Gauging Liverpool's progress under Brendan Rodgers is an inexact science but there was substance to their haul against Norwich City. It took until the final home game of last season, against a Chelsea team seemingly immersed in FA Cup celebrations, for Liverpool to record six league wins at Anfield. They reached the half-dozen on Saturday with an authority that reinforced their erratic nature under Kenny Dalglish's successor.
There are, however, signs that Rodgers is getting it right and their captain, Steven Gerrard, thinks so. "He's certainly got the backing of the owners," he told Goals on Sunday on Sky Sports. "I think the appointment, giving him the job after Kenny, was a sign that he's going to be here for a while. I think he'll be given time to put his philosophy out there.
"It's not going to happen overnight, it is going to take time and we've been a little bit inconsistent this season. But I think the majority of the games we've shown to the supporters and to the neutrals out there that we're playing the right way. Given time, and a little bit more backing – maybe a few more players – I think it will work really well under him. I'm really happy with his appointment and how it's going so far."
Aston Villa apart, Liverpool have often contemptuously dismissed teams in the bottom half of the Premier League this term and once Jordan Henderson awoke a frozen Anfield with an opening goal as impressive as his overall performance Norwich were to be no exception. Victory over a team in the top 10 remains elusive for Liverpool but before trips to Arsenal and Manchester City the morale-sapping defeat at Manchester United was erased in emphatic style.
Henderson began the rout with an unstoppable finish past Mark Bunn. Norwich's tormentor-in-chief, Luis Suárez, scored his seventh goal in three games against them following an exquisite dummy from his new partner Daniel Sturridge, who then, with a tap-in from Stewart Downing's cross, became the first Liverpool player since Ray Kennedy in 1974 to score in his first three appearances for the club.
Gerrard marked a commanding performance from central midfield – "he used every club in his bag today," remarked Rodgers – with a trademark finish from almost 30 yards before Ryan Bennett diverted the fifth and final Liverpool goal into his own net from Raheem Sterling's shot.
It was the combination of Suárez and Sturridge that offered Liverpool hope. Their understanding vindicated Rodgers' belief that Suárez's influence would not wane as a result of Sturridge occupying the central striking role. "He's a fighter," said Gerrard of Suárez. "He doesn't give up, every ball, no matter what the scoreline, he doesn't give up and that's what you want in your team."
The big worry for Liverpool now, as the captain admitted, is whether the Uruguayan is minded to stay, just as the team settles into a system. "I know he's recently signed a long-term contract and I know he's comfortable and he's happy here," said Gerrard. "But I think that's a question for Luis to answer. Only he knows what his ambitions and dreams are.
"I think he's gone on record recently and said that he's really happy and comfortable here, and hopefully we can put a fight on from now until the end of the season to finish fourth, and we make the decision for him. But Luis Suárez deserves to be in the Champions League and I think everyone has to admit that."
While Rodgers and Liverpool savoured the impact of a new £12m signing and Sturridge's promising partnership, the Norwich performance was a cause of understandable concern for the Norwich manager, Chris Hughton. His team have now gone six league games without a win and, with a limited attacking threat at Anfield, they lacked the quality to react to falling one goal behind. The motivation behind their attempts to sign Gary Hooper from Celtic or Danny Graham from Swansea City was evident.
"It's something that we want to do but I don't think people understand how difficult it is," the Norwich manager said. "I see QPR spending big money and bringing in Rémy and that's where they are. That's what they're able to do. There are a group of clubs that are able to do that. We have to do things our way."
Hughton added: "It's about trying to bring the right player in. A player that's going to benefit what we are about and that's going to add to our squad. And we'll keep going right the way through but it's never that easy."
Man of the match Luis Suárez (Liverpool)