Southampton v Liverpool – The Race for Fourth

Last season, Liverpool finished second in the Premier League with a goal difference of +51 and on 84 points, two points off champions Manchester City. Southampton on the other hand finished in eighth on 56 points with a goal difference of +8.

Fast forward to today with one less Luis Suarez and it’s a completely different story. Liverpool are currently in seventh spot with 14 points and a goal difference of 0, while Southampton are flying in second with 22 points and a goal difference of +16. But by the end of the season, who will finish higher? Liverpool or Southampton?

Comparing their goalkeepers, Liverpool’s Simon Mignolet has conceded 13 goals in 10 games, and has only managed to keep two clean sheets which were away against Tottenham Hotspur at the end of August, and recently at home against Hull. Southampton’s Fraser Forster has only conceded five goals in 10 games, and has kept a fantastic six clean sheets against West Brom, Newcastle, Swansea, Sunderland, Stoke, and Hull. The Englishman has clearly been the better keeper than the Belgian thanks to his very strong shot stopping and he looks more consistent as well. Just one of the reasons Southampton should finish higher than Liverpool.

Next is defence. Liverpool made three additions to their backline in the summer with Dejan Lovren, who was at the Saints last season, Alberto Moreno, and Javier Manquillo on loan. All three of these players have made little or no difference whatsoever, as The Reds are still conceding too many goals. Southampton also made three additions to their defence, purchasing Florin Gardos and bringing in Toby Alderweireld and Ryan Bertrand on loan to replace the departing Lovren and Luke Shaw respectively. Both loanee players have made an immediate impact on the squad, helping the Saints only concede five goals, but also creating and scoring as well in the case of Bertrand. If this good start continues, it is likely Southampton will try and convert these loan deals to permanent moves when they can.

Liverpool’s defence does have the quality to improve, but whether or not they will is a different matter. If you go by what happened last season, it doesn’t look particularly likely.

Midfield now and Liverpool already have a great engine room in the guise Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson, Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho, but they added to it by purchasing Adam Lallana from Southampton and Emre Can. Southampton replaced Lallana with Dusan Tadic and brought in Sadio Mane as well, both who have made strong starts to fledgling careers at the club. Tadic has already picked up one goal and six assists, more assists than Lallana managed at the club last season. Sterling is Liverpool’s top goal scorer with three goals in the league but he has two assists as well. Henderson has three assists, and Gerrard has one.

Forwards is where Southampton really start to pull away from Brendan Rodgers’ side. They may have lost Rickie Lambert to the Reds, but they replaced him with Graziano Pelle who has been phenomenal. The Italian has scored six goals in nine games and doesn’t look like stopping. Liverpool on the other hand lost Luis Suarez and replaced him with Mario Balotelli, who is yet to score in the league this season. Daniel Sturridge is out with injury and Lambert has failed to make an impact when he has been asked to play. The absence of a Suarez is starting to tell.

If you went solely on current form then there’s no contest as to who will finish higher. However, the league doesn’t work like that, and Southampton have some real tests coming up – playing Arsenal twice, Manchester United twice, Manchester City, and Chelsea between now and the second week of January.

If they can survive this however, this is one battle Rodgers and the Reds will have to concede.