Last season Southampton were the bogey team of Liverpool, holding the Reds to two 0-0 draws in the league. The two 1-0 defeats of Liverpool in the league cup meant that Liverpool had failed to score against the Saints in 360 minutes of play.
Yet, it took Liverpool only 31 minutes to end that record. From the moment that Mohamed Salah curled the ball into the top left-hand corner, Liverpool were never in danger of getting anything other than three points.
Liverpool vs Southampton Analysis
A Lack of a Plan
The ease in which Liverpool were able to take control of the game will worry Saints fans. Likewise, it will please Liverpool supporters, who were often left frustrated by smaller teams at Anfield last season.
In his pre-match press conference, Southampton manager Mauricio Pellegrino suggested, unlike last year, they would not be able to sit back and soak up 90 minutes of Liverpool pressure. The unwillingness to ‘park the bus’ shows the development that the Reds have made in breaking down low-block sides.
Unfortunately, for Southampton supporters, Pellegrino had no other plan for how to stop Jurgen Klopp’s side. Neither sitting back nor pressing, Southampton allowed Sadio Mane and Salah to cause havoc. The 45 touches that Coutinho was permitted in the first half exhibit the dominance the midfield trio of Liverpool were able to exhort. It was a far cry from the games last year where Oriel Romeo was able to stifle almost all of Liverpool’s creativity. His poor performance and the freedom granted to Liverpool’s play-makers ended in an inevitable outcome, three Liverpool goals
Liverpool’s Changing Tactics
The victory today made it three consecutive wins since Liverpool’s humiliation against Tottenham. With ten goals scored and only one conceded, Liverpool seem to have turned a corner. The football they employed to win the game shows their development. It is far from the heavy-metal football that Klopp previously instilled. Alberto Moreno and Trent Alexander-Arnold were disciplined throughout the game, as left and right back. When one got involved in the attack, the other dropped in as a third centre-back. Klopp now realises that with the forward threat Liverpool possess, throwing eight men into the attack is unnecessary.
This pragmatic approach allowed Southampton to see a lot of the ball in the early parts of the game. The Saints pushed forward in the opening ten minutes only to burn themselves out. As the first half progressed, Liverpool steadily increased the pressure and by the end, they were in full control of every element.
The constant runs of Salah and Mane behind Southampton’s defence was a constant threat. The quality movement caused confusion in Southampton’s defence over who should pick up their run. The second of Salah’s goals demonstrated the now almost inevitable consequence of not shackling Liverpool’s wide men.
When Coutinho scored the third goal, a smart finish from a Fraser Forster save, the contest was completely over. Klopp took the opportunity to remove Coutinho, Mane and Salah with the tough trip to Sevilla on Tuesday night in mind.
In the end, it was an easy victory for Liverpool. It was a win in which they could have pressed the game to push for further goals. However, they were happy to play out the last twenty minutes against a side that never looked capable of getting back into the game.
Liverpool will take much confidence from the way they broke down the Saints defence. However, more importantly, they registered another solid defensive display. Southampton were unable to register a shot on target. This will be the most disappointing thing for the travelling fans and will guarantee them a depressing drive back to the South coast.