Southampton stunned Liverpool at Anfield, Saturday, and in so doing, put a stop to a three-match winless skid, while rising to sixth in the Premier League table.
Dejan Lovren’s headed goal, less than 10 minutes after the restart, was the only tally on an afternoon where Liverpool struggled to create meaningful openings, and with the defeat, the Reds were dislodged atop the standings by Chelsea, who beat Fulham later in the day.
Following are six things we learned from the encounter.
Brendan Rodgers decision to start Kolo Toure and Mamadou Sakho in the full-back slots proved a disastrous decision as neither player—both of whom are central defenders—looked at all comfortable in their new roles.
The Liverpool manager’s teamsheet looked even more bizarre considering Jose Enrique, Andre Wisdom and Martin Kelly were all on the bench, and Jose Enrique was eventually drafted into the contest shortly before the hour-mark.
But with Toure and Sakho incapable of creating much of anything going forward, the Reds lacked any sort of width in the attack—something that would haunt them in the end as they failed to find the back of the net in their own stadium.
Southampton continued to punch above their weight during the summer transfer period, spending more than £35 million on Dejan Lovren, Victor Wanyama and Daniel Osvaldo.
On Saturday, it was Lovren’s turn to shine—the Croatia international not only scored the only goal of the match, but he also passed at a success rate of 82 percent, while successfully executing six tackles, per WhoScored.com.
Lovren, 24, spent four years at Ligue 1 giants Lyon before moving to the South Coast of England, and his pickup was nothing short of a coup for manager Mauricio Pochettino.
Speaking of coups, Pochettino did ever so well to pry former Celtic midfielder Victor Wanyama out of the clutches of much bigger clubs when he signed the Kenya international for £12.5 million during the summer.
The 22-year-old defensive midfielder has already formed a formidable partnership with Schneiderlin, and never was that more apparent than on Saturday at Anfield.
While Wanyama smothered the Liverpool attack—touching the ball 61 times and completing four tackles while snuffing out the attacking play of Iago Aspas and Steven Gerrard—Schneiderlin stitched things together in the buildup, completing an impressive 84 percent of his passes.
Liverpool quite visibly struggled in the absence of Philippe Coutinho.
Without the imaginative Brazilian adding a bit of magic to the buildup play, the Reds seemed at a loss for ideas against Southampton, and Iago Aspas hardly justified the faith Rodgers showed in him by naming him to the starting XI.
The Spaniard struggled to involve himself, gave the ball away far too often and was substituted at the break in favour of Raheem Sterling.
Rodgers conceded in his post-match remarks that Liverpool could have done well with Luis Suarez on Saturday.
“Sometimes players like him who are magical can make the difference in games like this,” he said. “The big positive from today is the fact he is back and the ban is finished,” per Richard Jolly of ESPNFC.
Indeed, the 10-match ban Suarez incurred last season for biting Branislav Ivanovic has run its course, which means the Uruguay forward will be available for next week’s league cup encounter against Manchester United.
Only Tottenham Hotspur have a better defensive record than Southampton this season, although the St. Mary’s outfit has still managed just three goals for themselves.
But on Saturday, the Southampton attack showed signs of life. It produced 12 shots at target to Liverpool’s 10, and while Osvaldo and Rickie Lambert might have been better in their finishing, at least the chances were there.
In the two of them, along with Jay Rodriguez and Adam Lallana (Gaston Ramirez was on the bench), Pochettino has an impressive group of forwards on which to rely. And if they can finally start to click in the attacking third, look out.