A comfortable win against Southampton in Merseyside keeps Liverpool on top of the Premier League, while the victory ensures that it is now 6 wins out of 6 games for Liverpool. You can see the key points of the game and how Liverpool players fared in this tactical analysis with the help of various statistics and data, provided by Wyscout.
Jurgen Klopp rang the changes on his traditional 4-3-3 formation and experimented a 4-2-3-1-which I don’t think he will utilize again- against Southampton’s 4-1-4-1. There was a slight rotation as he opted to prefer Jordan Henderson and Wijnaldum in midfield while handing Shaqiri his first start in a floating role behind Mo Salah who played up front instead of Firmino. The Brazillian hard-worker was preferred at the left flank and Sadio Mane was on the right one. Joel Matip, who scored his first Anfield goal to give Liverpool the lead, was Van Dijk’s partner in the centre-back position.
What did this Liverpool side offer?
The absence of James Milner and Naby Keita enabled Southampton to have numerical superiority in midfield in the first half and, as a result, Klopp’s changed system offered Southampton some space in midfield to attack as you can see in the graphics above. However, the Southampton side failed to make something out of these attacks. Virgil van Dijk the commander and Joel Matip had solid performances at the back giving the Southampton attackers no chance in the penalty area and winning 19 duels in total. There was no real threat throughout the game for Southampton. Their only shot on target came in the stoppage time from Charlie Austin.
A Different Front Three and Xherdan Shaqiri
Roberto Firmino was on the left flank throughout the game but his role did not seem to change drastically. He was more like a playmaker on the left linking up the play as he received more passes than anyone else in the final third, even more than Xherdan Shaqiri who was expected to link up the play from midfield. The Brazillian’s challenges map also shows just how hard he worked once again. It’s no surprise for a player like Firmino but the fact that Liverpool was playing with two central midfielders made him use a massive part of his energy in defensive situations. He contributed a lot and put in a massive performance once again regardless of his position on the pitch.
Xherdan Shaqiri’s magnificent effort and Salah’s alertness made it possible for the Reds to go 3-0 up but he was subbed off at the break. He did not play particularly bad but Liverpool needed more possession in the second half to absorb the Southampton attacks as they had already finished the game off. When we look at his display in the first half, we can conclude that he should’ve made more successful passes in order to link up the play and create more chances for the front three. As I had already mentioned, he did not put in an awful performance but I certainly think that he should’ve done much better in that sense as there was no Keita or Milner to exploit the half spaces and carry the ball forward creating chances for the front three or stretching the opposition’s defensive line.
Mo Salah netted his third Premier League goal of the season after Shaqiri’s fine effort from free-kick. The goal proved his hunger for goal and he was undoubtedly a threat for the opposition as he managed to have 8 touches inside the box. He had 3 shots but only one of them was on target and he managed to complete 16 of his 25 passes successfully. I’m not sure if Jurgen Klopp would ever play Salah up front as he might not meet expectations in that position against a tougher opponent. He couldn’t win any of 4 aerial duels and he had no key passes we used to see from Roberto Firmino in that position. Sadio Mane completed 8 of his 9 dribbles successfully but he tried no key passes. He had only one shot on target while having 14 possession losses.
Liverpool now have two points more than City did at the corresponding stage of last season and they are the only team who won all of their opening 6 games in the Premier League now. The change of formation and a slight rotation offered somewhat a different and dissatisfactory football against Southampton but we should also consider that Liverpool had managed to end the contest before half-time. It has been a problem to finish off a game for Liverpool as we already saw that against Tottenham after a fine display but they were able to do that quite comfortably this time. Although they did not put in their best performance against Southampton, they managed to score 3 goals and despite the dullness of the second half, they were able to control the game and get the 3 points for the sixth time in a row this season.