Southampton 1 – Liverpool 6: An Analysis
For a time it seemed as though every time we sat and wrote something about Liverpool playing the story was that the Reds had taken the lead only to concede a goal late on. Now barely a week goes by without us writing a piece concerning Liverpool’s ability to utterly destroy teams away from home. What’s more, Liverpool seem to be getting better and better at it.
Even at the most exciting moments of Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool career it seemed like the wheels could come off at any moment, with some fans never buying into his philosophy and others convinced it was all down to Luis Suarez. The same doesn’t seem to be true of Jurgen Klopp’s reign.
Chelsea conceded three, Manchester City conceded four and now Southampton have been hit for six. Is there any stopping Jurgen Klopp’s men on the march?
There’s a conversation to be had about Liverpool replicating the same form at Anfield as they seem to be able to conjure up on their travels, but we’ll save that for another day. This match was all about the belief that is surging through the rampant Reds; the belief that Jurgen Klopp has instilled in the team after a remarkably short space of time.
Jurgen Klopp’s record for #LFC just keeps on getting better. 11 games – DDDWWWLWWWW (63.6% win rate) scoring 21 & conceding just 8.
— Carl Clemente (@clemente_carl) December 2, 2015
That tweet from Carl Clemente is worth reading again and again and again. Liverpool have played 11 games in all competitions under Jurgen Klopp and have only lost once. They’ve played Spurs, Chelsea and Manchester City in that time, too. It’s also worth bearing in mind that Liverpool have lost just twice in 18 games across two different managers. It’s time to get excited and Liverpool are pushing our buttons.
For now, though, let’s take a quick look back at the key talking points from last night’s game. The dismantling of Southampton was superb to watch, with a dominant Liverpool only looking troubled for the first ten minutes or so. We’ll look at some specific moments but if you think we’re missing something then be sure to drop us a line. You can leave a comment beneath this article or send us a tweet.
A Weakened Team?
Hindsight is a wonderful thing and after the fact it’s easy to talk about the abilities of Liverpool’s squad players. Before the match, though, there was a fair amount of fume doing the rounds on Twitter and the forums about Liverpool’s weakened team. It was, said the doubters, a ‘huge’ came for Connor Randall, for example. Some Evertonians were rubbing their hands with glee, declaring that Jurgen Klopp actively wanted to lose the match in order to concentrate on the league.
For the first ten minutes or so it looked like they had a point, too. Connor Randall was exposed horrendously for the opening goal, coming less than a minute after the match kicked off. Emre Can was also all over the place, jumping in to block a cross that never came. If he was the midfielder tasked with offering the young right back some cover then he did a terrible job of it.
Minutes after the goal was conceded we almost let Southampton score a carbon copy; a ball whipped in from the left found the unchallenged head of an onrushing attacker and Liverpool were fortunate that it was headed straight at the goalkeeper. It felt like it was going to be a long 90 minutes; a notion made worse by the referee’s bizarre decision to give Randall a yellow card for an innocuous challenge early in the match.
For ten minutes Liverpool’s defenders looked like they’d never even met before, failing to make challenges, not following their runners and constantly looking confused about what they were supposed to be doing. The call to use young players like Randall and Brad Smith in order to give Moreno and Clyne a rest had been understandable, but perhaps looked like folly.
Saying we should use youth players to give players a rest is all well and good, but Randall clearly isn’t ready for this level
— John Gibbons (@johngibbonsblog) December 2, 2015
And then everyone relaxed. The defenders started to find their rhythm, even if they still had a couple of moments, and Randall settled into the game well. He went on to show remarkable maturity for such a young player given that he was on a yellow card; still making tackles and getting blocks in but not endangering his position on the pitch.
Let’s be clear about this: This was far from a full strength team. If you have a look at the players who either didn’t start or were only given brief cameos then you’ve got a rather tasty set of lads that can still come back into the team. Mignolet, Sakho, Milner, Henderson, Clyne Coutinho, Firmino and Benteke were all missing. This was the very definition of a team made up with some squad players.
That was Liverpool without Mignolet, Clyne, Sakho, Milner, Firmino, Benteke and Coutinho. #LFC
— James Pearce (@JamesPearceEcho) December 3, 2015
Yet the players performed. They did exactly what their manager asked them to do and they got their just rewards. Southampton were shell-shocked, absolutely destroyed by Liverpool’s clinical finishing. It seemed as though the victory of Chelsea planted the seed in the player’s minds that the manager knew what he was talking about. Then the win over Manchester City saw the seeds start to sprout roots and grow. This win, then, sees them buy into it whole-heartedly.
