Liverpool 4-0 Southampton: 3 talking points as the Reds extend their lead at the top | Premier League 2019-20
Liverpool took another step towards their first ever Premier League title today with a thumping 4-0 win over Southampton at Anfield.Goals from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jordan Henderson and a brace from Mohamed Salah were enough for Jurgen Klopp’s men to overcome the challenge of a gutsy Saints side, who pushed the Reds hard in the first half before collapsing under the pressure in the second.
The win puts Liverpool a massive 22 points ahead of second-placed Manchester City, and even though Pep Guardiola’s side have a game in hand, right now it doesn’t feel as if that matters. Klopp’s men look unstoppable and only the greatest collapse in Premier League history will prevent them from reaching their goal.
Here are 3 talking points from today’s game.
#1 Is Jordan Henderson now Liverpool’s most important player?
Despite captaining Liverpool to a Champions League victory in 2018-19, Jordan Henderson has often come under criticism from fans and pundits, most of whom ask exactly what he does in the centre of Liverpool’s midfield. Henderson isn’t the most creative player, isn’t the best passer of the ball, doesn’t throw in the most tackles and often, it seems his best attribute involves a lot of pointing and shouting.
However, right now, it’d be hard to claim that he isn’t the Reds’ most important player. Over the past few months he’s simply grown in stature, driving Liverpool on with his insane levels of energy, and while he still doesn’t score all that highly in terms of stats – the only area he finished at the top in today, for instance, was in interceptions – his transformation under Klopp into a more attacking midfielder has been striking.
Today was a typical Henderson performance; he seemingly never stopped running, didn’t buckle under the pressure that Southampton put his team under in the first half, and in the second it was his goal – a wonderful finish from a Roberto Firmino pass – that put Liverpool into an unassailable lead. His assist for Mohamed Salah just 10 minutes later was the icing on a Man of the Match-level performance.
Essentially, Liverpool’s squad depth – particularly with the signing of Takumi Minamino – means that Klopp’s side could probably handle a couple of injuries and still be fine, but if they were to lose Henderson now, they’d lose more than a solid midfielder; they’d lose their heartbeat. Finally, he’s become the successor to Steven Gerrard’s throne.
#2 How far can the Saints climb under Hasenhuttl?
Today’s result almost felt unfair on Southampton; the Saints were well beaten by Liverpool in the second half, but in all honesty they got the better of the game in the first half and arguably pushed the Reds as hard as they’ve been pushed by anyone else during this season thanks to a hard pressing game. They even ended up having more shots on goal than their opponents.
Essentially, had Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men been able to convert any of the solid chances they had in the first half – Shane Long and Moussa Djenepo were both guilty of some big misses – who knows how this game would’ve ended up? Liverpool almost certainly wouldn’t have won as convincingly even if they’d have come back strongly in the second half.
The loss was Southampton’s first in an away fixture since the first week of December, and while they’re miles away from the upper echelon of the Premier League right now, they’re also miles away from the relegation zone – something that looked unlikely after they were thumped 0-9 by Leicester City back in October.
It now appears that the decision to keep faith in Hasenhuttl after that horrible Leicester loss was the correct one, and based on today’s game – the first half in particular – the Saints have enough in their arsenal to trouble any other side in the league, especially if they can find their scoring boots again.
#3 How do you stop Liverpool?
The first half of today’s game saw Southampton play arguably as well as any other Premier League side has against Liverpool this season, and yet while they pressed and harried hard and created plenty of chances, they couldn’t score – and ended up being swept away in the second period, losing by a convincing scoreline.
The whole thing begs a simple question: how can anyone stop Liverpool? It seems clear that they’re going to be crowned Premier League champions – the only question is when – but can they really go the whole season unbeaten? Based on today, it’s quite possible.
Southampton’s pressing game could be copied by another Premier League side, but as the Saints found out, it’s near impossible to keep it up across 90 minutes, and even if you do, Jurgen Klopp’s side are dangerous enough going forward to break through any defence.
And attacking the Reds is equally dangerous – both of Salah’s goals today came on the break, and in the form of Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Alisson Becker, they have one of the most difficult defences in the league to get past.
Of course, everyone claimed Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona were unbeatable about a decade ago, and that turned out to be untrue, but right now, it’s up to the rest of the Premier League – and European football as a whole – to work out how to stop the Reds. And after today, the likelihood of that happening during the current season feels even slimmer.Published 01 Feb 2020, 23:13 IST