Liverpool maintain perfect start as Jurgen Klopp reaches managerial milestone
LIVERPOOL, England -- Three quick thoughts from Liverpool's 3-0 win over Southampton on Saturday afternoon.
1. Liverpool show no signs of complacency as they cruise past Southampton
It was game No. 600 in management for Jurgen Klopp and the Liverpool boss will have had few more straightforward matches than this one.
Liverpool had their sixth-straight Premier League win sewn up at half-time to maintain their flawless start and reclaim top spot from Chelsea.
A Wesley Hoedt own goal after 10 minutes kicked off proceedings and was followed up by Joel Matip's towering header. Mohamed Salah then ended a three-game run without a goal deep into first-half stoppage time.
On his first ever start for Liverpool, Xherdan Shaqiri was pivotal to the first and third goals before his impressive outing was ended with a half-time substitution for tactical purposes.
There was one negative from a fine afternoon's display. Virgil van Dijk was forced to come off injured early in the second half and walked straight down the tunnel accompanied by Liverpool's physio. However, the centre-half later took a seat in the dugout to observe the rest of the comfortable win.
Shaqiri, bright and energetic, was crucial to the opening goal. Cutting inside on his right foot, the forward's shot struck Shane Long, then Hoedt before trickling over the line. It was a clear own goal but, nevertheless, the Switzerland international ran to the corner celebrating like it was his.
Another player brought in to the side for the game was central to Liverpool's second. Salah had just been brilliantly denied by Cedric Soares, when the resulting corner saw Matip leap above everyone and nod in.
Shaqiri was at it again; in celebrating a goal he hadn't been credited with. He ambitiously struck a free kick from in excess of 25 yards out, hitting the crossbar. Salah, who went close with an audacious backheel minutes earlier, was fastest to the rebound. The Egyptian prodded in from inches out for a much-needed, confidence-boosting goal.
James Milner was then brought on for Shaqiri to establish greater solidity as the second appeared to be an exercise of seeing the game out and avoiding injury from Liverpool's point of view.
Salah thought he had a second goal, until he saw the lineman raise his flag for offside.
But on a day of landmarks, there was another significant one for Klopp: Liverpool made history as they won their first seven matches of a season in all competitions for the very first time.
2. After years of waiting, Reds finally have the depth they need
Around November of last season, the word "rotation" was at the top of Klopp's agenda. With more options in the squad and better chances of silverware this year, alterations (some of which were surprising) are now happening in September this time around.
In the eyes of their manager, Liverpool are currently in a period that feels like they have "500 games in seven weeks." James Milner has been the star of Liverpool's season so far but was rested for Saturday's match. The promising centre-half partnership of Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez was broken up, with the latter dropping out for Matip.
These were brave calls to make to an unbeaten side but fortunately for Klopp this term, the drop-off in quality from his starting XI to the bench isn't so drastic these days. The improvement of Liverpool's depth in all areas of the pitch was clear and working against Southampton. There is more to come from it, too.
Daniel Sturridge very much appears to be a viable option again and Naby Keita began as a substitute for the second game running, a duo who will get plenty of games over the coming weeks and months.
Up next are back-to-back fixtures with Chelsea. The first of those is in the third round of the Carabao Cup, representing a chance for others on the fringes to start. If Fabinho doesn't start that, then the summer signing will be left wondering if his full debut will ever arrive.
After that is a trip to Napoli in the Champions League before the clash with champions Manchester City prior to the international break. But as it stands, changes in the lineup are yielding the same results for Liverpool.
3. Southampton are unlikely to go down, but they struggle without Danny Ings leading their attack
Early-season performances would indicate there are plenty more teams likely to be battling relegation than Southampton. Their current points total -- five -- flatters to deceive when you take into account their improved performances under Mark Hughes.
But the 2018-19 season looks set to be only a marginal improvement on the last one, which saw the club finish 17th.
Danny Ings has breathed life into Southampton's barren goal-scoring output. And the striker was sorely missed at his former home on Saturday.
The bizarre nature of Ings' move to Southampton meant he was ineligible to face his former club, where he is still highly regarded. Ings is technically on loan at the Saints for this season before a £20 million purchase obligation kicks in on July 1.
Three goals in five appearances meant his absence was a huge blow to Hughes. Manolo Gabbiadini was also absent through injury.
Rather than stick with two up front, Hughes dropped another man into midfield, while leaving Shane Long up top alone to survive on scraps until he was relieved by Charlie Austin.
They didn't arrive to Anfield with much hope of an upset, but those who made the long trip from the south coast would have at least liked to see more than one shot on target. Thankfuly, Ings can return for next weekend's trip to Wolverhampton Wanderers.