Gomez excelled for England during the international break, and the 20-year-old’s breakout display against Brazil saw widespread calls for a move to centre-back for the Reds.
But when Klopp’s teamsheet was revealed on Saturday afternoon, Gomez’s presence on the substitutes’ bench led to criticism.
“This will happen over the next few weeks, we will have to make decisions,” he told reporters.
“Usually I don’t think too much about the next game, but in this case I have to think about the next 13 games.
“I haven’t already planned them, but we need to try to. We cannot play one lineup until they are all injured, we need to mix it up—even if we win games like today.
“Joe had two games in the last week and it’s not a problem, he could have played today.
“But then for Tuesday I don’t think it would have been a big chance or a good idea to bring him again.”
Alexander-Arnold was one of Liverpool’s standout performers at Anfield, with his defensive quality at right-back particularly encouraging.
Klopp was quick to lavish praise on the 19-year-old, highlighting his development in a new role since stepping up from the U23s last season.
“We have Trent and he is another type of defender,” he continued.
“When he started he was a proper winger and sometimes a defender, and now he is a proper defender and sometimes a winger and that makes much more sense for this position.
“He was really good today, it was one of his best performances over 90 minutes in defending.
“What he can do offensively everybody knows. It’s good for us we have the two of them.”
Klopp has regularly explained how he will rotate his two young full-backs in Nathaniel Clyne‘s absence, and this was no different on Saturday afternoon.
Leaving Gomez out after his performances for England will have been a difficult decision for Klopp, but the No. 12 can now come in refreshed in Andalusia in midweek.
The Reds sailed to another three points as they took on the Saints at Anfield, in their first outing since securing a 4-1 win away to West Ham on November 4.
Klopp made four changes to his side after the international break, and was rewarded with a comfortable performance capped by a brace from Salah and a goal from Philippe Coutinho.
Speaking after the game, the German was in high spirits, lauding his side’s display as an “all around good performance.”
“[Man] City are flying and we can’t change that, but we will keep putting pressure on the others,” he told reporters.
Klopp also discussed Salah’s two-goal outing, saying “it’s a good moment” for the winger, and detailed Matip’s injury problem, describing it as “the smallest strain you can have.”
And the manager revealed that Alberto Moreno‘s wife gave birth on Saturday morning, adding: “Alberto Jr., he was in the hotel, sorry!”
Liverpool are next in action away to Sevilla in the Champions League on Tuesday night, as they look to build on their latest win and secure progress to the last 16.
Anfield was a jittery place after a run of one win in six Premier League games but, three straight victories later, the mood has noticeably shifted.
The result saw Liverpool close to within one point of fourth-placed Tottenham, and Klopp was a very satisfied man.
He said: “Southampton are a really good football team. We had these moments not too often so far this season. You need these goals and thank God in a moment we score them. That makes all the difference.
“I’m really happy about the defending, the whole team and especially the last line was really strong. It was just an all-round good performance and a really deserved win, and for us of course very important.
“It pushed the top of the table a little bit together. We are still in, that’s good.
“[Manchester] City is obviously flying around pretty alone. We cannot change that but we can make pressure on all the others and that’s what we did today.
“We have to build on our experiences that we made so far in the season. We played all kinds of teams, all kinds of styles. There was only one game that was really bad, and that was Tottenham.
“We used these experiences. We have a much better protection, I hope we can keep that, it’s a big part of not getting nervous in a game.
“It looked much more mature and that’s very important for us.”
Salah has scored 14 goals in 19 appearances in all competitions following a £34 million move from Roma in the summer, including eight in his last six games.
His first goal was a sublime curling finish while his second saw him time his run perfectly through the Southampton defence to get on the end of Coutinho’s delightful pass.
“He’s in a good moment,” said Klopp. “It’s good for us. The first one, that’s not a real chance, fantastic goal; second goal, fantastic play, outstanding for the pass.
“I’m pretty sure Phil played a few more of these passes already in his life but when somebody gets it in the box and is not offside, that’s quite rare.”
Virgil van Dijk faced Liverpool for the first time since the Reds’ failed pursuit of the Southampton defender in the summer, enduring a mixed game.
The Dutchman is very likely to be playing in a red shirt at some point in the near future, but this was an unhappy Anfield experience as the visitors lost 3-0.
