Liverpool continued their rampant start to the 2018-2019 season with a one-sided 3-0 victory over Southampton on Saturday. It was a dominant all-around showing for a team that is starting to realize its title potential with each game played. You could have called this a trap game because after an impressive win against a world-class Paris Saint-German side and a huge clash next weekend against Chelsea, Southampton at home could have easily been overlooked by the Reds.
In the past, they probably would have come out and laid an egg, which was their biggest flaw (arguably). But with each game, Liverpool keeps showing us that this is a different side from those in the past; one that understands that every game has value.
Jurgen Klopp made two changes to a team that was on three days of rest. He removed the third midfielder in favor of bringing on Swiss attacker Xherdan Shaqiri and replaced center back Joe Gomez with Joel Matip, who made his first start of the season. And with the alterations, Klopp switched up the formation to a 4-2-3-1 and moved right winger Mohamed Salah into the lone striker role, shifting Roberto Firmino to the left and Sadio Mane to the right while Shaqiri took up the central part of the pitch.
The newcomer was given was given positional freedom to roam anywhere on the pitch, and the moved paid off dividends. Shaqiri was a crucial part of Liverpool’s first and third goals. For the team’s opener, he took a lovely pass from Sadio Mane in space, cut back, drove in and took the shot into the box, which deflected off two defenders and resulted in an own goal. And for the team’s last one, he took a long free kick right before the half which he nearly netted, instead, hitting the bottom of the top crossbar and bounced into the ground and resulted in a tap-in for Mo Salah. It was an unlucky break for a guy who deserved it. But his contributions did not go unnoticed, as he earned Liverpool’s Man of the Match, and did so by playing only in the first half.
WHAT a performance from this guy. 👊
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) September 22, 2018
Gini Wijnaldum had another strong showing in the midfield, covering for the defense and linking the back with the front well. He has been consistently good to begin the season. He and midfield partner Jordan Henderson saw a lot of the ball today and were smart with it. They helped control the match and did not take needless risks, which helped the Reds possess a dominating 61% of the ball. And Mo Salah ended a mini three-game scoring drought, although he has yet to look like the guy from last season. But he showed flashes of progress, which is all you can ask for at this point.
The defense was strong and consistent again, with Virgil Van Dijk once again bossing at the back and never looking bothered against his former club. The two backs did not have much trouble, and Matip was a seamless transition into the team, even scoring with a beautiful header to double his team’s lead.
Liverpool has now won their first seven games to open the season, which is the first time in their 126-year history, and their first six Premier League matches, making them only the fifth Premier League team to take the maximum opening 18 points. The way to win the Premier League isn’t by handling your business against the league’s elites (it certainly helps), but by collecting your points against the lesser teams. Liverpool has always fared well when dealing with the Manchester clubs, Arsenals, and Chelseas of the world, but struggled with consistency when playing the easier games.
So the fact that they were able to dominate this game is what adds an extra level of impressiveness to the result. Liverpool came out firing and hungry and never looking satisfied. They had their foot on the pedal the whole time and did not struggle to put the game away in the second half. They did what you had to, by controlling possession and the tempo of the game, and not letting Southampton have much of a glimmer of hope. It’s a different element to Klopp’s Reds that we have not seen in the past too much.
The only negative from the game is that Van Dijk had to come off early because of an injury. But luckily it did not come out to anything serious, as Klopp said during his post-game press conference:
“He already had a bruise in the ribs before the PSG game, which is very uncomfortable and today he got another hit there.
“It’s not cool but should not be too serious.
“It should be absolutely OK, hopefully. I didn’t hear anything different.”
The Anfield side now sits atop the league by two points over Manchester City and three points over Chelsea after play on Saturday, with Chelsea playing on Sunday. But the Blues have a two-goal deficit in goal difference to overcome. And if they can win on Sunday, it would make next Saturday’s mouth-watering clash one where perfect records would be on the line.
Featured Image via Flick/cchana