Liverpool 3-0 Southampton: Who Was Man of the Match?

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Liverpool have made their best ever start to a Premier League season and, in truth, they have done so at about 50% of their overall capacity.

The Reds cruised into a 3-0 first-half lead against the Saints and were able to comfortably see it out after the break. All a likely bored Alisson Becker really had to do was dive low to his right to deny Charlie Austin a late consolation.

Southampton passed the ball well at times but never really looked like troubling an increasingly authoritative defence, which dealt effectively with the set-pieces the visitors would have identified as their best hope of springing a surprise.

It was rather scrappy at times in the second half, but for the most part, Liverpool exerted calm control in the middle of the park as they patiently waited for an opening to emerge.

The fluidity which often characterises¬†Liverpool’s front three was frustratingly absent in the pursuit of a rout. When all three perform, you feel the Reds, now so assured at the back and controlled in midfield, will tear their opponents apart.

It is worth noting, though, that at least one member of the magnificent trio has scored in each of Liverpool’s seven games so far. On Saturday, it was the turn of Mohamed Salah, who saw his persistence pay off when he banged it in after Xherdan Shaqiri’s free-kick hit the crossbar.

While any talk of a ‘crisis’ was nonsensical, there was a palpable sense of relief in the stadium when the Egyptian scored, perhaps because it was beginning to seem like one of those days where it just would not go in. Salah fancied adding to his tally after that, but the linesman’s flag and Southampton’s towering centre-halves prevented him.

Liverpool’s other goalscorer was surprise starter Joel Matip, who powered in a great header after Wesley Hoedt’s own goal had got the Reds up and running.

It seemed an odd decision by Klopp given the strength of the developing partnership between Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez, but Matip was more level-headed than he was rusty, repeatedly shepherding the ball out of play to diffuse the danger.

Three interceptions, one tackle, one clearance and one block give him a good claim to man of the match, but he just about misses out.

Van Dijk was on course for that accolade before he was rather worryingly forced off early in the second half. Indeed, his performance against his former employers oozed class. Every time there was an opening for the Saints, he nipped it in the bud, either by getting his body in the way, wrestling the ball back or sending it downfield.

Most impressively, the Dutchman successfully completed 95% of the 62 passes he attempted – a quite staggering level of accuracy.

Replacement Joe Gomez was on top form until the whistle, demonstrating his raw power time and again by shrugging opposition attackers off the ball.

Andrew Robertson, meanwhile, was a constant outlet on the flanks as he turned in another ambitious display, almost capped by a sizzling volley. The Scot, who may well be the best all-around left-back in the Premier League, narrowly misses out on MOTM this time.

The same can be said for Shaqiri, who no doubt would have been extremely disappointed to be hooked at half-time after a dazzling first-half on his first start for the club.

The Swiss international was instrumental in both goals, with Hoedt bundling in his cross for the first before going oh-so-close to a memorable wonder-strike in the lead-up to the crucial third.

Aside from that, he was constantly looking to make things happen and excited fans with his energy and enthusiasm, dismissing any concerns about his work-rate. He has certainly staked a claim for a more regular starting berth in that advanced midfield role.

If then, a supporter selected Shaqiri, Robertson or Matip as their man of the match, it would be hard to disagree. But I’m going to give it to Trent Alexander-Arnold for reasons explained below.

At half-time, it looked like this was a head-to-head between Shaqiri and Van Dijk, but a substitution and an injury saw to that. Matip didn’t quite have enough to do to justify being named the star performer and Robertson, while impressive, clearly had much more in his locker.

On the whole, Trent narrowly edges it. His most significant contribution was an assist for Matip’s header with the best delivery of the match. It was the first time this season he has laid on a goal for a team-mate, but it certainly won’t be the last.

Though the 19-year-old has started the season in fine fettle, one concern has been wayward crossing. In that respect, he was much-improved against the Saints, and it paid dividends for his team.

In games like this, when the opposition defenders in numbers, it will always be tight in the middle of the park, meaning Alexander-Arnold and Robertson play a crucial role by providing the width, particularly when Salah and Mane drift into a central position.

Plain and simple, this was a good afternoon’s work for the right-back. He was defensively solid, making one interception and two clearances, and going forward he was a source of danger with one key pass and four through balls to his name.

The temptation is to take performances like this for granted from the local lad, but perhaps that is a mistake. Trent’s career is still in its infancy, but his reputation continues to grow and already he has positioned himself among the top five in his position in the Premier League.

Liverpool possess one of the best prospects in the world football, but because he is so consistent and so mature on and off the ball, that’s something which can so easily slip your mind.

We’re six games, and about 540 minutes, into the domestic season now. Trent already has 535 minutes under his belt, and the signs are that he will be virtually ever-present even as Klopp rotates. Nathaniel Clyne, his vastly more experienced competitor, may get a runout against Chelsea in the League Cup in midweek, but he is an alarmingly distant 2nd in the pecking order.

Trent’s importance to this Liverpool team, not just now but over the course of the next decade, is becoming increasingly clear.

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