Liverpool won their opening game of the new season, beating Southampton 2-1 at Anfield.
There was much to be said about Liverpool’s opener, having bought three players from Southampton this summer and contributing greatly to the exodus on the south coast.
But despite early predictions that Ronald Koeman’s side would be in the mix for relegation this season, the visitors gave Brendan Rodgers’ side a tough game, one they could have easily won had it not been for some poor finishing in front of Simon Mignolet’s goal.
In all, both teams will take positives from the game, with plenty still left to do before the transfer window closes.
So with that in mind, here’s five things we learned from Liverpool in their opening weekend win.
Javier Manquillo looked comfortable and confident on the right side of Liverpool’s defence, as if he hadn’t just arrived on a two-year loan spell from Spain, but instead is well accustomed to the rigours of Premier League football.
If the game against Southampton is anything to go by – and of course, the sporadic appearances for Atletico Madrid – Manquillo will prove to be a very good signing for Liverpool. In contrast, Glen Johnson once again left a lot to be desired at left-back. The England international, once Alberto Moreno is integrated into the side, will struggle to displace Manquillo in his natural position of right-back.
This game wasn’t unlike a lot of Liverpool’s games last season, wins, draws and losses. The attack, while not yet firing on all cylinders, can produce in front of goal, while the defence remains leaky and unsure of itself.
The personnel changes have done little to restore confidence to the back line, as well as in them. Dejan Lovren is a good centre-back, but he alone won’t make up for the deficiencies in his defensive partner. The regularity and ease with which Southampton threatened the Liverpool goal was alarming. Had it not been for a shocking miss from Shane Long and a combination of Simon Mignolet and the crossbar, Southampton would have left Anfield with at least a point.
The mentality of scoring more than the opponent won’t always secure all three points, and tightening up the defence will be crucial if Liverpool are to finish inside the top four and advance out of their Champions League group.
Many have been banging this drum for the last month, but Liverpool really can’t get away with only Daniel Sturridge and Rickie Lambert as their centre-forward options.
Lambert made his debut in the second half to a warm reception, but his contribution was clearly confined to aerial battles. Strurridge, despite scoring the winner, can produce far better.
But there is clearly a Luis Suarez-sized void in the team. It more than likely will come down to one of the younger players taking on the responsibility, but his place in the squad very much needs filling. Sturridge won’t always be on hand to come up with the goals, and he’s also overdue a drought in front of net. There’s far too much at stake for Liverpool to go through the entire campaign with the options they currently have.
A lot has been said of Liverpool’s defence this year, but few have touched on the lack of quality at defensive midfield. Steven Gerrard performed in that role for the second half of last season, but Lucas Leiva’s injury in January prompted many to urge the club to act during the winter window.
Once again, however, the team looked short of adequate personnel for that position just ahead of the back four – a problem that certainly owes to the vulnerability of the defence. Gerrard is ageing and Lucas isn’t good enough; relying simply on Jordan Henderson’s industry to make up for those deficiencies will eventually prove to be damaging.
Quite simply, there is no authority in that area of the pitch for Liverpool, and Southampton had far too much of an easy time breaking towards Mignolet’s goal.
A defensive midfielder is very much needed if Liverpool are to improve on their defensive record.
Raheem Sterling was Liverpool best performer in the first half, taking up positions centrally and breaking away to open the scoring for the home side.
Sterling has had a hugely impressive 2014 thus far, featuring for England off the back of his performances for Liverpool last season. Against Southampton, the youngster showed no indication that he’s ready to slow down.
Game after game, Sterling is proving to be far more versatile that his pace and natural position on the wings would suggest. He’s able to create and interchange intelligently with others.
His goal was a smart finish and he came up big, literally, to win the header that set up Sturridge’s winner.