Southampton 1-2 Liverpool
Premier League, St Mary’s
August 17, 2019
Goals: Ings 82′; Mane 45+1′, Firmino 70′
Uncertainty and Levels
Not for the first time this season, there wasn’t much to admire about Liverpool’s defensive work in the first 45 minutes.
Bad passing out of the back line, miscommunications on holding the line, individual errors and very little protection or movement ahead of them—there were concerns and close calls at every turn, it seemed.
Adrian made one great save from close range but turned over possession in bad areas twice, Joel Matip got caught behind with runners and Trent Alexander-Arnold was out of position more than once, notably bailed out by a covering Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
It was much better in the second half as we dominated possession, but of course the worst was yet to come.
Adrian, opting to pass in through the centre instead of easily wide to Trent, only succeeded in clearing against Danny Ings—with the ball bouncing straight into the net and ensuring a much closer last 10 minutes than was necessary.
A big mistake and an entirely avoidable one, but Alisson did similar last season against Leicester.
He got away with it in terms of the final result—and so did Adrian here.
Early Season, Familiar Grind
The first-half performance by Liverpool was, let’s be honest, largely shambolic.
And it would be remiss to suggest that was simply due to defensive uncertainty: the midfield was disjointed again, not at all impressive in possession, and chances created of a reasonable quality were almost non-existent.
Sadio Mane rendered all of that irrelevant in terms of the half-time scoreline with his wonderful solo intervention, but it was still a shoddy 45 minutes.
Nothing new there: this season’s early matches have followed a pattern, with one good half in the game and one rather less impressive, less controlled, less on top.
Last term it was similar, too; aside from the opening day we had to grind out several narrow victories without being anywhere near our best, and with the forwards not yet being at full capacity.
Points on the board, that’s what matters most. That’s what we got.
Squad Starting to Be on Show
After a few similar and familiar lineups, there was a little more versatility in Jurgen Klopp‘s choices and a little more involvement for some fringe players.
Of course, Adrian counts towards that—though it was out of necessity rather than choice.
Most pleasing from an involvement aspect was Oxlade-Chamberlain starting a second successive game for the first time since his injury and he completed 88 minutes in midfield, only being subbed late on to see out the victory with fresh legs.
He was better in his all-round influence, too, and it bodes well for Klopp’s options to alter the centre of the park.
Even up front with the first-choice trio restored, the available depth was evident with bringing on Divock Origi for the least-involved forward in the game, Salah.
One or two getting back to fitness with a clear week ahead and we’ll suddenly have plenty of options once more…for a game or two, at least.
Sadio Outta Nowhere
It would take a brave fan to suggest Salah wouldn’t be Liverpool’s top scorer across the season, but Mane is doing his best to prove it’ll be a two-horse race.
The No. 10 matched Mo for league strikes last term and is already out in front across all competitions—three for the season, which isn’t half bad considering he played zero pre-season games and has only started two of the Reds’ four so far.
This goal before the break was nothing short of breathtaking: a quick dart infield onto his right foot and a total rocket into the far corner.
Second half, he was one of the more impressive players as the Reds improved, threading in Roberto Firmino for an almost-perfect counter-attack goal—and then winning back possession high upfield to tee up the same player for the Reds’ killer second.
A magnificent start to the season.
Refreshed Reds Need to Put Gunners in Their Place
Next up, of course, that’s the clash: the Reds hosting Arsenal and needing to lay out very clearly that there remains a gap between the league’s very best…and the rest, who can fight it out between themselves for top-four honours.
It’ll be a hard game at times and their attack has started the season very well, but consistency and all-round quality has to show in these types of fixtures.
No penalty shootouts this time against another top-six side, this one has to be won in the 90.
First up, though, a welcome week-long break to bask in the relative glory of a good start to the campaign, with six points and one trophy and a chance to work hard on the tactical aspects which need improving.
Onward, Reds, and top of the fledgling league.