Here, Press Association Sport takes a closer look at Van Dijk’s performance.Command
There is no doubt Van Dijk is a classy player.
Playing almost as a sweeper, the 26-year-old was good at spotting the danger in front of him and intercepting, although the visitors did get increasingly over-run as the match wore on.
He got Saints out of trouble at the start of the second half with an inch-perfect tackle and was his usual commanding presence in the air.
That strength in particular would be a big asset to Liverpool.
But at times he appeared reluctant to get fully stuck in, and it was he who let Mohamed Salah go for Liverpool’s second goal.Distribution
Another of Van Dijk’s qualities is his comfort on the ball, and he was more than happy to bring the ball forward out of defence, taking three or four touches where other defenders would have only taken one or two.
His attempts at long-range passing were not so successful, with one clipped ball to Nathan Redmond sailing harmlessly out of play in the first half.Overall Impact
If Van Dijk was clearly Southampton‘s best defender, that counted for little in the final result.
The Saints defence as a whole struggled to cope with the threat of goalscorers Salah and Philippe Coutinho, with most of the danger coming from wide positions.
The second goal was the major black mark against Van Dijk personally, with the Dutchman leaving centre-back partner Wesley Hoedt exposed.
Liverpool cruised to a 3-0 win against a Southampton team they failed to score against in four games last season, with several encouraging signs.
Liverpool 3-0 Southampton
Premier League, Anfield
November 18, 2017
Goals: Salah 31′, 41′, Coutinho 68′Salah Quick Off the Mark
A player once criticised for his finishing is now without doubt the side’s most potent attacking threat, and he took both his chances well.
He was a constant threat to the Southampton back line as he buzzed around Wesley Hoedt, cutting in from the right wing and playing off the shoulder of the last defender.
His first strike was an outstanding left-footed curler as his side won the ball back on the counter-press, before feeding it to him on the right.
They started the Champions League group game in Russia against Spartak Moscow, so this also made it their first appearance together from the start of a game at Anfield, but Salah was the star.Lovren Silences Saints and Liverpool Critics, For Now
The 20-year-old had impressed for England during the international break, having made his debut against Germany, but he was left out entirely on his return to club football with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Dejan Lovren coming in to replace him and Matip.
Liverpool vs. Southampton
Saturday, November 18, 2017 — 3pm (GMT)
Referee: Mike Jones
In recent years, this has become a fixture full of needle, with Liverpool’s constant nabbing of Southampton‘s best players irking the South Coast club. The Virgil van Dijk saga in the summer has only added fuel to the fire.
This weekend, the two sides do battle at Anfield, with Saints suffering just one defeat against the Reds in their last seven meetings.
It is no surprise to see Jurgen Klopp‘s side go into the game as strong favourites, however, with signs of things finally clicking into gear this season.
The 4-1 victory away to West Ham before the international break was Liverpool’s third win in a row, and there has been a more measured, pragmatic approach on show since the defeat to Tottenham last month.
On top of this, key players are all returning to full fitness, meaning Klopp could field his most potent attacking line-up possible on Saturday.
When the Reds click in the final third they can be genuinely unplayable, and Van Dijk and his teammates will hopefully be tested to the hilt.
Southampton remain a slick side in their own right, though, with a nucleus of individuals who have played together for a number of years.
They have players who can hurt teams, from the pace and trickery of Sofiane Boufal and Nathan Redmond to the finishing ability of Manolo Gabbiadini.
Former Liverpool player and coach Mauricio Pellegrino has made an okay start to life as manager at St Mary’s, but just nine goals in 11 Premier League games is a disappointing attacking output.
The hosts should have too much quality for their 13th-placed opponents, but an early goal for a well-drilled Saints outfit could make for a long afternoon.
Momentum is huge in football – dropped points would undo so much of the recent hard work by Klopp and his players.
Last meeting: Liverpool 0-0 Southampton
The injury news is arguably as positive as it has been at any point during Klopp’s tenure so far.
Nathaniel Clyne is now the only player sidelined, although unfortunately, the right-back will be out until 2018 following back surgery.
Adam Lallana is expected to be named in the squad to face his former club, but there’s no chance of him starting the game.
Whatever the team is, the substitutes’ bench looks set to be one of Liverpool’s strongest in years.
Liverpool host Southampton at Anfield for the 43rd time on Saturday, having won 26 of the previous 42 home games between the Reds and Saints.
