Liverpool 3 – 0 Southampton

Reds Cruise to Another Win

Liverpool’s perfect start to the season continues with a maximum of 15 out of 15 points accrued in the league. After a decisive first half, the Reds took the second half off and waltzed to victory.

Xherdan Shaqiri made his long-awaited debut, and had an immediate impact by forcing an own goal after 10 minutes from a shot which deflected off two defenders.

Joel Matip towered over his opposite number, Jannik Vestergaard, to double the lead before a cracking Shaqiri free-kick from long-range rattled the crossbar and fell to an onrushing Mo Salah to finish off the rout.

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Player Ratings

Alisson – 7:

Another quiet day for Alisson with very little to do aside from a few short passes to recycle possession.

He deserves a great deal of praise for pulling off a strong save in the 91st minute to deny Charlie Austin. It was his first save of the game so he could’ve been forgiven for falling asleep after waiting so long.

Trent Alexander-Arnold – 7.5:

Trent didn’t have much do to defensively, but he was a consistent outlet on the right flank for the attack.

He whipped in crosses all day and linked up well with those around in to try and create goal-scoring opportunities.

Joel Matip – 8:

Many fans, including myself, could be forgiven for feeling slightly nervous at the sight of Matip’s name on the team sheet, but the Cameroonian did well despite not being tested regularly.

He thumped a header home from a corner to put an exclamation point on his return but he, understandably, had a few moments where he was slightly too hesitant to take immediate action, which was likely down to rust.

Virgil van Dijk – 7:

VVD’s biggest contribution on a day where the defence had very little to do, was an excellent sliding challenge to thwart Shane Long.

All Liverpool fans had their hearts in their throats when Big Virg came off injured, clutching his ribs. Mercifully, Klopp confirmed after the game that it was just a precaution due to some pre-existing bruising.

Andy Robertson – 7:

Robbo, like the rest of the defence, had very little to do; especially in the second half which seemed to drag on for an age.

His linkup play was tight as usual, and the Scotsman almost scored a terrific volley in front of the Kop late on in the day.

Jordan Henderson – 7.5:

Hendo put in another solid shift for the team, controlling the middle of the park with and without the ball.

He ventured forward and ran with the ball more often than we’re used to seeing from Hendo in the last few seasons; an encouraging sign of confidence.

Gini Wijnaldum – 8:

A vastly underrated performance from the Dutchman, in a game where almost every single touch he made was inch-perfect.

Other players will steal the headlines, but Gini’s start to the season has been nothing short of phenomenal; and to think he could’ve left in the summer!

Xherdan Shaqiri – (Man of the Match) 8.5:

Finally Reds fans got to see the new signing make his debut, and what a debut it was for the Swiss international.

A big hand in two goals gave the home support just a taste of what’s to come, and even though many were disappointed to see him withdrawn at halftime, it’ll be a big asset to have a fresh and inform Shaqiri for the upcoming run of fixtures.

Sadio Mane – 6.5:

Mane didn’t have his best game of the season, but he didn’t need to for the Reds to secure an easy victory.

His passing was his greatest contribution on the day with a couple of lovely through balls, but other than that his final product was just slightly off.

Mo Salah – 7:

Salah himself was perhaps the only person more relieved than Liverpool fans when he scored a tap in from Shaqiri’s free kick.

Hopes that this would help him rediscover his confidence were dashed in the second half with consistent wasted opportunities. Although, to be fair, he almost scored an incredible backheel in the first half and was incorrectly ruled offside for his goal in the second.

Bobby Firmino -7:

Bobby dropped even deeper this game than normal and at one point came all the way back into our half to receive a short pass from VVD.

He also drifted wide even more often than usual, allowing Mane, Shaqiri, and in particular Salah to run into the half-spaces that he created centrally.

Subs

James Milner – (on for Shaqiri 45′) 7:

Milner was brought on to adjust the shape back to a more familiar one and to see out the game; he did both of these things competently.

Joe Gomez – (on for van Dijk 54′) 7:

Joe’s main highlight was his composure on the ball as he rarely had to make a defensive action.

