Liverpool continued their impressive scoring rate to sweep aside Southampton 4-0 at Anfield.
Diogo Jota opened the scoring inside 90 seconds as he turned home Andy Robertson’s cut-back and the Reds barely stopped attacking from that point.
Sadio Mane headed in another only to see an offside flag deny him, before Jota tapped in a close-range second after a fine passing move. Before the break it was three, Thiago thundering in his second goal in a few days via a deflection.
After the restart it remained the home team who took their chances, Virgil van Dijk volleying in off a corner while Adam Armstrong missed two from close range at the other end for Saints.
Here are five things we learned from the match on Saturday afternoon.
Ralph switches to three
Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl made the call to change from his usual 4-2-2-2 to a back three system, with fairly disastrous results.
The Reds have habitually wiped the floor with teams going with such systems, moreso when it isn’t their primary defensive set-up, and the same was on show right from kick-off with a goal inside two minutes and chances following at a rapid rate.
That gamble from the Saints boss lasted only until the break when a double sub saw them revert to four in defence, but it failed to stem the tide of Liverpool’s attacks.
An unstoppable attack
Jota scored twice. Mane had a header ruled out. Mohamed Salah is already the league’s top scorer and came into the match with a goal per game rate for the season.
Salah’s 11 has him clear in the Golden Boot standings, but his nearest in-form challengers also wear red, with Jota and Mane joining Jamie Vardy on seven in joint-second.
And all of this without Roberto Firmino who, while he is being overlooked now as he has been sidelined through injury for several weeks, himself has a goal return of better than one every 90 minutes this season.
The Reds have been irrepressible in the final third this season, now making it 17 matches in succession where they score twice or more – it has been almost 100 years since an English team managed that.
Rotation at play for Klopp
After a midweek Champions League match and with a Merseyside derby to play next midweek, Jurgen Klopp opted for plenty of changes on home soil – six in total.
While one or two might have been expected given youngster Tyler Morton started against Porto, the other side of the decision is that several players have returned from injury for the Reds recently.
Given that while juggling absences they have suffered only one defeat so far this season in all competitions, against in-form West Ham, Klopp must be feeling confident about their trophy chances now several big names are back in action.
A free pass?
Saints came into this match on the back of three wins in four in the Premier League, up into 13th after a stutter earlier on in the campaign.
Most mid-table sides won’t rely on results against top-four teams, though having already held both Manchester clubs to draws, there was no real reason to be fearful of such encounters either.
Perhaps those result results and the points racked up were behind the tactical switch, but either way Hasenhuttl won’t be too concerned at the loss in isolation – as long as it doesn’t lead to another bad run like the start of the campaign when they went seven without victory. Next up is Leicester, a team who also haven’t been in great form – but who hammered Saints by nine a couple of seasons back.
With Chelsea and Manchester City not in action until Sunday, Liverpool are back up into second and just a point off top spot, transferring the weekly pressure back onto their rivals to keep showing consistency.
After every passing round of matches it becomes clearer that this trio will likely pull further clear of the pack as the season goes on and there is little reason to suspect that Klopp’s team can’t be top in May.
December will be as crucial as ever and the next game is always the focus of the coaching team, and that will go double heading into a game against Everton now under the management of a former Anfield favourite.
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