Saints’ defensive record against Reds
Last season the teams played out 2 goalless draws in the Premier League – the first such time since 2008-09 against Stoke that both Liverpool’s meetings against the same club had failed to produce a goal.
The teams met four times in total, including twice in the Semi-Final of the League Cup – the Saints won each cup game 1-0.
Last season was the first since 1999-2000 that both league meetings ended in a draw.
The last 2 league clashes at Anfield between the clubs have ended in stalemate. There has never been 3 in a row on this ground.
ADVERTISINGGoals galore before!
The next goal scored will be the 100th in their Premier League clashes and the 50th in that time at Anfield.
Liverpool have failed to score in only 7 of the 53 meetings with the Saints at Anfield in all competitions.
Only 3 of the 53 Anfield clashes in all competitions have failed to produce a goal – league meetings in February 1992, May 2000 and last season.Klopp’s Saints record
He has defeated the Saints once in 7 clashes – a 6-1 League Cup win at St. Mary’s in December 2015.
Mane played 75 times for the Saints, scoring 25 times, including 21 goals in 67 league appearances.
For the Reds he has 16 goals in 39 league and cup games. He scored 4 goals in 4 appearances against the Reds.
Daniel Sturridge has scored 11 goals for the Reds as a substitute. Only David Fairclough (18) and Ryan Babel (12) have come off the bench to score more.
Sturridge has scored more league goals as a sub (8) than any other Liverpool player in history.
Liverpool return to Anfield looking to use the momentum built up before the international break to resume seamlessly with a third straight Premier League win.
Southampton’s arrival – which will see an Anfield reunion for Mauricio Pellegrino – kicks off a hectic period for the Reds, who face 13 games in just 45 days.
Klopp’s side will therefore be desperate for victory to maintain impetus through the gruelling schedule, and begin hitting consistent form in a crucial period.
Klopp has been boosted in his pursuit of that by the returns of several key players, and with the strongest squad of the season and various systems at his disposal, the boss has some exciting lineups available for Saturday’s clash.Team News
ADVERTISINGLiverpool’s XI vs. The Saints
As if the restart of the Premier League isn’t exciting enough, Klopp could mark the occasion by fielding one of the strongest lineups of his tenure against the Saints.
Lallana will almost certainly not feature in that, with the boss suggesting the returning midfielder will be used from the bench at some stage with no need to rush him back.
But the wealth and quality of talent available – especially in midfield and attack – gives Klopp several incredibly strong, offensive selections.
A tough job awaits the German in fitting his many match winners into a cohesive lineup, but one way would be return to the usually deployed 4-3-3 system
Leaving Oxlade-Chamberlain out would be harsh, but such a lineup would give plenty of flexibility – given it could easily become 4-2-2-2 as used at West Ham – and most importantly, adequate defensive security and serious firepower.
Switching to the all-out-attack 4-2-2-2 system from the off at London Stadium certainly paid dividends.
And for a winnable game at Anfield, Klopp could be tempted to stick with it in attempt to blitz a Southampton side who proved a nut too tough to crack in four games last season.
It would leave Klopp again facing tough calls with who of his attackers misses out, but selection could be influenced by fitness issues and with one eye on the two huge games that follow.
Mane’s recurring hamstring issue could see him preserved and Oxlade-Chamberlain retained, placing Coutinho into the Senegalese’s left-side slot supporting front two Salah and Firmino.
And the same could arrive in defence, where Alexander-Arnold’s more front-footed approach could be utilised in a game that could become attack versus defence – thus saving Gomez for sterner defensive tests in the next two.
It would perhaps be a very bold selection, but the quality and power of attacking play that would arrive combined with the need for a routine three points make it a gamble worth taking.
Keeping the rest of the Lovren-less defence the same, Liverpool would look like this for a rare 3pm start at Anfield:
The first game after an international break is always tough, but the Reds can use the positive form and new-found confidence to earn another crucial three points at Anfield.
However, he will also hope it is the Holland international’s last uncomfortable experience at the ground as the Dutch centre-back remains his primary transfer target.
Liverpool were forced into an embarrassing public climbdown in the summer after being threatened with being reported to the Premier League for ‘tapping up’ the player, but there has been considerable bridge-building done between the two clubs since.
They will have received some encouragement when Southampton manager Mauricio Pellegrino said on Thursday he could not guarantee Van Dijk would still be at the club after the January transfer window.