Naby Keita – (on for Wijnaldum ’70) 6:

Naby came on for a fatiguing Gini, but didn’t seem that desperate to make an impact aside from one nice passing move with Bobby and Mo.

Unused Subs:

Simon Mignolet, Alberto Moreno, Fabinho, Daniel Sturridge

Manager

Jurgen Klopp – 9:

Klopp managed this game to near perfection in every sense: team selection, rotation, tactics, and substitutions.

In particular, Klopp chose the perfect time to change the system by introducing Shaqiri in a game that could’ve easily been looked over and taken for granted.

Interestingly, this is the first time, (that I can remember), in which Klopp made all three of his allocated substitutions before the 70th minute. One was partially forced, granted, but this is likely a sign that Klopp’s trust in his squad is growing.

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Talking Points

Super Shaq

What a perfect time for Shaqiri to be introduced to the team and to shine so brightly on debut given the run of fixtures on the horizon.

It could be argued that Shaq played the ‘Ox’ role, and the comparison is fair given his direct dribbling and passing. However, his ability to beat defenders and unleash a powerful shot adds an extremely potent dimension to the Liverpool attack.

Furthermore, having someone as talented as him on set-pieces could prove vital in tight games given how frequently our players are brought down around the box.

Strength in Depth

Aside from Shaqiri, Matip also had an outstanding day on his return to the first team, and the same can be said for our midfield which has been regularly chopped and changed.

While it’s too early to say whether Matip could fight for a regular place in the starting lineup given the form of Gomez and VVD; the signs are there that he’ll be a handy replacement when necessary.

Gone are the days of David N’Gog and Jay Spearing, now Liverpool’s bench is more of a ‘who’s who’ of Premier League talent, rather than simply ‘who?’

Rotating for the Chelsea Games

While being Liverpool means competing on all fronts, even die-hard fans have to agree that the Carabao Cup ranks lowest on the scale of priorities this season.

Even though Klopp rarely utilises wholesale changes regardless of the competition, surely this time will be different given the squad depth and the run of difficult fixtures that follows.

The likes of Nathaniel Clyne, Moreno, Matip, Fabinho, Shaqiri, and Sturridge should all unquestionably start so that others can get some well-earned rest, even if Klopp doesn’t want to throw youngsters such as Curtis Jones and Nat Phillips into the mix.

 

You’ll Never Walk Alone

Cieren O’Dea

 

Red Or Dead – Liverpool FC Football Blog – on 23/09/2018

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Liverpool vs Southampton – Preview

Reds Take On Saints at Anfield

After a good start to the Champions League campaign, Liverpool must now turn their attention back to the Premier League.

Considering the convincing victory against PSG midweek, it’d be easy to assume that Southampton should be a walk in the park. However, it’s this kind of complacency that the Reds must avoid in order to become title contenders.

While it’s true that this game falls in the middle of a patch of more difficult matches, ultimately each fixture is equally worth three points, so dropping points here would be highly disappointing.

Liverpool – Team News

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Jurgen Klopp usually chooses to only rotate when necessary, so don’t expect to see many changes on the weekend. Having said that, Fabinho and Xherdan Shaqiri need minutes, so this could be a good opportunity for them to make their full debuts.

Naby Keita could come back into the team after missing out against PSG, but its questionable as to who would make way for him. Based on form though, James Milner and Gini Wijnaldum are just about undroppable.

Bobby Firmino will almost certainly return to the starting lineup, such is his importance to the team, but after his fantastic display in the Champions League Daniel Sturridge may start either instead of Bobby or even alongside him if Klopp feels confident that a midfield duo would be able to control the game.

Southampton – Team News

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After a tremendous start to the season Danny Ings will miss the game against Liverpool, as loaned players cannot feature against their parent club.

Manolo Gabbiadini will be the only other notable absence as he recovers from a hamstring injury, but the likes of Nathan Redmond and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg have made impressive starts to the season and will look to fill the void.

Southampton may elect to start only one of Charlie Austin and Shane Long, in order to add another man, likely Oriol Romeu, to the midfield battle.

Pre-Game Analysis

Southampton are a team who like to sit back and hit teams on the counter, and this will certainly be their plan against Liverpool. They will use Højbjerg, Lemina, and possibly Romeu, to help the defence break up play and push into the box when the chance arises.

