A win is a win, and to sign off for the mid-season World Cup break with three points is a massive bonus for everything Liverpool FC related.
With our manager (Jurgen Klopp) banished to the stands for one game, the pre match once again had an air of uncertainty. Would Southampton explode with that new manager bounce? Would Jurgen jump from the upper stands into the technical area? And would Liverpool once again capitulate at Anfield? The day prior seemed to have our German coach challenging the ownership (new or old) to support recruitment this winter, and perhaps this would have acted as a timely reminder to his existing squad.
With a starting line up going with its strongest available eleven, we saw Joe Gomez come in for the injured Ibrahima Konate, and Harvey Elliott starting ahead of an absent Jordan Henderson. Neither issue is a long term problem, and both players will still particate for their respective countries in Qatar. The rest of the team pretty much picked itself, with my listed players ratings below.
You can catch my full ratings/write up on the Anfield Index website or app.
With some very good performances, the Reds opened the scoring with a nice headed goal. Bobby Firmino was last week omitted from Brazil’s World Cup squad, but for the Reds he continues to show some great moments. With a piercing left footed delivery (free kick) into the box from Andy Robertson, Roberto showed nice awareness to almost glance the ball onto the far post corner. With that, Liverpool were off and running.
That running was halted by a decent Che Adams goal, with James Ward-Prowse once again showing his dead ball delivery prowess. Virgil got caught behind the oncoming Adams, the line was disjointed, and Southampton made it 1-1.
I considered after I had issued my ratings whether I had been harsh on Virgil, and perhaps kind on Joe Gomez. A few years ago (pre injuries), these two defenders were neck and neck in terms of performance. We glided through games with little chance of being opened up, and both were absolute rocks within the Liverpool rearguard. This season (especially) has seen each players’ individual level drop, and though I thought Joe was far better than others games so far this season, I still thought Virgil was holding back. The former Charlton defender is searching for good games, and on Saturday I was very happy to see a solid enough game, despite the odd positional lapse. With regards to Virgil, I was rating the performance of a world class defender, that is simply having moments far below his ability. Regardless of my rated opinions, the defenders were just about good enough, and had some huge assists from Ali in goal.
With our giant Brazilian keeper now in Qatar, we send him off in full knowledge of his credentials. The 30 year old former Roma keeper is continually over performing, and I noted how having our keeper garner so many man of the match awards couldn’t be a good thing. If we continue to gain three points then there is no problem, but we know that we can’t keep relying on the superhuman abilities of our 6ft 3 inch stopper. With a flurry of saves in the second half, you could just see the likes of Che Adams stare in wonderment as his attempts were being saved. The performance of Becker was once again phenomenal, and it’s why we were able to run out comfortable winners.
The midfield was an array of efficiency and good balance. Fabinho was happy to screen, Harvey was more than happy to add creation, and Thiago simply chose to run our possession game. With moments of genius, it’s astounding how a World Cup is about to kick off without the most gifted midfielder in all football. The 31 year old Spaniard was in full control of that first half, and it once again showed the importance of his presence. My hope is that Naby can stay fit through the second phase of the season, and we are clearly a team that requires that type of tempo based controller.
Bobby was great, Robbo was brilliant, but for me the first half showing of Darwin was another huge step for our magnetic Uruguayan. The former Benfica striker has taken to that left forward role without any issue, and is now causing untold problems for opposing defenders. To have a 6ft 2 inch juggernaut off your shoulder must be harrowing for full backs, and his powerful running was once again on show to give the home side a common outlet. We’ve seen over the last few weeks how adept our new forward is with his left foot, and at one point was able to deliver a wonderful angled low cross into Mo. The keeper was able to smother Salah’s attempt, but it again showed a real awareness and ability from our new 27.
Darwin’s goals where clinical, and full of ability to find pockets within the penalty box. We are seeing so many different facets to his game right now, and it’s going to be a pleasure to watch this young man moulded into a Premier League force. At times he can be likened to Didier Drogba, with his force and strength. There are moments where the 22 year old can move like a prime Fernando Torres, and yesterday his penalty box desire was like a menacing Ruud van Nistelrooy. With Diogo Jota & Luis Diaz set for to return, our forward line is really looking vibrant and well stocked for a second half assault on the league.
As I said, a win is a win, and this break can now allow the much needed moment to get our house in order. Many of our key players will not be Qatar bound, therefore both rest and recalibration of the group can be carried out. The next Premier League post-mortem will come after Christmas Day, where hoping I’ll be bringing good tidings.