons. The performances against Leicester and Hull were frighteningly good at times and a return of nine goals is the minimum Liverpool deserved from them. With sharper finishing and a little more luck they could easily have had a dozen or more.
There's an organised chaos to what Liverpool's players are doing with and without the ball. Players are flying around in twos and threes to close down men in possession and force them into mistakes, allowing the Reds to quickly win back possession, often high up the pitch in dangerous areas.
When Liverpool have the ball, there appears -- to the untrained eye at least -- to be very little tactical structure as players are often not where you expect them to be and seem to have license to do what they like. This was something else Davies touched upon, commenting "They play with (Jordan) Henderson and the two centre-halves at the back and the rest can go wherever they want. That is not an ill-disciplined thing, that is organised."
Klopp has packed his side with attacking players who are flexible and happy to move around and fill in for each other. Last Saturday, players popped up all over the place and left the Hull defenders confused and unsure who to pick up. Leicester had previously suffered the same fate and for a remarkable 20 minute spell after half time Arsenal were given the runaround as Liverpool put four past them on the opening weekend of the season. The goals are being spread around too, which makes Liverpool even tougher to deal with as it's not just a matter of shutting down one star player.
How Liverpool line up on pre-match TV graphics actually means very little when the game kicks off. Those are only starting positions and when Liverpool have the ball there are a lot of moving parts. Just ask Hull City.
Philippe Coutinho's starting position at the weekend was on the left of the front three but he spent much of the game dropping into midfield to collect the ball from his centre backs to start attacks from deep. Sadio Mané is the right winger but he was causing havoc right across the front line, and when he did, the likes of Roberto Firmino and Adam Lallana would go into the space he vacated out near the right touchline.
At the moment opponents are struggling to come up with solutions, but the big test for Liverpool will come when rival coaches have had more time to study what the Reds have been doing and come up with a plan to counter it. Rest assured Jose Mourinho will already be formulating a plan in his mind to spoil the game and disrupt Liverpool's rhythm when Manchester United visit Anfield in a couple of weeks.
The first half display against Hull set the standard for Liverpool's players for the rest of the season. That is the benchmark, and if they can reproduce that form on a regular basis they'll be difficult to stop.