Player ratings: Southampton 1 - 2 Liverpool

James-Milner-with-head-bandaged
Okay let's give this ratings malarkey a bash. Jock's on call with his work this weekend so I'm afraid they won't be up to the normal high standard but nevertheless it will be interesting to see how we all called the match and whether you agree or disagree with my ratings.

It was very much a game of two halves. First half was all Southampton as we at times struggled to get out of our own area. They won the midfield battle and appeared to be out pressing us all over the pitch. That does seem to be a good way to try and beat us. The trouble is we need but the smallest of chances and Boom! We've scored and now you can't press us any more for fear of conceding again. That's exactly what happened today and hence the second half saw the roles reversed with our lads looking far better and The Saints well under the cosh. Once again though there was a big question mark over our central midfield, it's creativity and passing, especially so in the first half but I'll touch on this more within the ratings...

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Adrián (4) - I made lots of notes during the game and Adrián's looked like a yo-yo of good-bad-good-bad-good-bad. Within the first ten minutes he'd cheaply given the ball straight to one of Southampton's players but moments later made up for it with a very well timed tackle on Che Adams (a player who caused us no end of issues in the first half). Anyway that trend of Jock worrying moments followed by good tackles and reactionary saves continued throughout but culminated in Adrián basically passing the ball straight to Danny Ings who then scored probably his easiest ever goal. Adrián had acres of space to make a clearance and what he did was absolutely farcical. I don't want to be too harsh on a new player and one who had made many good contributions but that last gaff was unforgivable and put a tonne of needless pressure on us to hold out for the win. He was fortunate we did but he must cut out the daft passes quick smart.

Alexander-Arnold (7) - Could have scored lower as some of his passing in the first half was a bit wayward and he didn't do loads defensively but it seemed to me that the majority of Southampton's wide attacks came on Robbo's side of the pitch. T2A also played much better in the second half and put some great balls into the box. He and Robbo also switched play between themselves very nicely.

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Matip (8) - A brilliant performance from Matip today. Played many nice long balls, was solid as a rock in defence and also joined in the attack as a late arrival to the edge of their area shortly after the second half begun. He got on the ball at the end of said run and was taken out by a Saints defender resulting in a free kick for us. A good opportunity to create something but unfortunately Salah's free kick was not stellar. Good to see Matip back alongside VVD, TAA and Robbo. We looked better for it.

Van Dijk (8) - Very similar story for Virgil. Imperious as ever and doesn't even look like he's breaking a sweat. He's one of those rarest of players for which the game almost appears to slow down for, meaning he seems to have so much more time to make his decisions and then carry them out. Of course the time isn't slowing down and that is just the mark of a truly great player. A comment from my notes: 'VVD is amazing, hooks ball away while facing his own goal with calmness beyond belief'

Robertson (8) - Back to my notes again and I started off in the first half by listing a few errant balls played by Robbo in attack. His defensive work was brilliant as always. In fact I started to tot up his sloppy passes and also his great defensive plays, very quickly that read x2 misplaced passes and x5 great defensive contributions. That was in the first twenty odd minutes and after that it was pretty much all just great defensive contributions to the point I stopped counting. His attacking play and forward passing meanwhile improved significantly in a similar manor to how his counterpart Trent's did. In fact in the second half there was a point where it was like they were playing ping pong. We had Southampton pinned in their own area and the ball kept coming out to one of either T2A or Robbo and they both immediately played absolute beauts of lofted balls back in. Unlucky for one of our other players not to put one away. Overall very good games for all our defence which should have resulted in a clean sheet. They did their jobs though and even saw out the game after Adrián's error.

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Oxlade-Chamberlain (7) - Not the easiest to rate because I feel you have to take into account he's just returning from serious injury. In the first half I was critical of both The Ox and Gini for their lack of creativity and more or less total failure to get the ball to any of our front three. The Ox did however put in some nice defensive work, including tracking back and making tackles around our area. In the second half he along with all of our players was much more assured. Oxlade continued his defensive work but also gave more in an attacking sense and so a seven seems a fair score overall.

Wijnaldum (7) - Okay it may seem I'm hedging my bets a bit with the 7's but I'll explain further. For me Gini did indeed appear to go missing in the first half - at one early point of the game I genuinely had to check the team sheet to see if he was playing. From that point on I decided to make a concerted effort to track Gini and his play and I must hold my hands up to missing a lot of what he does. It really is the dirty work and I believe it's also essential to the way we a play. We must be careful not to let it go unnoticed and unrewarded in our game appraisals. That said I was disappointed with him in an attacking sense. Our central midfield did in the first half lack creativity and coordination and Gini as well as The Ox have to take some responsibility for that. Again though Gini also stepped things up as the game went on, he was involved in the build up to Mané's goal and much improved in the second half, hence he gets a seven as well.

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Milner (8) - An eight seems right to me for Milner because unlike our other two central mids, Milner did what Milner does - be a solid, experienced, dependable player. I don't look at Milner as there to provide a lot of creativity but as someone who will relentlessly hunt down every ball, win possession and then make decent solid passes. Okay they won't necessarily be cute little through balls and the like, that's fine. What we do get with Milner though is blood guts and thunder in spades and even needing a set of stitches early in the first half didn't stop him from doing any of that. In fact he was still sticking himself up to stand in defensive walls later in the game and at the end of the first half he was instrumental in getting the ball to Mané who then stuck it in Southampton's net. That was a massive turning point for us toward getting all three points today.