But when Klopp was asked about the centre-back he said: “You really expect an answer? What happened in the summer? There is nothing to say on that, absolutely.
“Hopefully it should be difficult for every player to come to Liverpool – you mean on Saturday right? Hopefully it is a difficult time.”
Southampton have previously sold Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Sadio Mane, Nathaniel Clyne and Rickie Lambert to Liverpool in recent years and with the recent goodwill charm offensive at boardroom level there remains a chance Van Dijk will become the sixth.
“There is a special relationship between Southampton and Liverpool,” added Klopp, who declared himself fully fit after a midweek trip to hospital after reporting feeling unwell.
“We’ve given them a lot of money for a few players. It was always a fair deal – it looks like they suffered in different moments – but Liverpool always paid really well for the players.”
One of those players, Lallana, is edging close to a comeback but it may not be against his former club after being sidelined for three months with a thigh injury.
The England international has yet to make a competitive appearance this season and Klopp is in no hurry to rush back a key player in his midfield, even if the player himself is chomping at the bit to be involved.
“There is no rush even when everyone who knows Adam can imagine how ready he is to be part of the squad again,” said the Reds boss.
“He is a fantastic player but we want to have him for the season. The next few weeks we have games every three days and we will need him for that.
“This is the moment the player wants to be back immediately and I have to be the bad guy and say ‘Not today, maybe tomorrow’.
“Obviously that is not too nice but I do it for him and for the club.
“We will use him for sure but bringing him for 90 minutes is not a good idea and will not happen.”
Last season Lallana topped Liverpool’s running statistics and is the key man in initiating Klopp’s high-tempo pressing game, so his return can only be a significant boost for the side.
“What he is doing is so different to the other players: he is the ‘jumper’,” said Klopp.
“He loves to do that and of course it is very important for us and will be again and I am already looking forward to when we can use it again.
“But he is also a fantastic football player and he showed that in the first (training) session.
“Unfortunately I was not involved (as he was at hospital) but when I came in they were all really excited about it: ‘Ok, Adam was pretty good’ so I know about it and it is good for the player.”
Gomez has drawn widespread praise for his displays in his natural role for England in their 0-0 friendly draws with Germany and Brazil earlier this month.
This has led to calls for the 20-year-old to take over at centre-back for the Reds, after showing his strength and maturity up against Neymar on Tuesday night.
But speaking at Melwood on Friday, Klopp insisted there is “no doubt” Gomez could perform at centre-back for Liverpool.
“Joe knows about his still-existing little issues. He has to improve, but of course he’s ready for it,” he told reporters.
“He’s a fantastic player, [he’s] played a lot this season. We take care of him, he was injured in a time of his life when people are still growing, that’s a medical thing.
“We want to have him for the next 15 years. He’s not a one-team player, but we want to have him here for a long time.
“He’s ready for it, but he can also play as a full-back. That’s very good for us.”
One of the motives behind using Gomez at centre-back would be to replace one of Klopp’s under-fire options at the heart of the defence.
“We have to improve defensively, that’s how it is, but not how you discussed it about single players here or there,” he added.
“No, as a team we have to protect ourselves better
“We did that in [the last] three games. We didn’t give them any counter-attacks, or not a lot. It was very important for a dominant side.
“That’s what we have to do again. Southampton are fourth in the table for possession; not too many points so far, but probably still feel good.
Southampton manager Mauricio Pellegrino has admitted he can’t rule out the departure of Virgil van Dijk, as Liverpool consider an approach.
The Netherlands international was one of Jurgen Klopp‘s priority targets last summer, but the Reds’ efforts to secure a deal served to undermine them.
Forced to publicly end their interest in Van Dijk, Liverpool oversaw an embarrassing end to one of the most hopeful transfer sagas in recent seasons.
And speaking ahead of the Saints’ trip to Anfield on Saturday, Pellegrino was reluctant to rule out a departure for Van Dijk or any of his players.
“You never know because the market when we talk about money everybody has got a price,” he told reporters.
“The budget to sign players, the biggest teams have got money to try to sign players.
“I can’t decide about that. This is a question for our owners. I can’t control the market.
“I cannot control the whisper about my player because we have got a lot of good players, and most of the teams want to sign them.
“The majority of the teams in Europe want to try to improve their squad and the market is huge now around the world, and information is enormous right now.
