Jurgen Klopp’s great Liverpool entertainers put Kop icons in the shade… but Anfield regulars are becoming too used to goals galore after drubbing Southampton
They were streaming for the exits well before the final whistle, in the quick and quiet manner that tells you there has been a drubbing.
What made the scene unusual was the fact it was Liverpool fans making an early dart rather than those from Southampton, who at one stage would have feared they were on course for a skewering comparable to the 9-0 defeats that Leicester and Manchester United have dished out to them in recent years.
Perhaps Anfield regulars are becoming accustomed to goals, goals, goals and, with the game long since won, they took the chance to beat the freezing elements and head for home safe in the knowledge that another three points had been collected without a moment’s concern.
Diogo Jota celebrated as he opened the scoring just 113 seconds into the win over Saints
The Anfield regulars are becoming accustomed to goal thanks to the Reds’ raging attack
Still, if ever a team had done enough to ensure people stayed in their seats to the very end for one thunderous ovation, it was this Liverpool side — who are laying claim to being the most exciting collective in the club’s storied history.
It is a bold statement — some will argue it is premature, too, as this campaign is only in its fourth month — but the weight of numbers married to the consistent quality of performances is making the argument irresistible.
It is no exaggeration to say Liverpool could have beaten Southampton by double figures with a little more luck and some sharper finishing.
They have now scored two or more in their last 17 fixtures, back to September 12; they have plundered 53 goals through this prolific period and, in Mohamed Salah, Diogo Jota and Sadio Mane, Liverpool have three of the top four in the race for the Golden Boot — only Leicester’s Jamie Vardy is stopping a clean sweep.
The team from the past with which this side have most similarities are Kenny Dalglish’s champions of 1987-88.
Jota scored his sixth goal of the Premier League season before going on the bag a brace
They, too, started the campaign with all guns blazing thanks to an attacking trio of John Barnes, Peter Beardsley and John Aldridge, but their total after 20 games in all competitions was 43. Klopp’s team have 59.
Southampton may have arrived on Merseyside with grand designs of repeating what they did at the Etihad — earning a 0-0 draw — but their plan was in tatters after 113 seconds when Jota, scoring the first of his double, raced in to put the seal on terrific combination play between Mane and the breathless Andrew Robertson.
Yes, Southampton had a couple of chances of their own — Liverpool are prone to giving opportunities away — but never enough to threaten a contest.
‘It is hard to defend against a team on fire,’ said Ralph Hasenhuttl, Southampton’s manager. ‘We can definitely play better than in the first half, that is for sure. We had a lot of chances and it is disappointing we didn’t score.
Thiago Alcantara slotted Liverpool’s third to put the result beyond any doubt in the first half
‘But against this team that is really on fire… they didn’t make the mistake they made against Brighton (in October) when they stopped after the 2-0 (and drew 2-2). I sent them out in the first half with not a good plan.’
Hasenhuttl might bemoan the fact he started with three central defenders but Liverpool are in such a vein that five central defenders would not have stopped them, particularly as the outstanding Thiago Alcantara, who scored a thumping third, and Jordan Henderson pulled the strings in midfield.
‘We have to work to be as stable, as seriously ruthless defensively as possible, so that gives us the platform to play football and then we can score,’ said Klopp, who saw Virgil van Dijk complete the rout. ‘It won’t be forever like this but I’m happy for now.’
As he should be. Klopp loves nothing more than exciting football and that is what he is getting. The challenge will be to turn it into something tangible by the end of the season.