The Reds have considerable advantages all over the pitch though, especially when factoring the relative lack of pace that the Southampton defence possess.

Southampton will have to take a leaf out of Crystal Palace’s book and sit deep and narrow without allowing the likes of Firmino or Keita to operate in the half spaces.

Prediction

Southampton will be the latest team to use this method in an attempt to quell Liverpool’s attack, but again, the quality of the Reds should prove too great.

Hopefully this game will see the trumphant return of Mo Salah at his best, but I beleive it’ll be a tight games where chances are scarce.

A hard-fought, but deserved 2-0 win for the Reds.

 

You’ll Never Walk Alone

 

Cieren O’Dea

 

Red Or Dead – Liverpool FC Football Blog – 19/09/2018

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Southampton 0 – 2 Liverpool

Reds Hold Firm To See Off Saints

After a frustrating result against Spurs last week, Liverpool fans were desperate for a long overdue win at St. Mary’s. Jurgen Klopp opted to make a few changes due to the upcoming match against FC Porto, and Tottenham’s defeat of Arsenal and Manchester United’s loss against Newcastle only heightened the stakes in what was effectively a must-win game. The home fans tried to unsettle Liverpool’s defence by loudly booing Virgil Van Dijk every time he touched the ball, but it was the Saint’s defenders who cracked. After only five minutes Loris Karius was alert following a cross and quickly got the ball to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The Ox tried to find Mo Salah, but it seemed as though Wesley Hoedt would clear the ball, unfortunately for the Dutchman, he couldn’t do so and Salah was able to nick it and lay it off to Roberto Firmino who slotted it past Alex McCarthy. Southampton seemed likely to equalise after a number of dangerous crosses, but just before half-time Firmino and Salah struck again after a beautiful backheel from the Brazilian put the Egyptian through for the second goal of the afternoon. The rest of the game was mostly uneventful in a nice change of pace for Liverpool fans who have become begrudgingly used to nail-biting finishes.

Player Ratings

Loris Karius – 8: One slightly unconvincing punch that could’ve ended badly early in the game was the only blight on another encouraging performance. Made himself big to deny Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg one on one and pulled off another good save to deny James Ward-Prowse’s header. Had far less to do in the second-half, but dealt with everything that came to him comfortably. His distribution was also markedly more consistent than in previous games; a fact highlighted when he quickly released the Ox, causing the panic that led to Wesley Hoedt’s mistake. Another step in the right direction for the German ‘keeper.

Trent Alexander-Arnold – 8: Targeted for most of the game as most attacks came down his side but the youngster stepped up to the plate impressively. Was understandably beaten in the air by Guido Carrillo early one, but luckily the header was driven straight at Karius. His only real mistake of the game came from an under-hit pass-back to Karius which put him under unnecessary pressure.

Joel Matip7: An awful miscontrol luckily led to nothing bar from embarrassment, but he quickly made amends by starting the move for the second goal. Was guilty of not dealing with a few crosses but was an essential part of the back-line that produced a much needed clean sheet.

Virgil Van Dijk – 8: Booed mercilessly by the Southampton fans but remained calm and composed from the first minute until the last. Vocal throughout, he chastised his teammates when they were failing to deal with Southampton’s crosses, a true leader in both words and actions.

Andy Robertson – 8: Quiet for most of the first-half, but that was mainly due to most of Southampton’s attacks predominantly coming down the right. A more attacking minded fullback might’ve noticed this immediately and been more aggressive in pushing forward to support the front three. Perhaps having realised just that, he made a couple of good runs later in the half and was involved in the second goal. Put in a dangerous cross that almost saw Mane score a rare headed goal in the second-half.

Emre Can – 7: Mopped up well but didn’t offer too much aside from recycling possession. A loose touch led to him diving in on Oriol Romeu and picking up yet another yellow card. Can should be expected to do more to help win the midfield battle and impose himself onto games more regularly.