“We can’t control this and we have to be focussed.
“Right now Virgil is thinking about us but a lot of players are thinking about other clubs, we are thinking about maybe other players to try and bring here next year.
“Everybody is focussed on their area to try to bring the best players possible for our club. It is something that happens every single transfer window.”
There is nothing emphatic in Pellegrino’s statement, and the ex-Liverpool defender went on to say Van Dijk “is training well and thinking about the club.”
But it does open up the possibility of Liverpool making a renewed bid for the 26-year-old, with a £70 million valuation mooted.
Southampton have started the campaign poorly, and are 13th in the table ahead of Saturday’s trip to Merseyside, having taken 13 points from their first 11 games.
Van Dijk is beginning to hit form again at the heart of the defence, but whether he remains at St. Mary’s beyond the January transfer window remains to be seen.
Pellegrino seems to be leaving Van Dijk’s future in the hands of the Saints’ chairman, Ralph Krueger, as well as owners Jisheng Gao and Katharina Liebherr.
The Premier League is back after the international break, and the action kicks off in intriguing fashion in north London.
It has been a long fortnight waiting for the internationals to be over, but we now have wall-to-wall domestic football to enjoy until March.
There is some great action to look forward to this weekend – here are the best games to look out for away from the Reds’ visit of Saints.
ADVERTISINGNorth London derby promises much
It is going to be very interesting to see who prevails, with Spurs undoubtedly the better team these days, but just one win coming at Arsenal since 1993.
For Liverpool fans, it’s one of those lovely win-win fixtures.
Spurs have more quality and balance everywhere you look, from Hugo Lloris and Toby Alderweireld right through to attacking stars such as Dele Alli and Harry Kane.
A defeat for the Gunners would crank up the pressure on Arsene Wenger, who continues to divide a fanbase like no other manager.
Both Wenger and Mauricio Pochettino would just about take a point apiece.
ADVERTISINGCan Rafa frustrate old foe Mourinho?
After a strong start to the season, albeit an overrated one, things have started to go wrong for Jose Mourinho at Man United.
The defeat away to Chelsea was yet another negative showing from United against a top-six side – Mourinho’s teams have scored just once in their last 10 ‘big’ away games – and supporters have started voicing their frustration.
On Saturday evening, Mourinho takes on old adversary Rafa Benitez at Old Trafford, in a rivalry that goes back to Liverpool and Chelsea‘s legendary duels during the mid-2000s.
Benitez’s Newcastle are ticking along without impressing greatly – the 1-0 loss at home to Bournemouth last time around was a really poor result – and they will be strong underdogs for the trip to United.
The hope is that Liverpool’s former manager produces a tactical masterclass and thwarts United – a repeat of the Reds’ 4-1 win at Old Trafford in 2009 would be even better.
It is hard not to see a home win, though.Liverpool cheering on Hodgson for once
It isn’t often that we root for a Roy Hodgson side to win, but that will be the case this weekend.
Palace have started showing signs of improvement, in fairness, and the home crowd will ensure that this is a long afternoon for Liverpool’s local rivals.
On Paper, Palace arguably look the stronger team at the moment, and you wouldn’t want to bet against them winning.Testing away days for Man City and Chelsea
At some point soon, a team needs to stop Man City.
Guardiola’s heavily odds-on title favourites look a frightening proposition on current form – they have dropped just two points in 2017/18 – with opponents swatted aside in dismissive fashion.
Saturday’s trip to Leicester City should be one of their harder games of the season to date, with the Foxes capable of troubling anyone at home on their day.
The attacking depth the league leaders possess means they should pick up three more points, but you have a certain amount of faith in Leicester delivering.
The Blues are inconsistent at the moment, however, and you would not be shocked if they came unstuck against a Tony Pulis side in need of points.
The Baggies are 16th in the table, having won just twice in the league, and Pulis is now under real pressure from the fans. Let’s hope they up their game.Fixtures, UK TV Info & Predictions
Brighton vs. Stoke – 8pm, Sky Sports Main Event
With the last international break of the year over, it’s time for a key run of games—but should Liverpool’s priorities lie in the league or in Europe?
It’s easy to suggest that the Reds should be competitive in both competitions, but when the matches come thick and fast between now and Christmas, decisions might have to be made.
