Football: Liverpool captain Henderson praises Coutinho, Firmino and Mane

Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho (front) celebrates his goal with Roberto Firmino (left) and Sadio Mane during the Reds' 2-1 win against West Bromwich Albion. Mane also scored in the same Premier League game last month. The three forwards have accounted
Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho (front) celebrates his goal with Roberto Firmino (left) and Sadio Mane during the Reds' 2-1 win against West Bromwich Albion. Mane also scored in the same Premier League game last month. The three forwards have accounted for 16 of Liverpool's 30 league goals this season.PHOTO: REUTERS

Liverpool skipper Henderson hails work rate of forwards Coutinho, Firmino and Mane

LONDON • Jordan Henderson has described the Liverpool forward line of Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane as "world class" and insisted their work rate is responsible for the team's rise so far this season.

Liverpool took top spot in the English Premier League for the first time since May 2014 with a 6-1 destruction of Watford on Sunday, when their front three again impressed and scored.

Mane scored twice to take his total for the season to six league goals. Firmino made it five goals and three assists in his past seven Premier League appearances and Coutinho three goals and five assists in the same period.

Henderson highlighted the trio's tirelessness as the key to Liverpool's rapid development under manager Jurgen Klopp.

The Liverpool captain said: "They are world-class players. Their understanding of the game is superb, not only going forward, but also the work rate they all give for the team in terms of pressing and winning the ball back high up the pitch.

"They all help the team defensively. The three of them are fantastic at that and going forward they are unstoppable when they are on it.

  • RED-HOT REDS

    PHILIPPE COUTINHO

    League games: 11

    Goals: 5

    Assists: 5

    Shot accuracy: 37%

    ROBERTO FIRMINO

    League games: 10

    Goals: 5

    Assists: 3

    Shot accuracy: 48%

    SADIO MANE

    League games: 10

    Goals: 6

    Assists: 2

    Shot accuracy: 42%

"I see them every day and, for me, they are world-class players. It's our job to ensure we offer protection for them when they are going forward and expressing themselves. It's a pleasure to be playing with them."

Henderson was part of the last Liverpool team to reach the Premier League summit when Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez formed a formidable attack for Brendan Rodgers' side. But the midfielder is reluctant to draw comparisons with Klopp's potential challengers.

"They are all fantastic players, every single one of them is top class," he said. "I don't really like comparing this team to a couple of seasons ago.

"I prefer to concentrate on this team and what we're good at and what we're doing. That's the most important thing. The team of 2013-14 is in the past."

Liverpool are close to finalising contract extensions with midfielder Kevin Stewart plus two of their brightest academy prospects, Trent Alexander-Arnold, 18, and Ben Woodburn, 17.

Stewart, 23, is part of Klopp's first-team squad and has been offered a new five-year contract.

Alexander-Arnold, who made his full debut in the recent League Cup win over Tottenham Hotspur, is also expected to commit himself to Anfield until 2021.

The promising Welsh midfielder Woodburn has been offered a three-year contract.

The club's sporting director, Michael Edwards, has led the contract negotiations, in keeping with his new role, with Klopp keen to secure the trio's services for the long term.

The German's willingness to utilise academy prospects continued on Sunday when Ovie Ejaria, 18, made his Premier League debut as a late substitute.

Ejaria is already under contract at Liverpool until 2020, having signed a new deal at the end of last season.

The Reds travel to St Mary's Stadium to face 10th-placed Southampton next Saturday, when the league resumes after the international break.

THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 09, 2016, with the headline ''Top trio leading from the front''. Print Edition | Subscribe