Gini Wijnaldum – 6: Extremely quiet first-half but could’ve had an assist if his teammates had been more alert to his excellent low ball to the back post. Bizarrely left the ball for Mane in the second half when he was in a far better position to shoot for goal himself. Was again unable to make his presence felt though, which was especially worrying considering his opponent, Mario Lemina, was battling illness.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – 4: Did next to nothing in the first-half aside from his pass that was helped on by Hoedt before Liverpool’s first goal. He was also somewhat wasteful in possession again and was fairly hooked off by Klopp to give way to Milner. He did himself no favours if he wants a regular starting spot and may have to continue to settle for a rotational role.

Mo Salah – 9: The new King of the Kop showed great awareness and ability to set up the first goal. His movement was causing the Southampton defenders major headaches, and it paid off again after a lovely one-two with Firmino. He was harshly denied a chance earlier having been incorrectly judged to have handled the ball in the box. He then created another couple of opportunities for his teammates in the second-half and almost scored another. A truly extraordinary talent, hopefully he stays for many years to come.

Sadio Mane 6: Had a couple of half-chances in the first-half, but nothing he should be losing sleep over. Admirably is still not visibly allowing this ‘slump’ to affect his confidence as evidenced by an ambitious acrobatic attempt on goal. He was close to scoring with his head and almost assisted Firmino in the second half. Mane was only guilty of being wasteful once when he opted to shoot far too late when the chance to pass or shoot early was on. However, the biggest criticism of Mane has to stem from his lack of defensive awareness when he continually left Robertson exposed in the first-half. Surely a return to top form is just around the corner for the Senegalese winger though.

Roberto Firmino – 9 (Man of the Match): Excellent first-time finish for the first goal, he then returned the favour to Salah with an unbelievable back-heel assist. The Brazilian was popping up everywhere on the pitch in both attacking and defensive situations; he’s a truly invaluable player to this Liverpool system. Had two penalty shouts in the first-half, one was correctly not given, but the second could’ve easily been given on another day despite Firmino going down very easily. Perhaps if he was wearing a Spurs jersey…

Subs

James Milner (on for Oxlade-Chamberlain- 61’) – 6: Brought on for the underwhelming Oxlade-Chamberlain to organise the team and help see out the game.

Adam Lallana (on for Firmino – 78’) – 5: Came on to give Firmino a well-earned rest ahead of a critical back-end of the season. Failed to score from seven yards when gifted a chance by Salah.

Dejan Lovren (on for Salah – 89′) – N/A: Brought on as extra security when the Reds had already firmly taken control of the game.

Unused Subs: Simon Mignolet, Alberto Moreno, Danny Ings and Dominic Solanke

Manager

Jurgen Klopp – 9: A careful balance needed to be struck with the lineup: give as many players a rest as possible without jeopardising the result, and Klopp did so perfectly. His midfielders struggled in the first-half to take control of the game, and the defenders similarly weren’t coping with Southampton’s crosses. Seeing this, Klopp addressed both issues through his half-time talk and substitutions. He sensibly brought off the Ox after 60 minutes, a welcome sight in the sense that Klopp has often been criticised for leaving his substitutions too little time to make an impact.

Talking Points

Reds Finally See Out a Narrow Lead With Ease

In a somewhat uncharacteristic display, Liverpool were able to see out a game professionally, and in all honesty, they hardly looked like letting it slip. In stark contrast to previous games, Liverpool seemed to get more composed and in control as the game went on, it seemed inevitable that Southampton would be left goalless. Of course, the Saints had their chances in the first-half, and perhaps the Reds were arguably lucky to go into the break with a 2-0 lead. However, the second half showed a new side to this Liverpool team that hopefully is the beginning of a new trend. It will need to be if the Reds want to go on to win silverware in the near future.

Firmino and Salah Magic

Salah has been endlessly praised by all football fans this season despite the ludicrous notion that he would flop as he supposedly did at Chelsea. To be well and truly in the shout for top-goalscorer from a wide position is a remarkable achievement for any player, let alone one that also creates countless chances for his teammates and is not a regular set-piece taker. Firmino on the other hand rarely receives widespread praise, or at least not to the extent that Liverpool fans know he deserves. Surely this has to change sooner or later because regardless of Salah’s goals, it is Firmino that makes this team tick. Hopefully his continued underappreciation from those outside of the Liverpool fanbase will mean that no other teams try and persuade him to move on like his compatriot Philippe Coutinho.

