Liverpool had a perfect record and had just beaten a PSG team after an emotionally and physically draining 90 minutes. Game against Southampton looked to be the ultimate trap game especially for a Liverpool team known for their mediocre results coming off of Champions League games. With all this in mind, even though on paper this was an easy match-up against a Southampton team missing their best offensive weapon in Ings, it made me nervous…partially because worrying is what I do, partially due to recent history.
Liverpool’s easy and at times boring win is exactly why Liverpool can win the title this year. The starting lineup for the game spoke volumes about our intent in this game. Attack early and fast to get the goals we needed. A partially lucky own goal and a Matip header from a corner would have been enough to see us through but the icing on the cake came via Salah, slamming the ball into the net after a beautifully taken free kick by Shaqiri. It was a dream first half for Liverpool, 3 goals that all but wrapped up the game, getting a goal under the belt of their frustrated star Salah and great performances that directly affected the result by players like Matip and Shaqiri.
Second half saw Liverpool aiming to maintain the calm and see the game through. Not happy with our defensive shape at times, Klopp took no risk by bringing in Milner to shore up the midfield with the same three that dominated PSG midfield earlier in the week. Southampton had no chance and finally remembered to keep Alisson awake with their first shot on goal in the 91st minute. As concerning as the injury to VVD was, it was equally pleasing to see Gomez come in and dominate defensively.
It was not the most exciting soccer to watch at times as both coaches on the sideline wanted faster movement overall, but the Reds were content with keeping control of the game by keeping possession while Southampton players were only doing damage control to avoid a humiliating loss. Would have liked to see Liverpool attack more and get more goals in but we seemed a bit off with our final passes and finishing. Perhaps it is better to save them for the games ahead.
- With time, Shaqiri will be able to fill in where Ox left off. His ability to go at defenders with pace creates space throughout the defensive line as they scramble to keep in front of them. He did turn the ball over needlessly at times and left Henderson and the back four under duress but as I stated when they first signed him, Liverpool made an excellent value signing by bringing him in.
- Matip did well overall but showed once again that our ideal lineup is Gomez and VVD. I think it shows quality depth in our squad though that we are able to bring Lovren and Matip off the bench… who were our starters in this position only a year ago.
- The goal can only help Salah. When his clever backheel rolled by the wrong side of the post, you could see the look on his face and his overall emotion of disbelief that nothing was going his way. He continues to work hard and a few more goals will bring back the Salah of old. Defenses are still terrified of his pace and agility which creates a ton of space for the others
- Front three is still a touch off here, a split second late there but it feels like it is getting closer. My hope is for them to start bearing fruit in the big games against Chelsea, Napoli, and Manchester City ahead
- Another clean sheet at Anfield. It is almost being taken for granted now but even when we allow possession to our opponents, we are definitely limiting their goal opportunities. Alisson was a spectator for most of the game and was great to watch the defense maintain control throughout.
Up next is Chelsea in our cup match-up. I want us to win any and every trophy out there but I think this is one we try to win with our depth by giving our squad players the playing time. I expect Chelsea to do the same resting players like Hazard, Kante, and Willian. I think Fabinho gets his first start along Shaqiri, Keita, Clyne, Mignolet to name a few. Still a very impressive lineup but cohesion will be a problem for both sides as I expect both teams to keep their best to the weekend league matchup. For Liverpool, momentum and confidence is on their side and the Reds definitely have more firepower off their bench compared to Chelsea. Time to get the 4th win out of this seven.