A classic knee jerk in the making, Mohamed Salah owners were already fidgeting by half-time at Vicarage Road.
Fresh from four goals in pre-season, he had endured an inauspicious start to life back in the Premier League. A toe-poked skyward effort when through on goal, packaged up with several over miscues and errant first touches totalled a miserable first 45 minutes for Salah.
In contrast, Sadio Mane had sparkled and smartly converted Emre Can’s flick to peg back a plucky first half Watford showing.
Shifted to the left flank by Salah’s arrival, it looked as though Mane had adjusted to already demonstrate that he was back as the go-to guy among the opulence in Liverpool’s attack.
But things were to turn dramatically.
Just through sheer pace and endeavour, Salah first won a penalty via Heurelho Gomes’ clumsy telescopic arms and then sprinted to convert Roberto Firmino’s chipped effort from two yards out.
He ended on 11 points and was quickly installed as the top transfer target from those in action on the day.
He tallied five shots, all in the penalty area and eight touches in the box – more than any other midfielder in Gameweek 1 so far. Just as we expected, the statistics are Salah’s friend and will likely reinforce his case throughout the season.
Mane, who picked up a booking, was left trailing and, on today’s evidence, will clearly have his work cut out to justify his billing as the most expensive option in Jurgen Klopp’s armoury.
Owned by 23.5% to Salah’s 23.3%, that narrow gap is closing as Philippe Coutinho owners bail out, turning to the Egyptian as their replacement.
It is, of course, early days and it’s back at Anfield where Mane has previously been so potent.
Nine of his 13 goals arrived on Merseyside last season and he will have Crystal Palace in his sights for Gameweek 2.
Firmino also deserves our recognition. With Klopp relegating James Milner to his bench, the Brazilian was again on penalty duties and expertly converted following Salah’s tumble.
With the assist to follow, Firmino waltzed his way to the maximum bonus points, already benefiting from his new classification as a forward.
If Milner is to remain out of favour – presumably now discounted as a left-back – then Firmino will surely prosper.
Liverpool won eight penalties last season, with all but one converted by Milner. Firmino scored 11 goals regardless.
We have no reason to expect that Liverpool’s penalty count will regress. Indeed, with Salah adding his pace to Mane’s bursts, there’s every chance it will be maintained or even increased.
The conclusion is that Firmino’s stock is on the rise and that suddenly, Mane is in danger of slipping further down our Liverpool attack pecking order.