Chelsea top the table that matters most but such is Liverpool’s extraordinary potency that Jurgen Klopp’s prolific team are beginning to dominate the other charts.
They are making their mark in the present and rivalling teams of the distant past. By eviscerating Southampton, they emulated Sunderland: the 1927 version, the previous top-flight English team to score at least two goals in 17 consecutive games.
“It will not be forever like this that we always score two or more,” warned Klopp, and his side got two more for good measure. No Liverpool side ever had as many league goals after 13 matches and Diogo Jota’s early brace means only one player has scored more often in the Premier League this season: his teammate Mohamed Salah.
If there was some surprise that the predatory Egyptian didn’t find the net, the goal Salah provided for Jota means he has more assists than anyone else in the division. The one that Trent Alexander-Arnold set up for Virgil van Dijk means he is tied for second.
A second successive 4-0 win lacked the momentous feel of outclassing Arsenal but Liverpool displayed a similarly intoxicating blend of pace and movement before using the final half-hour to rest ahead of Wednesday’s Merseyside derby. Before then, they were irresistible, though Southampton put up too little resistance.
“It is hard to defend against a team on fire,” said manager Ralph Hasenhuttl. He changed system, brought in a third centre-back and admitted: “It would have been better in our normal shape. We wanted to surprise them a little bit and we surprised ourselves. It was my mistake.” He sought to rectify it at half-time after his plans were undone at remarkable speed. Southampton conceded in the second minute and changed shape at the break.
Playing 3-4-3 meant Saints were often outflanked, partly because they invariably left Andy Robertson free. After Sadio Mane nutmegged Jan Bednarek with a pass, Robertson supplied a low cutback and Jota timed his arrival in the six-yard box to score the opener. His second was still simpler, a tap-in from Salah’s low centre for Liverpool’s 700th goal under Klopp, but there were certain similarities: while Jordan Henderson fed Salah on the right, Liverpool again freed a man on the wing.
Jota later spurned chances for a hat-trick, skewing a shot wide from Robertson’s cross, but his elusiveness underlined what a superb acquisition he has been. Undaunted by the prospect of challenging Salah, Mane and Roberto Firmino when he joined, he has been a revelation.
“Perfect signing,” grinned Klopp. “Exceptional boy, he is everything a Liverpool player in this squad needs: he has the technical skills, the physical skills and he is very smart and can learn all the tactical stuff really quickly.”
In contrast, Thiago Alcantara was 2020’s flagship buy and has met with more mixed reviews, but he is in rare form. His goal was a reward for a terrific performance, if a little fortunate. Thiago’s strike against Porto was glorious, a “thunderball”, in Klopp’s words. This was less memorable, though he did well to anticipate a loose ball and connected sweetly, but it was a sizeable deflection off Lyanco that defeated Alex McCarthy.
Luckless then, Southampton were culpable for a lack of marking when they allowed Van Dijk to volley in Alexander-Arnold’s corner. There could have been more. The offside Mane had a goal chalked off and had a dipping shot tipped over. Salah’s audacious curler went just wide; a similar, goalbound effort, was headed away by Mohammed Salisu.
The one concern for Liverpool was that the action was not confined to the visitors’ goal. Alisson had to excel again. “I was not happy with the chances we conceded,” Klopp said. “I have no problem when Ali makes saves but they were too spectacular. One on one with the goalkeeper shouldn’t happen twice.”
Alisson denied Armando Broja, who sped clear after Alexander-Arnold’s awful throw, and Adam Armstrong. “It is always a good goalkeeper in the goal,” lamented Hasenhuttl.