Two more pieces in the jigsaw

Two more pieces in the jigsaw

Liverpool's hard-fought 2-1 win over Southampton is just the start of a long, hard slog, but it has thrown up some takeaways of what we can expect from them this season.

1 New season, old woes

Some things can't seem to change - like the Reds having the second-half blues.

Liverpool were fortuitous to have got all three points last Sunday after a nervous display following the break.

Manager Brendan Rodgers called his team's performance exceptional. What he meant was "exceptionally lucky".

Had Steven Davis converted a clear-cut chance or had Simon Mignolet not saved Morgan Schneiderlin's close-range piledriver, it could all been very different.

Last season, Liverpool's blistering start off the blocks blew many teams away, but second-half stutters surrendered winning positions that ultimately cost them the league title.

Rodgers must find a solution for the Jekyll-and-Hyde syndrome, or it will cost them again this season.

2 Meet the new S.A.S

For Luis Suarez, read Raheem Sterling.

The Man of the Match not only scored Liverpool's first goal from Jordan Henderson's delicious diagonal pass that would have done Steven Gerrard proud, but he also set up Daniel Sturridge for the winner.

The young England winger may be the second shortest man on the pitch (beating Joe Allen by 2cm), but he rose extremely well to knock on Victor Wanyama's poor clearance for Sturridge to ghost in for a tap-in.

The way Sturridge raised his hands and glared at Sterling after the latter decided to shoot rather than pass during an earlier attack shows signs of their partnership being just like the old SAS.

But can they get 50 goals between them?

3 Plan B-ERT

Horrid pun aside, Rickie Lambert's aerial prowess gives Liverpool a different attacking option since Andy Carroll left (can't believe I'm saying this).

His late introduction allowed Liverpool to send high balls into the Saints' penalty area, one of which led to Sturridge's goal.

Yes, Lambert was not directly involved, but his sheer presence in the box offers the widemen a target to aim for. And he's a striker who can play with his back to goal.

But I still see the former Saint as a Plan B from the bench.

The Reds need to find a fleet-footed and free-scoring forward before the end of the transfer window to share Sturridge's workload.

4 Time's up for Lucas and Johnson

Lucas Leiva was a surprising pick ahead of Joe Allen and new boy Emre Can to partner Gerrard in the middle and did himself no favours with an insipid performance.

 He's a good midfield destroyer but offers nothing going forward.

 It may be time for Liverpool to cut their losses, especially if it's true that his old boss, Rafa Benitez, wants him at Napoli and that Barcelona's Alex Song is available.

Glen Johnson is the opposite - an attacking threat on either flank but defensively deficient. Last Sunday, he had the worst statistics of the back four.

Saints' tricky new winger Dusan Tadic got little change out of rookie right back Javier Manquillo.

 But when he moved to the other flank, he and Saints right back Nathaniel Clyne combined to flummox Johnson for the equalising goal.

5 The new Carra?

Is Dejan Lovren really the new Jamie Carragher?

His displays against Borussia Dortmund and Southampton show promise of him becoming the de facto leader of Liverpool's much-criticised defence that leaked 50 goals last season.

Martin Skrtel may have won more heading duels and made more clearances against Southampton, but the Croat took command of the Reds' penalty area with his organising, prompting and positional sense.

Barring injuries, the two will be Rodgers' first-choice pairing and they can only get better after more games together.

6 Super Simon?

As a shot-stopper, Mignolet is up there with the best. His save from Schneiderlin was world class.

So powerful was the shot that it needed a slow-motion replay to show that his fingertips had diverted the ball slightly onto the crossbar.

If only he is as capable when dealing with crosses or with the ball at his feet.

Every time the opposition gets a corner or free-kick on the flanks, it's heart-in-mouth time for Liverpool fans.

With the suspect Brad Jones as his only cover, Liverpool need another goalkeeper as badly as another striker if they are to repeat last season's surprise success.

tekmeng@sph.com.sg

This article was published on Aug 19 in The New Paper.

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