Liverpool may no longer be top of the Premier League, but in all likelihood their most difficult fixture before the Merseyside Derby against Everton has now been navigated, despite only registering a 0-0 draw at Southampton.
With Chelsea’s 1-0 victory over Middlesbrough, Antonio Conte’s side now lead the rest – which would have been improbable to imagine two months ago – yet the Reds should come away from St Mary’s Stadium still feeling optimistic about their title chances.
By no means were Liverpool poor on Saturday – they dominated a side that finished in the top six last season, and Southampton’s defensive tactics illustrated the respect Liverpool now command for opponents.
Virgil van Dijk in particular was superb at the back, but despite this, Liverpool also struggled for their peak fluency immediately following the international break. As with the 0-0 draw with Manchester United at Anfield after the previous international break, the likes of Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino were a little sluggish as a result of their global travels and struggled to break down a negative and resolute side.
Nevertheless, despite these challenges, the Reds did still create chances and should have come away with the three points – with Coutinho and Firmino missing great opportunities, yet Sadio Mane and Nathaniel Clyne could both have scored as well.
Ultimately, Liverpool will be disappointed to no longer lead the Premier League after failing to win, but their performance and threat remained positive, and they should be up to full speed by the time a resurgent Sunderland visit next weekend.
As long as you are creating chances, you will eventually score, and there is no doubting the capability of Jurgen Klopp’s attacking talent.
Moreover, you cannot win the title in November – being top now is good, but being top in May is all that counts.
Defensively, Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren were immense, and Southampton barely had a sniff of goal, with the match overall largely dictated by Matip, who has been an incredible signing on a free transfer, and van Dijk.
Liverpool have signed many players from Southampton in recent years, with many playing against their former side on Saturday. Lovren, Clyne and Mane – not to mention Adam Lallana, who was injured this weekend, and Rickie Lambert, who only spent one year with the club – have all made the move from the south coast to the north-west.
With the exception of Lambert, all have proven to be valuable signings, especially since Klopp’s arrival, and have eventually represented value for money.
Could any more follow in the future? Here are five Southampton players who could join their old club-mates at Anfield.
Signed only this summer from Norwich City for £10m, Nathan Redmond has hit the ground running for Claude Puel’s side.
Either stationed on the wing or upfront, a new position for the 22 year old, Redmond has already bagged three goals for his new team as he adjusts to becoming a consistent Premier League performer.
Yet to be capped at senior international level for England, Redmond’s biggest attribute is his pace, a quality desperately needed by all Premier League sides in today’s climate, but especially for Klopp and his extremely intense style of play.
Rumours have been circulating that Klopp is looking for another winger, with Christian Pulisic among the names mentioned, but if Redmond can continue his form and versatility for Southampton he could easily force his way into Klopp’s thinking.
As a recent arrival, Southampton would want a considerable profit on their summer investment, so Redmond may need to prove his credentials for a season or two before a move becomes possible.
Virgil van Dijk
A reported target for both Liverpool and Manchester United, van Dijk seems the complete package. Strength, pace, passing – he is the modern defender for teams who love to play from the back or on the offence, as van Dijk can cover so much ground and stifle various types of attackers.
Since joining from Celtic just over a year ago for £13m, van Dijk has formed a formidable partnership with Southampton captain Jose Fonte, with their defence one of the best in the Premier League.
Having already mentioned the performances of van Dijk and Matip, such a combination at Anfield would present a scary prospect for any future attackers taking on Liverpool’s defence.
Again van Dijk will command a huge fee from the Saints, at least £30m, and competition will be fierce for the Dutch international should he be made available.
Plucked from the depths of German giants Bayern Munich for £13m this summer, again Southampton have signed a talented youngster who has struggled for game-time at a big club, forming a successful relationship in midfield with fellow outcast Oriol Romeu.
The 21 year old has been touted as a future star, and will see the Saints as a renowned place to revitalize his footballing career.
Capped with Denmark, Hojbjerg has had big shoes to fill on the south coast, with the departure of Victor Wanyama and previously Morgan Schneiderlin, but so far the signs have been promising. If he can showcase his true talent in the Premier League, then all of the big clubs will come calling, including Liverpool.
Mentioned above, Oriol Romeu’s career had been stalling at Chelsea with various loans around Europe, as many youngsters experience at Stamford Bridge, but a £5m move this summer to Southampton has reinvigorated the Spaniard, and his form this season has been excellent.
Operating as a defensive midfielder, the 25 year old has replaced Wanyama to great effect alongside Hojbjerg and has quickly become a fans’ favourite for the Saints.
Liverpool arguably do not have a genuine defensive midfielder, aside from Lucas Leiva, and no top-class anchorman since Javier Mascherano.
Jordan Henderson and Emre Can have covered the position in the last eighteen months, but Klopp may want a specialist next summer and Romeu could be a target if he maintains his newfound level under Puel.
There are other Southampton players who could have filled this final position, such as Shane Long, Dusan Tadic and Fraser Forster, given Klopp’s desire for a winger and Liverpool’s issues with their goalkeepers.
However, despite James Milner’s fantastic and surprising transition, left-back remains a priority position for the Reds to address in the long-term.
Ryan Bertrand has been on Liverpool’s radar before, when Brendan Rodgers failed in negotiations with Chelsea and the England international joined Southampton over two years ago.
Since then, Bertrand has become one of the best left-backs in the Premier League, offering pace and energy to maraud up and down the pitch, and would be another ideal figure for Klopp’s Liverpool.
However, Bertrand recently signed a new five year deal in July, and Southampton will want to at least double the £10m they paid to Chelsea for the 27 year old.