Liverpool made history with their seventh consecutive victory to open the new season, the first time in their 126 year history. After their dramatic midweek win against PSG, the Reds beat Southampton 3-0 at Anfield.
Right from the start, Liverpool jumped on Southampton and made their day a misery. The gulf in class was evident all over the pitch, even with some minor squad rotation. The Reds dominated the Saints completely and thoroughly, cruising to an easy victory.
The match was all but dusted by halftime. Xherdan Shaqiri made the most of his first start, working almost as a trequartista to unlock Southampton’s defense. He forced the opening own goal with a threatening low cross and assisted Mo Salah’s goal by rattling a free kick off the crossbar, resulting in an easy tap-in for the Egyptian.
By the second half, Liverpool was content to control the match. Southampton shut up shop and was only interested in limiting the damage. It was the best of all outcomes for Liverpool as they prepare for a crucial stretch of fixtures over the next fortnight. Back-to-back matches with Chelsea, followed by a trip to Napoli, and then Manchester City arrive at Anfield before the next international break.
It is a testing run of matches but Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool version 3.0 continues to answer all questions asked of them. After seven wins, Reds are still on the march and should be looking forward to the next tests.
Here are four findings from today’s match.
Rotation and Rhythm
Jurgen Klopp made three changes to the starting eleven on Saturday. Xherdan Shaqiri and Joel Matip received their first starts of the season with Jordan Henderson also getting the nod. Regardless the Reds did not miss a beat with the rotation, jumping on Southampton from the start.
Shaqiri stole the show in the first half, playing a role in two of the three goals before getting substituted at halftime. The Swiss attacker showed why he was brought to the club. His clever play, finding pockets of space all over the pitch, and devastating delivery caused Saints countless problems.
In his first start since March, Joel Matip notched his first goal in 10 months and looked good in his return. Henderson, on the other hand, needed time to grow into the game but managed well in the second half helming manage the match.
Liverpool is making it a habit of starting games with a strong surge that forces opponents onto the back foot. Against Southampton, Liverpool piled on the pressure early. Saints were barely able to play out of their half in the opening minutes, as the Reds suffocated the visiting side.
When Liverpool finds any rhythm and moves the ball with pace and precision, rival defenders are forced to make so many decisions they are bound to make mistakes. Sadio Mané’s clever through ball to Shaqiri allowed the playmaker to lash a dangerous cross in that resulted in an own goal.
Regardless, the goal was coming. Liverpool now manufacture misfortune for opposing sides. The number of players buzzing around the final third left Saints searching for shadows. The pressure also results in more set pieces, with Liverpool’s other goals coming from a corner and free kick.
The Reds continue to make Anfield an absolute fortress. This was the eight consecutive clean sheet at the home ground. Since Virgil van Dijk’s arrival, the growth of Liverpool’s defense has emerged from the days when clubs thought they could wait for a mistake to get something from a game to the dawning realization that there will be precious little but scraps.
The additions of Joe Gomez and Allison have only served to solidify a back five that is evolving into one of the best in the league. Gomez’s cameo appearance spelled van Dijk for precautionary reasons after being rested from starting. Meanwhile, Allison has elevated the unit to another level entirely.
Not only are teams struggling to score on Merseyside, the Reds are running riot on the attack. Liverpool have tallied 23 goals in the last eight home results, repeatedly swatting teams aside by a nearly 4-0 average. The swagger with which they strike is beginning to see sides looking beat before they even take to the pitch.
Much has been made of Mo Salah’s form of late. The scrutiny has been excessive. The Egyptian now has three goals and an assist in six league matches, despite belief that he has yet to completely hit his stride. If he is out of form, he is easily one of the best out of form performers in Europe.
If anything, Salah looks like he has been pushing a little too much. His work rate and effort have been excellent and he clearly has not been wholly satisfied with his own performances. Yet, he is nearly equal with his numbers at this stage last season but the difference is that Liverpool is undefeated this year. There are plenty of others getting in on the goals.
Also, what is easily forgotten is that the attacker has had goals taken away. Even against Saints, a narrow offside call chalked off a chance at a second goal on the day. As the side now begins to find its rhythm, Salah should be able to let the game come to him more and put all the mild concerns to rest.