Champions League Football

There’s little time to celebrate an excellent result as the focus now turns to Champions League football on two fronts. There’s the midweek fixture in Portugal against the dangerous Porto and the battle for the remaining three Champions League places rages on after that. The likes of Mignolet, Lovren, Moreno, Milner and Jordan Henderson will be fresh after a rest and raring to go if selected; and Joe Gomez could return along with Lallana. It is crucial to get a good result in the first-leg in order to gain progression into the quarter-finals. West Ham meanwhile will be able to sit back and plot as they seek to snatch a result in the next league game at Anfield. Manchester United and Arsenal both lost their respective fixtures but the race is far from over, and Liverpool will have to maintain extremely high standards to finish the season off strongly and secure a top-four finish.

 

You’ll Never Walk Alone

 

Cieren O’Dea for Red Or Dead – Liverpool FC Football Blog – on 12/02/2018.

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Southampton vs Liverpool – Preview

Another Tough Test at St. Mary’s

Southampton

Team News

Southampton have no new injury concerns but will continue to be without Charlie Austin and Matt Targett, although it is questionable whether either would’ve made the starting XI anyway.

Predicted Lineup

southampton

Mauricio Pellegrino, who made 12 appearances for Liverpool and spent four years at Anfield as a coach under Rafa Benitez, will most likely pick the same team that defeated West Brom last week. The likes of Maya Yoshida and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg will probably have to settle for the bench, while Steven Davies is another option in midfield or behind the striker. Guido Carrillo will make only his second appearance for the club since his move from Monaco and should start ahead of both Shane Long and Manolo Gabbiadini.

Liverpool

Team News

Joe Gomez is the only new injury to crop up for Liverpool, a slight knock to the knee will see him miss this game, while Nathaniel Clyne remains out of the picture. Ragnar Klavan, Alberto Moreno and Adam Lallana could all potentially return to the squad after rejoining the team in training.

Predicted Lineup

SotvsLiv

Another tricky lineup to predict as Jurgen Klopp will undoubtedly have one eye on the midweek fixture against FC Porto in the Champions League. Southampton away is never an easy game though, and St. Mary’s is a ground where Klopp has struggled in the past. Klopp will rotate certain players, but will likely avoid sacrificing his front three. Dejan Lovren, Andy Robertson, James Milner and Jordan Henderson could all be rested while Moreno, Joel Matip, Gini Wijnaldum and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could return to the starting XI. If Klopp wanted to take this rotation even further, then the likes of Simon Mignolet, Klavan, Lallana, Dominic Solanke and Danny Ings could be considered, but are less likely to feature, at least not from a starting position.

Analysis

Unlike previous seasons under different managers, it is unlikely that Southampton will look to sit back and defend for 90 minutes. Pellegrino often plays more adventurous football against the bigger sides, and like Klopp often struggles against teams who do sit deep. However, despite being unbeaten in six games Southampton may seek to revert to their old ways in search of a vital draw as they find themselves only one point clear of the relegation zone. The likes of Mario Lemina and James Ward-Prowse are in top form and will be crucial to any success that Southampton may have in the game.

Liverpool need to produce a victory against a side who have become somewhat of a bogey team in recent years. Anything other than a win could potentially see the Reds slide into fifth place by the end of the round. Liverpool will hope to exploit holes left in the defence if Southampton attempt to drive forward through the likes of Lemina and Ward-Prowse. If they sit back though, some magic from the front three will be required to unlock their stubborn defence.

Prediction

The result of this game will largely depend upon the tactics employed by Pellegrino and the amount of squad rotation that Klopp feels comfortable implementing. If Klopp fields a strong side and Pellegrino opts to play openly, then there is no reason Liverpool can’t punish the Saints. However, I’m expecting a tighter game, one that ends in a hard-earned, but ultimately comfortable 2-0 victory to the Reds.

 

You’ll Never Walk Alone

 

Cieren O’Dea for Red Or Dead – Liverpool FC Football Blog – on 11/02/2018.

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