From the reserve goalkeeper through to the fourth choice striker, we’ve turned from doubters into believers. Now it’s time for the fans to have faith in the team Klopp picks before kick off, not just after the match is won.
Over the last couple of weeks, as Daniel Sturridge has struggled to return from one injury and picked up another, there has been plenty of talk about whether or not he’s worth all the trouble. When stats emerged announcing that he’s missed more games than he’s played since signing for Liverpool some fans seemed to feel that enough was enough.
Sturridge has been paid £10m for appearing in 15 of Liverpools last 51 games. Thats £666,666 per game.
— The Anfield Chat (@TheAnfieldChat) November 26, 2015
The question that kept being asked was ‘is he worth the trouble?’
Last night he gave a rather emphatic answer to that question. Liverpool were starting to settle when he levelled the score, and both of his goals owe an awful lot to two ‘pass of the season’ contenders from Joe Allen and then Emre Can, but Sturbridge’s deadliness in front of goal was a big part of the reason why Liverpool were able to turn this game on its head.
Would Brendan Rodgers still be in a job if Sturridge had stayed fit for the 2014-2015 campaign? It’s a distinct possibility. The striker’s ability to put the ball into the back of the night with such unerring consistency means he still has the best goal to game ratio of any Liverpool striker ever. He remains the best striker in the Premier League aside from Sergio Aguero when he’s fit.
‘When he’s fit’ remains the crucial part of the sentence, of course, and solving that little conundrum will be one of Jurgen Klopp’s greatest challenges. With Christian Benteke and Roberto Firmino in the squad there is no shortage of attacking talent at the Liverpool manager’s disposal. Add Sturridge to the mix, though, and the options are not only plentiful but also incredibly potent.
There can be no question that a fully fit Daniel Sturridge has the ability to fire Liverpool to trophies and possibly even more. His display here against Southampton, a display that was one of only a handful after being out injured for nearly a year and a half, lest we forget, reminds us all why he is very much worth the trouble.
The Belgian youngster has taken his time to settle into life on Merseyside. It’s easy to forget that he’s only 20 years old, especially considering that he seems to have been around for quite a while. Signed by Liverpool at the end of the 2013-2014 season but left on loan for another year, his name has been bandied about the Liverpool world for a year and a half.
Yet some people decided after only seeing him for a game or two that he wasn’t good enough for Liverpool. He was used as the sole striker when Firmino, Benteke and Sturridge were all out injured and Danny Ings suffered his cruciate ligament injury and the fact that he didn’t score during that time meant to some people that he was a waste of time and ought to have been sold or loaned out.
Speaking about Christian Benteke recently, Jurgen Klopp mused that people were too impatient to see results in England. He asked whether Robert Lewandowski would have become the player he is today if he’d have been playing in the Premier League as he didn’t have great numbers straight away.
What would the manager have made of the way some fans were treating Divock Origi, had he spent some time looking through Twitter at some point? He might have wondered where the tag of ‘best fans in the world’ had ever come from as far as Liverpool supporters are concerned.
Not content with writing off Lucas, Henderson, Sterling, Ibe and more only to be disproved, Liverpool fans also did the same thing with Divock Origi. Never mind that he displaced both Christian Benteke and Romelu Lukaku from the Belgian national team. Never mind that he arrived in Liverpool as barely more than a teenager. He didn’t produce immediate results so he simply wasn’t good enough.
— LFChistory.net (@LFChistory) December 2, 2015
Last night he showed those negatively minded fans up for what they are. He was tremendous against Southamton, scoring a perfect hat-trick thanks to some quick reactions when he got a touch on Alberto Moreno’s smashed shot, a lovely, emphatic finish from Jordan Ibe’s through ball and a wonderful header from a brilliant cross by Brad Smith.
The best thing about his performance isn’t that he walked away with the match ball or that he silenced his critics. It isn’t even that he listened to his manager, took his notes on board and developed his attacking instincts. It’s that he’s now given defenders something else to think about when he makes it on to the pitch. He’s no longer a player the fans can call ‘not good enough’. He’s more than good enough, he’s threat, and he’s ours.