Jack Hallows runs through the main talking points to surface after Liverpool’s 2-0 away victory at Southampton.
That is how you manage a game.
Jürgen Klopp’s men made up for throwing a lead – twice – against Tottenham Hotspur the previous game week by beating Southampton 2-0 on Sunday afternoon and the manner in which the victory was achieved was nothing short of satisfying.
The Reds weren’t at their electrifying best by any means but moments of individual brilliance, a resounding team ethic and improved game management all contributed to our boys ensuring that they left with nothing but the three points.
Liverpool don’t need a 20 goal a season striker
I’m convinced Liverpool pundits are just given a script they have to read off every week because if you still think that a 20-goal-a-season striker is top of Klopp’s priorities, you’ve not watched a single game this season.
Mohamed Salah is currently sitting pretty at the top of Liverpool’s goalscoring charts with an astounding 29 goals in 35 appearances, while Roberto Firmino’s left-footed strike saw him hit 20 in all competitions.
The pair has been in red-hot form of late and has made up for Sadio Mané’s dip in form and the exit of Philippe Coutinho by upping their own standards stupendously.
With 49 goals between them, Salah and Firmino are the Premier League’s hottest attacking pair this season and the scary part is, they’re only going to get better.
Virgil van Dijk truly is a magnificent footballer
He may have cost the Reds £75m early in the January window but the reality was always that, having missed as much football as he had over the last 12 months, Virgil van Dijk was always going to take time to settle in at Liverpool.
There had been glimpses so far but this was the Dutchman at his best.
I’d forgive you for having worries ahead of the former Saint for heading back to his old stomping ground, Adam Lallana, Nathaniel Clyne and Dejan Lovren have all been poor when asked to step up at the St. Mary’s but the Reds’ record signing was having none of it.
With every boo, his wry smile grew wider and he almost looked as if he was relishing the challenge, telling the home support: “You can boo me all you want, I’m just going to compound your misery even further.”
His constant communication benefitted the likes of Karius, Can and Robertson while his aerial presence, pace across the ground and calm demeanour on the ball meant that any sense of panic was quickly eroded.
The other centre back spot may still be up for grabs – Matip endured another poor display full of misplaced passes/headers and mistimed tackles – but one thing is for certain, when fit, Virgil van Dijk will be a shoe-in for this starting XI.
Loris Karius continues his resurgence
I don’t care for any of Klopp’s ‘logic’ or rhetoric surrounding his goalkeepers anymore, Loris Karius must now start every game until the end of this season.
The German has evidently benefitted from a consistent run of games and he built on his good performance against Spurs with an RTK Man of the Match showing against Southampton.
The former Mainz man has always had the necessary qualities; he can sweep, his distribution is far and away better than Mignolet’s and his reactions are superb when he’s on his game – that save from a back post header was De Gea-esque. However, he’s evidently had his confidence sapped by Klopp’s bizarre rotation policy over the last 18 months.
The presence of van Dijk has seemingly helped the German improve his decision making in recent fixtures too, with the Dutchman’s consistent communication and calm presence bringing out a proactive and relaxed side of Karius seldom seen on Merseyside.
If Karius can continue to build on the performances he’s put in during recent fixtures, then there is no reason he cannot challenge whoever walks through the Melwood doors next season for the role of number one at Liverpool.
Composure and intelligence
During the second half of Spurs’ visit to Anfield, I was critical of Liverpool’s match intelligence for a multitude of reasons.
There was a lack of composure from all eleven players on the field and the ball retention on display was almost non-existent.
Against Southampton however, the Reds were the complete opposite.
A 2-0 lead was established by halftime and despite the commentators seemingly pleading for an emergence of the “same old Liverpool who if you get at them, throw away leads,” Southampton never had a sniff.
Klopp’s substitutions were proactive and James Milner, who in my opinion is the best at keeping the ball under pressure in Liverpool’s whole XI, was brought on around the hour mark to replace an erratic Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
It wasn’t until Klopp sensed he could try pushing for the kill that Adam Lallana was brought on to afford Roberto Firmino a rest and by that point, the Reds were in such control of the game that he could’ve probably made any changes he liked.
The finishing touches weren’t quite there in attack but the Reds were calm and composed on the ball, first to every loose challenge and brilliant at ensuring they shut up shop while continuing to apply pressure wherever possible.
That is how you see out a football match.
Should top four be enough?
While Tottenham still claimed three points this week to keep the top four race as close as it could possibly get, Manchester United did the Reds a solid by dropping points in a surprise loss away to Newcastle.
This leaves the Reds sitting pretty in third place, just two points behind Mourinho’s men.
It leaves us then begging the question: is fourth enough?
On paper, yeah it honestly is. Fourth place gets an automattic ride into the Champions League this season and there’s no trophy for finishing second or third. However, this is a chance for the Reds to assert their dominance over a stuttering Chelsea, impressive Spurs and moody United.
If Klopp can make the most of a relatively kind fixture list during the run-in and ensure that Chelsea and United do not take three points during our trips to their respective grounds, the German could engineer a second place finish.
On footballing merit alone, Liverpool are undeniably the second most exciting team in England behind Guardiola’s incredible City outfit and our fanbase knows it. Finish second in the table and the recognition will finally come from those who support other clubs.