The contest was over in the 21st minute. As much as Southampton refused to stop trying, their task was hopeless from the moment Joel Matip headed in Liverpool’s second goal.
At the end of a frantic week in which the hosts had faced Tottenham and Paris Saint-Germain, this seemed the perfect moment for Jurgen Klopp to give some game time to those who, in his words, have been ‘scratching at the door’ looking for action.
Take Fabinho. He has only been on the pitch for 60 seconds since his £43million arrival from Monaco in May. With an unassailable lead, the situation could not have been better to blood the Brazilian. The same was true for Daniel Sturridge, who had scored in midweek against PSG.
Xherdan Shaqiri was substituted at half-time in a tactical change despite involvement in goals
This has the potential to be a long and demanding season for Liverpool, so you would think Klopp would seize every opportunity to give his A-list men a moment to catch their breath and reward those whose attitude he keeps praising.
Not a bit of it. If you want an idea of how ruthless and focused Klopp is on driving a sustained challenge, for the title, look no further than his substitutions. The first, at half-time, was by far the most dramatic, as Xherdan Shaqiri made way for James Milner.
Shaqiri had done nothing to deserve an early end to his afternoon. The midfielder’s shot was kicked into his own net by Southampton’s Wesley Hoedt and his free-kick smashed the crossbar before Mohamed Salah tapped in.
Klopp, though, had seen Southampton’s Matt Targett and Nathan Redmond scuttle into dangerous positions behind his midfield three and wanted the assurance of Milner to preserve the lead.
When he made his way out of the stadium later that evening, Shaqiri was understandably subdued. It should not have been the case, given he had been heavily responsible for creating two of the three goals, but Klopp did not apologise for his decision.
Shaqiri swung a trademark free-kick against the crossbar for Mohamed Salah to score rebound
Salah capitalised first as he fired home but assist maker Shaqiri was subbed shortly after
‘I’m not worried it will cost his confidence,’ Klopp insisted. ‘He is a naturally confident boy and he will play again. It’s all good.’
Then there was the case of Gini Wijnaldum. His number was hoisted in the 71st minute. At that point, Liverpool looked more likely to score a fourth than to let Southampton back into the game. Fabinho, you assumed, must have been odds-on to replace him. Not so. On went Naby Keita.
Liverpool, of course, remained in control of the match. It was not one of their most visually sparkling displays, but even still, they could have come off at the end having scored six and on another day Salah would have had a hat-trick.
James Milner was brought on to shore up the back as Liverpool kept another clean sheet
The key, though, was the clean sheet. Compared to the corresponding fixtures from last season, Liverpool have only taken three more points and have scored three goals fewer (14 compared to 17).
It is at the back, however, where the real difference is. Liverpool have only conceded twice in six games so far, compared to eight goals shipped in the same fixtures last term. They have not been breached at Anfield for 751 minutes in the Premier League, since Michail Antonio scored for West Ham in February.
Manchester City are outscoring them at present, so every marginal gain is necessary. If that means Klopp is going to leave some players feeling sore, so be it. He will not win a title by being everyone’s friend. He will win it by consistently making correct decisions.
When Gini Wijnaldum (right) was subbed off there was no room for Fabinho to get minutes
‘A controlled 3-0 is one of my favourite results,’ said Klopp. ‘This season we conceded not many goals but the whole team was working for this. We are still improving and we can still do it better but we are on a good way. We were on fire. We had to defend.
‘The counter-press was as good as against Tottenham and Paris. That is the most important thing. In games like this, you kill the mood of the opponent with the counter-press situations. There was a moment in the second half where Southampton had the ball.
‘There were four of our players surrounding their one. The boys are really ready for this hard work and that is what I love the most. For the moment, it is all good.’
But for all the excitement, this is nothing other than a good start and the situation could change dramatically before the international break, with Chelsea and Manchester City lying in wait in their next two league games. Only then will we know if Liverpool are the real deal.
‘They have strength, pace, and physicality at the back,’ noted Southampton manager Mark Hughes. ‘They’re a good group and a good team at the moment.
‘You sense they believe in what they are doing and there’s a drive right through the club that could see them go all the way.’
Original Article: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-6199513/Jurgen-Klopp-shows-ruthless-streak-subs-against-Southampton.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ito=1490&ns_campaign=1490