Ahead of their weekend game, Liverpool were expected to struggle having played an emotional and energy sapping game in mid-week against PSG. Although Liverpool dominated the game in its entirety, they made it hard for themselves in order to get full points from that game.
Here though, Liverpool started on the front foot and more or less settled the game in the first half itself. An early own goal helped their cause and it gave the new recruit Xerdan Shaqiri to settle in and cause havoc for the Saints defence.
That said, Mark Hughes will ask questions of his Southampton defence as they were found wanting on each of the occasions they conceded. All in all, it was game of positives for Liverpool as they calmly won their sixth consecutive game in a row in the Premier League and seven in a row across all competitions.
#1 Hit: Wijnaldum’s tireless efforts and selfless running
As a squad, Liverpool seems more complete this season. The arrivals of Keita and Fabinho have given a sense of comfort to the existing central midfielders. And one of the primary beneficiaries of the arrivals has been the surging rise of Wijnaldum.
Plucked from Newcastle United a couple of summers ago, the Dutch international has been at the heart of Liverpool’s plans since Klopp’s arrivals.
The Dutchman is effective in a multiple of roles and over the course of the game oscillates at times between box to box midfielder to a deep-lying midfielder.
His interchanging of positions with Henderson and earlier on the season with Keita has helped this team maintain the momentum in midfield. That said, the arrivals of other signings has freed the Dutchman in a manner that he doesn’t hold back anymore and one can see the likes of Milner alongside him giving their all throughout the entirety of the game. An example of that was the late tackle against PSG by Milner, which led to the winning goal by Firminho.
#2 Flop: Van Dijk injury scare and Shane Long’s ineffectiveness: A double whammy
The former Saints defender was in his element as he rose to the occasion once again. Partnering the returning Joel Matip, the Dutch was quick off his line and did well to quell the half chances that fell Southampton’s way in the first half. One moment especially comes to mind when Southampton found the space past Robertson to put in a cross only for Van Dijk to clear at the near post.
It was only out of precaution that Klopp chose to take off the Dutchman as he took a blow to his midriff. With the game wrapped up and, Klopp didn’t see any harm in taking the defender off and by the end, the Dutchman was back on the bench having been escorted from the field by the physio earlier in the game.
However, in the absence of Danny Ings, Hughes must have expected Shane Long to lead the line more effectively. Instead, Long struggled to get a foothold into the game, he was not helped by a midfield which did little to support him with the exception of Nathan Redmond. But it was only for a limited period that Redmond found his groove, thereafter disappearing over the course of the game.
#3 Hit: Shaqiri dazzles on his first start
The Swiss man has had to be patient for his first start and from the moment go, he was up for it. Shaqiri skipped past his opponents and it was his cross that led to the opening goal as his cross ricocheted off two Saints defenders before going past the hapless Southampton keeper. The Alpine Messi was at his magical best as he marked the game with some direct running and nifty movement throughout.
And that was not the only bit, as he mercilessly harrowed the Southampton defence. Chasing down balls and smart positioning helped him be a menace alongside the trio of Salah, Mane and Firminho. The midfielder finished the game with two assists, the second one coming after a well-struck free-kick bounced off the bar only for the onrushing Salah to tap in.
The strike was one of beauty as it had the keeper beaten hands down as it bounced on the line. On an evening of note, the Swiss did his reputation no harm as he looks to challenge Klopp’s first team.
#4 Flop: Southampton defence
Southampton was woeful in defence from the start and the early goal didn’t help matters. Having conceded a late goal against Brighton on Monday night, Hughes would have expected his side to defend better but that was not to be.
A comical own goal gave Liverpool the early lead and from thereon, the Saints were always on the back foot. They didn’t help matters when they let Matip go for a walk in their penalty box as Matip rose unchallenged to plant his header past the Southampton keeper.
Thereafter, it was always going to be a game of catch up as they tried to limit the front three rather than making their own chances.
The fact that Liverpool was so organized in addition to the early goal meant that Liverpool never had to chase the game and it was reflected in the statistics as well. Liverpool dominated possession with 61 percent throughout the game and was hardly troubled in goal themselves.
#5 Hit: Salah’s smile back at Anfield
Of the most enduring images from last season was that of the Egyptian walking off despondently in the UEFA Champions League final, when he was heckled to the ground by Sergio Ramos, thus ending his involvement in what was arguably the game of the season for Salah.
And in the aftermath, it seems that the Egyptian is still recovering from that scar. Despite having found the net, the Egyptian hasn’t hit top gear this season.
But on Saturday afternoon, the Egyptian was back to his best as he constantly slinked away from the Southampton defence to time and again find space to cause havoc.
Although a late goal was disallowed which would have doubled his goals tally, it was the overall impact that was more impressive for Klopp.