Brendan Rodgers has had a knack of making good decisions this season, often by stealth. One of his more recent, light-touch tactical manoeuvres was spotlit six minutes into the defeat of Manchester City.
Liverpool's opening goal at Anfield was a fine piece of execution and interplay all round, from the wiggle of Luis Suárez's hips that left Gaël Clichy in a heap, to the turn and timing of Suárez's pass to put Raheem Sterling in on goal. After which: the outstanding single moment of Sunday's game.
The body swerve with which Sterling shifted Joe Hart and Vincent Kompany out of the way before slipping the ball in to the near corner was a mischievous delight, both City players stepping exactly the wrong way at exactly the same time, as tightly choreographed as a moment of vintage Laurel and Hardy. It was a bit like getting a professional second opinion. Look: not one, but two disorientated international footballers.
If this seems an obvious moment to pick out from Sterling's relentlessly fine all-round display then football often is a business of obvious game-changing moments. To see a 19-year-old Englishman not just playing at No10, his team's central attacking presence, but making such a hilariously cool-headed early intervention on a genuinely high-pressure occasion was a rare and heartening thing. Plus, it was of course another moment of tinker-friendly vindication for Rodgers, who has increasingly used Sterling not as a winger, but as a high-energy No10 during Liverpool's winning 10-match run.
Whether by design or happy accident – and Rodgers is so relentlessly exploratory with his front four the two are indistinguishable – it is a role that has highlighted Sterling's best qualities. He has an instant soft-touch feel for a pass, as shown most spectacularly by the pass of the season contender against Swansea last month, a snaking, outside-of-the-foot through ball played 'blind' behind two defenders to put Daniel Sturridge in on goal.
Sterling brings other qualities too, most notably his sheer scuttling relentlessness. It is a distinctly modern take on the role, not so much the strolling, gossamer charms of an Alessandro Del Piero-style No10 – and in fairness Sterling will never quite have that level of inventive artistry – but a high-energy probing presence, always moving, always playing with his head up, with an ability to beat his man on both sides, to pass or shoot with both feet, and the same easy gliding acceleration from first minute to last.
Frankly, he must be a minor nightmare to play against in such confident form, a player who, like Liverpool's attack right now, just keeps on coming.
Against City, Sterling's touches over 90 minutes showed his mobility, popping up across the entire central swathe from wing to wing, but focused mainly on finding space in the channel between defence and attack. In the first half particularly he picked the ball up here on the half turn to run at defenders – one saunter left and right past Javi García on the break will linger in the memory – or feed his strikers.
It has been a process of fast-paced adaptation for Sterling, who last season still looked understandably callow. A turning point came with the 5-1 defeat of Norwich at Anfield in December last year. Sterling scored his first Premier League goal since January, made another for Suárez (who scored four in the game) and seemed to find something in himself in the course of repeatedly slaloming through and past a traumatised Norwich defence.
In eight previous Premier League matches Sterling had one unsuccessful shot at goal and no assists. In the 21 games since, he has scored seven times, created 33 chances, had 29 shots and more importantly blossomed on occasion as an assertive, high-pressure, beautifully controlled central second striker.
There will no doubt be the usual concerns that simply noticing Sterling's improvement in the scuttling-trequartista role is likely to bring about the build-em-up-to-knock-em-down dynamic that tends to attach itself to young English talent. In this case, though, it is as much about celebrating the rarity of Sterling's excellence in his current role.
The No10 may be a staple from schoolboy levels in other countries. But English football does not often produce this kind of player, just as it is almost unheard of for teenagers to be given such creative responsibility in a title-chasing team.
Just as notable again is the spectacle of dramatic, tangible improvement in a player in his late teens. Sterling was a genuine prodigy at Queens Park Rangers and then, from 14, in Liverpool's youth teams. Homesick and small for his age, but blessed with barrel-chested physical strength and emotional maturity – plus, for the record, just the one child to date – he has still blossomed where so many others stutter, continuing to learn and improve beyond the potentially ruinous early stardom of a Premier League and England debut aged just 18.
Right now he looks, as he always does in possession, intriguingly poised, a player with obvious gifts of speed and lateral movement, who has been given the chance to show his precocious footballing intelligence in a position that has been something close to a blank page in English football's recent history.
Head up, always moving, hungry for the ball, Sterling has above all been bold, a precocious managerial hunch of a No10, for whom those last four 'cup finals' will provide a fascinating test of creative nerve.