Which competition should key players be rested in? How many changes on the road or at home? What’s the most important aspect for the season: progression in Europe or remaining competitive in England?
We’ve spoken to four Reds fans to gauge opinion and see where the preferences should lie for Jurgen Klopp; taking part this time are Anfield Index contributor Leanne Prescott, sports radio producer Scott Taylor, commercial analyst Mike Fisher and journalist Karl Matchett.
TIA: At the start of the campaign, was your preference for LFC to push on in the Premier League and finish higher than last season, or to make the most of being in the Champions League and go as far as possible? How has that changed at this point given how the season has unfolded so far?
LP: My preference was always the league and ensuring that we retained a top-four spot to cement a regular place back in the Champions League.
It’s brilliant to be back in the competition but we’ll only really see the full effects of it in terms of incomings if we’re involved season after season. That being said, having got such a favourable group, advancing to the knockout stages should be the bare minimum.
ST: As good as the Champions League is for your club, one of Liverpool’s stature is expected to qualify for the knockout stages of the competition, so the preference was to do well in the Premier League.
Over recent seasons, it has become one of the most competitive leagues in the world; six teams are fighting for four spots so earning qualification is crucial.
Over the course of the season, these preferences have only strengthened.
MF: At the start of the season I was hoping for a kick-on in the league, ideally being at least involved in the title race conversation until relatively late on, and then a minimum of getting out of the group stage in Europe.
Klopp has shown he is a gradual builder of teams, so Champions League participation next year just feels crucial to the stability of the project.
Whilst we don’t currently know what our pull in the transfer market would be without it, gut feel says we need it to continue the positive momentum.
How Southampton‘s defence deals with Liverpool’s blistering attack is likely to be key this weekend, according to Saints writer Richard Brereton.
Southampton head to Anfield on a good run of form against the Reds, with victory avoided and no goals conceded in four separate games against us last season.
Former Liverpool defender Mauricio Pellegrino has not made a great start to life at St Mary’s, though, and goals have been hard to come by. It’s just nine in 11 Premier League games for them.
It should be an interesting game, but one that Jurgen Klopp will feel is a must-win in his side’s quest for a top-four finish.
It can only be described as a disappointing start so far. We have had an easy fixture list yet sit in the bottom-half of the table.
There have been some positive signs from our general play in games, but there are still far too many frustrating and negative passages of play.
Saints have some big fixtures coming up in the next month, and a continuation of this indifferent form would leave us in an uncomfortable position going into the second-half of the season.
How has former Liverpool man Mauricio Pellegrino done so far? There have been murmurs about a lack of entertainment value from some.
It’s a difficult one. If you look at him in press conferences and the way that he articulates his ideas and passion to the fans, then you would have to say he has made a positive start.
One of the big criticisms of Claude Puel was that he failed to articulate his ideas to the fanbase. Pellegrino has talked about the need to re-define Southampton’s footballing identity which had been lost under Puel, but we haven’t seen too many signs of it happening yet.
A big criticism among the fanbase has been that it looks like Pellegrino doesn’t have a defined plan or approach. I would counter that slightly, as he is still new and figuring out how different players suit different systems, and I envisage him settling pretty soon on a couple of different tactical options that will be used going forward.
Those different options would all be based on one particular style. The criticism of the entertainment value is a difficult issue. In order for mid-table clubs to be successful they need to be relatively pragmatic.
We have seen from many sides in the past the perils of being too open in the Premier League, unless you are an elite side made up of some of the best players in the world, so clubs have to balance this pragmatism against the desires of fans who are being asked to pay ever-increasing sums for tickets.
Who have been Saints’ three best players so far this season, and why?
This is a really difficult question as the majority of Saints players have been either inconsistent or mediocre so far this season.
The one player who has undoubtedly been one of the best so far is new-signing Mario Lemina. He is strong defensively, deceptively good in possession, carries the ball forwards with purpose and has an underappreciated range of passing. (Editor: He’s also ruled out of this game, nice one!)
The second player that I’ll go for is Maya Yoshida. This is a strange one as new signing Wesley Hoedt is technically a better player, but has generally found himself on the bench while the Japanese partners Virgil van Dijk.
Yoshida has shown over the last year that he is dedicated and committed to Saints, which in turn means that he generally performs at a high level whenever selected.