Salah (7.5) - I thought Salah played reasonably well. The first half, he along with Mané and Firmino saw so little of the ball that it would be harsh to score them low ratings on that basis. When he did receive it though he looked pretty sharp, controlling the ball well and with some nice movement. He couldn't find the back of the net though on the one first half occasion where you'd have perhaps expected him to. A victim of his own success maybe as the bar of expectation is so high for Mo but also his set piece play wasn't brilliant so hard to rate him much higher today. That said he played a sublime, perfectly weighted back-heeled pass to TAA at the start of the second half and it was only good defending from The Saints to block Trent's path to goal. Moments later Salah had a one on one chance with their keeper himself but in my opinion his shot was poorly placed: too close to the keeper and too low. If he'd lifted it a touch it would have cleared their keeper's outstretched leg and found the back of the net. All in all then, a fair to middling performance from Marvellous Mo.

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Firmino (8) - More or less a mirror image of Salah's first half performance. In fact Bobby possibly saw even less of the ball and when he did see it he didn't seem fully at the races in terms of what he did with it. I would have been scoring him maybe a seven today but for him doing a Bobby Dazzler in the second half. We won the game and he contributed one of the two goals that's got to be worth an eight, although he did seem a little jaded to me and hopefully next time out he'll have shaken some of the summer rust from his game.

Mané (8.5) - Mané Of The Match for me was Sadio. The only one of our front three to see much action in the first half as he, Gini, Milner and Robbo linked up along our left flank a little bit. At one stage I was finding it frustrating that literally every single one of our attempted attacks was played way out wide hugging the side of the pitch. I felt we should have been providing more through the middle as well. After all Southampton had zero issues playing pass after pass straight through our midfield so why couldn't we do the same to them. Anyway our wide attacks did eventually bear fruit albeit from a throw in which found it's way to Gini and then Milner who did some good work to get it to Mané who then did even better work to stroll past four Saints players and blast the ball into the back of their goal. Yet again Mané makes a match changing contribution when we desperately needed one. That alone was superb but he also performed brilliantly in the second half, playing Firmino in for his goal and tracking back to do a lot of defensive work. Mané was our best player today.

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Subs

Fabinho (7) - Helped to shore up the ship for the last twenty minutes or so, including after Adrián gifted Southampton a goal and a glimmer of hope they could still get something out of the game.

Origi (7) - I felt Origi contributed quite well when he came on towards the end. He is fairly dependable at holding the ball up in the opposition's end of the pitch and recycling it so we retain possession, and really when you think about it that's exactly what we need in the later stages of a game which we're winning. He does also give the opposing team's defenders something new and different to think about while they adapt to his style.

Henderson (7.5) - Hendo only came on in the 89th minute and with that in mind some may believe I've scored him too highly but what impressed me was the experience and calm head he brought to the game at the very moment we needed it. He knew exactly what was called for to see out the game and was right at the centre of making it happen. Hendo himself got hold of the ball, slowed play down to let as many seconds tick toward the whistle as possible. Then when pressured he saw off their players, took the ball toward the corner and finally played Firmino in which resulted in us winning a corner in the dying minute or so of the game. That was pretty much all she wrote along with three points to us. Good job from our captain.

Manager's rating

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Klopp (8) - I was pleased to see Jurgen field what many believe to be our strongest back four and think he also fielded a pretty good midfield for this game. As we saw Southampton are no mugs. It's the start of the season and at home they were chomping at the bit to get at us. They can play a bit too. So our gaffer fielded what on paper should have been a solid midfield that was difficult to play through but with Le Ox also carried an attacking threat, further backed up by Gini. It's not Jurgen's fault that neither of those two players contributed that much to our attack in the first half but until Adrián's howler this was a clean sheet game where we won by two. Can't grumble with that. Additionally in Gini and The Ox's defence, Southampton pressed us to within an inch of our lives and sometimes you just have to say well played to the other team for stifling our own play so much. This is such an occasion.

Personally I feel we would have been better with Henderson in the mix but appreciate with so many matches we really do need to rotate a bit and use our whole squad this season. So that's what we did and it worked okay in the end. Should have worked even better than the last fifteen odd minutes dictated but hey ho, accidents happen.

The question which lingers is do we lack creativity in our midfield? It's been done to death of late so I won't labour the point but if we're honest up until Mane's goal changed the landscape, Southampton's central midfield was far better than ours. They repeatedly pinned us in our own final third and at times we looked like amateurs in our botched attempts to play ourselves back up the pitch. We were very lucky too at the 37 minute mark to see Che Adams take a gilt edged opportunity and head it over our bar. Had we have gone a goal down and given more wind to Southampton's sails things could have gone very differently indeed. They didn't though and we came away with maximum points.

In conclusion: back to back wins is a very nice way to start the season. The best way in fact and let's hope we make it three wins on the bounce against The Gunners. In the meantime we should of course, party like it's 1999.

BOOOOMMMMMMMMMMMMM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

League Leaders Liverpool :-)

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