Liverpool’s opening victory wasn’t too Sterling
As far as wins go, Liverpool, at 10/1 to win the Premier League this term, will have easier victories over the season. One glaring factor against Southampton; a lack of spontaneity and cohesiveness to their attack in the final third that Luis Suarez offered instinctively.
Daniel Sturridge has been dubbed as the player to replace the Uruguayan’s goals, while compatriot Edinson Cavani or Colombia hitman Radamel Falcao are rumoured to be targets fill his void, if tabloids are to be believed. However, the Reds may not realise they already have someone who can step into Suarez’s shoes. Raheem Sterling displayed in patches, against the Saints, similar qualities to what the now Barcelona player offered Liverpool during his time at Anfield.
Although not a like-for-like attacker, Sterling displayed some of that instinct. Perhaps a good luck meessage before the match, sent by Suarez to the team motivated a responsibility from Sterling to attempt to at least shoulder some of the responsibility. His instinctive assist for Sturridge, and Liverpool’s winning goal, was almost a carbon copy of Suarez, as he latched onto a poorly-cleared ball to head towards goal from six yards out, as a deft Sturridge finish helped it over the line.
Sterling’s opener, however, was textbook and straight off the training ground. With the Reds on the back foot in their half as the Saints built an attack, Henderson pressing high up the field won the ball and played a sublime, defence-splitting pass for Sterling, who timed his run to perfection. He ran off the shoulder of the last man to coolly finish past Fraser Forster.
The goal did, however, paper over one glaring crack in the Liverpool team. While it was assumed that the Reds’ defence was to blame for many of their goals conceded last season, goalkeeper Simon Mignolet went unmentioned. Behind a more solid centre back pairing of Martin Skrtel and Dejan Lovren, against his former club, which admittedly will take time to gel, the Belgian displayed a number of flaws.
While many would have described a couple of his saves as spectacular, the reality is that Mignolet should never have had to make them. Twice he was caught in no-man’s land, once from a sublime long range curling free-kick from James Ward-Prowse, as he back-peddled to push the ball over the bar, and then again from a shot rifled from outside of the area, with the same result.
Mignolet’s positioning leaves a lot to be desired. It was almost as bad as Willy Caballero’s for Manchester City against Arsenal in the Community Shield. Mignolet looked shaky from crosses; flapping at the ball on numerous occasions, only just getting away with it. Weakness, number two, then; poor decision making. A team such as Chelsea can expose this achilles heel to great effect.
If this problem isn’t addressed, it could be one that prevents them from being serious challengers this campaign, while at 20/1 they are outsiders to win the Champions League. Going forward, the SAS still are eminent within the Reds’ ranks, even though one of their corporals has replaced last season’s lieutenant.