Red-hot Liverpool seal seventh straight win with stroll past Southampton

Liverpool 3-0 Southampton: This was a routine victory, one where Xherdan Shaqiri’s first start lasted only 45 minutes but that was enough time for him to make a decisive contribution

Simon Hughes
Saturday 22 September 2018 16:48
Liverpool 2018/19 Premier League profile

Imagine the possibilities when Liverpool perform at their very best. They have arrived at a point where opponents – certainly this one, at least – turn up at Anfield with game plans which mean players are asked to run tasks that do not come naturally. When the visiting team summoned the courage to feed their wingers here, some Liverpool vulnerabilities were visible but otherwise Southampton were so submissive, almost accepting of their role. It did not seem unfair that the contest was over by half time.

Liverpool were able to cruise towards breaking new ground. It depends whether you consider the Community Shield as a serious matter when assessing their start to this season against history. If you do, then it is the first time Liverpool have won all of their opening seven games because in 1990 they won ten across all competitions but only after drawing at Wembley with Manchester United.

This was a routine victory, one where Xherdan Shaqiri’s first start lasted only 45 minutes but that was enough time for him to make a decisive contribution. While his shot cannoned off two Southampton players before dribbling across the line for Liverpool’s opener, a free-kick from nearly 30 yards was spectacular and deserving of a goal, though Mohamed Salah ensured it went in.

The result means for Saturday night, Liverpool are top in their own right for the first time since November 2016. If Manchester City were not a concern, it would be fair to assess even at this early stage that there is a decent chance they will be there next May too.

Jürgen Klopp says that one of the things he enjoys most about management is searching for solutions to problems when they arise. A rib injury to Virgil van Dijk might prove to be one of those shortish-term issues. Only time will tell whether he has solved the greatest problem of them all and that is the one relating to balance because no Liverpool manager before him has been able to create a team where the courage to go and win hasn’t been compromised by concerns about the implication of defeat.

When Liverpool were really good, when winning league championships seemed about as natural as breathing or sex, the title of one fanzine reflected an irritation which in turn sort of emphasised their greatness. Another Wasted Corner referred to Liverpool’s inability to score from opportunities that were plentiful considering the number of times in a game opposition defenders were sent facing their own goal due to the pressure they were under.

Xherdan Shaqiri and Sadio Mane celebrate Liverpool's opener

The feeling has never really gone away. Considering Liverpool’s opening two goals originated from corner kicks, maybe this is another one of those solutions Klopp has found, giving them an edge.

Shaqiri had sent in a corner which Southampton had to clear. The ball would arrive back with him via a cute Sadio Mané pass. Moments later, Shaqiri was trying to blag that he’d scored but even the most bias Liverpool supporter would struggle to agree with him considering Shane Long and Wesley Hoedt’s subsequent involvement.

Mark Hughes had set his team up to defend but Southampton were not very good at defending. Long was the furthest player forward but you could not say he was really playing as a striker because he was actually quite deep. Matt Targett, usually a left back, was playing left midfield and maybe the aim here had been to stop Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold rampaging up Liverpool’s right but Salah started centrally anyway.

Liverpool made easy work of Southampton

Instead, Alexander-Arnold’s threat came from another one of those corners and after 20 minutes Liverpool were already 2-0 ahead after Joël Matip headed one in. It became three right on half time and despite Shaqiri’s best efforts to claim a second goal of the afternoon he remained without even one because his free-kick had not crossed the line when Salah made sure it had.

The margin warranted a second half stroll. Liverpool's next shot did not arrive until the 84th minute and so amidst a challenging run of fixtures, they were more or less afforded a rest. With two games against Chelsea, a trip to Naples and City at Anfield in a fortnight, it had been a perfect afternoon for Liverpool.

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