Liverpool strolled to a 3-0 victory against Southampton, scoring three first-half goals and never looking like conceding on their way to an historic seventh win.
Liverpool 3-0 Southampton
Premier League, Anfield
September 22, 2018
Goals: Hoedt OG 10′, Matip 21′, Salah 45+3′
Xherdan Shaqiri started his first game for Liverpool, coming into the side for James Milner, and operating in an advanced midfield position.
It’s a role which Alex Oxlade-Chmberlain had begun to make his own before picking up an injury towards the end of last season, and Liverpool have had no one to fill it in quite the same way since.
Shaqiri could be that man. He has the pace and dribbling skill of a winger, but also the technique and vision of a midfielder.
It was his shot which led to the comedy of errors in the Saints’ back line for the opening goal, and he always looked to drive at the defence from midfield and make things happen.
On top of this he was on set-piece duty, and his free-kick in first-half injury time led to the third goal, after it hit the crossbar before being tapped in by the ever-alert Mohamed Salah.
It was an excellent strike of a dead ball, but he looked just as happy to see Salah score as he would have been to do so himself.
Shaqiri was substituted at half-time, being replaced by Milner, and hopefully it was a case of job done and get ready for Chelsea on Wednesday, rather than an injury.
Matip Steps Up
Like Shaqiri, Joel Matip was starting for the first time in 2018/19 campaign.
He was a surprise inclusion given the performances of Joe Gomez alongside Virgil van Dijk so far this season, but the tall centre-back made an immediate impact.
He rose above Jannik Vestergaard—the tallest outfield player in the Premier League, no less—to head Liverpool’s second from Trent Alexander-Arnold‘s corner.
As well as getting his name on the scoresheet, Matip played some good passes forward.
One such ball almost put Salah through behind the Southampton defence, and would have given him an assist to go with his goal had the Egyptian been able to control it.
He made more passes than any other Liverpool player (112), with 85.7 percent accuracy.
This game was an example of how much a threat Liverpool are from different types of attacking play.
Corners, set-pieces, counter-attacks and the little bit of luck, which has been a rarity for Premier League Liverpool, were all on show here.
That the side have more than one trick up their sleeve is a nightmare for oppositions.
Add to this things like penalties, counter-pressing and the throw-ins they have been working on with Thomas Gronnemark, and they can score from almost any situation.
The most successful teams often have a trademark method of scoring goals. For Liverpool it used to be counter-attacks and counter-pressing, but now it’s everything.
You would still like to see a few more come from flowing moves after long periods of possession, but three goals scored without really getting out of first gear isn’t a bad return.
What Salah Did
Salah started the game up front with Sadio Mane to his right, Roberto Firmino to his left and Shaqiri buzzing around behind him.
Jurgen Klopp may have taken the decision to play him up front in an attempt to restore some of the confidence which has been lacking in front of goal in recent weeks, despite having still managed two in the league.
The Egyptian had a number of opportunities, with two of his best being denied by last-ditch tackles from Cedric Soares and Oriol Romeu.
Regardless of his form in front of goal, he fits the system perfectly, and was always involved in the defensive work, often winning the ball back himself to start attacks.
A sign that his confidence hasn’t really gone away was evident when he attempted to score with a backheel when Saints goalkeeper Alex McCarthy came off his line to challenge him. The ball trickled just wide of the far post.
But his goal eventually came, from a free-kick which he himself had won. Shaqiri hit the bar and he was on hand to tap home.
The goal drought, of just three games, was over.
Plenty in Reserve for Chelsea
Anfield hosts its third game in a week on Wednesday, and there are already a few minor casualties in the Liverpool squad as the schedule becomes even more intense.
Shaqiri and Van Dijk both left the field with injuries against Southampton, but their replacements were two of Liveprool’s best players this season in the shape of Milner and Joe Gomez.
The club have plenty in reserve this season and they look like they could cope with a minor injury crisis, even if not a major one.
Naby Keita has been on the bench for recent games, despite a good start to his Liverpool career, while another new signing, Fabinho, has only appeared for a few minutes of competitive action.
Daniel Sturridge looks ready to contribute whenever called upon, and then there are fringe players who are yet to make an appearance in matchday squads, but will be eager to impress.