Lastly, I will go for Manolo Gabbiadini, who despite being completely isolated in many of Saints’ games so far, is the top scorer this season with three goals – one of those was a stunning effort against Newcastle – at an average of one every 222 minutes. If he’d had the right service he could have scored a few more.
The Italian has been left out of the starting line-up a few times this season, which is baffling considering that he and Charlie Austin (who himself has only played 103 minutes) are the club’s best goalscorers.
We’re on ‘Virgil van Dijk watch’ for obvious reasons – how has he fared?
Since returning from his enforced exile from the squad, his performances have steadily improved week by week.
It was pretty clear from his first few appearances that he was very rusty having not played since January – a number of errors in the first few games were caused by him still being a bit flat-footed, rather than petulance.
As I mentioned earlier, Saints have been fairly poor recently, but Van Dijk has been one of the better players over the last few games.
What have you made of Liverpool’s start to 2017/18? Par for the course or under-performing?
It’s been fairly par for the course. There were the standard noises in pre-season of Liverpool’s chances to kick on following the top-four finish last year, but I’d argue that Liverpool are the fifth or sixth best team in the league.
Jurgen Klopp has clearly assembled a formidable group of attacking players, but his failure to address the issues in goal, defence and defensive midfield have jeopardised Liverpool’s chances of making ground up against the likes of Spurs and the two Manchester clubs.
Chelsea have had their problems so far this season, but they still have more quality throughout different positions in the squad than Liverpool.
If you could put one Reds player in the Southampton team, who would it be, and why?
Saints lack creativity in attacking midfield and Coutinho would be fantastic at addressing that, but our biggest weakness is our lack of pace and directness in attack.
Southampton’s attacking problems of last season and the start of this one are a direct result of the club’s failure to adequately replace Mane.
Salah has had a fantastic start to his Liverpool career, but I would take Mane over him due to latter’s existing affinity with the club and fanbase.
Looking ahead to Saturday’s game, where do you see the key battles taking place?
It will be fascinating to see Liverpool’s array of attacking talent face off against our defenders.
Van Dijk and Ryan Bertrand have been touted with moves away and they will want to show the big clubs how good they are against top attackers.
Aside from that, the midfield battle will be crucial. Whichever team can dictate the dynamic of the game in that area will have the foundations to stretch the opposition defence.
Finally, hit me with your prediction……
All logic suggests that it will be a Liverpool victory, but I have to cling on to some sort of hope.
I will go for a smash-and-grab 1-0 win for Saints.
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The 20-year-old was man of the match in this week’s friendly against Brazil on Tuesday, a deserved reward for the work he has put in over the last year having fought back after 13 months out after cruciate knee ligament surgery.
Gomez’s career has been on an upward curve since that comeback game for Liverpool’s under-23s last November, having been named captain of England Under-21s in the summer and then established himself in Jurgen Klopp‘s side this season which led to his unexpected England bow.
To his credit instead of trying to rush himself back into the first team he spent the second half of last season working on his fitness and playing matches for the under-23s and it was a tactic which paid off.
“We’re here to facilitate the first team and the first-team players that maybe need game-time or are coming back from injury,” said current Liverpool Under-23 manager Neil Critchley, whose side host Everton in the mini-Merseyside derby at Tranmere’s Prenton Park on Saturday night.
“I think Joe was in that bracket last season. Speaking to all the staff and seeing him from afar on the other side of the pitch everyone was really impressed with him as a boy just as much they were as a player.
“I think you can see that when he’s doing these interviews after the Brazil game and he’s such a level-headed young man. He wants to improve. He’s got that hunger to get better.
“It was a fantastic performance from him. I think we’ve played a really tiny part in that. It’s all down to Joe and himself in his own development.
“He’s very mature for his age mentally it seems. He ticks a lot of boxes, doesn’t he? You’ve just got to look at his all-round game.
“Probably the one thing that he hasn’t got is experience but if he keeps performing like he does on Tuesday night then the experience will come very quickly because he’ll be playing for Liverpool and England.
“I think Joe now has gone well past us (the under-23s), hasn’t he? His ambitions and aspirations will be getting into our first team, staying in our first team and possibly now going to the World Cup – and rightly so.”
The 25-year-old made his way back from Senegal duty midway through the November break as a precaution following his hamstring injury last month.
This cast doubt over Mane’s fitness as Liverpool prepare to take on the Saints in the Premier League, and he did not take part in training at Melwood on Wednesday.
But with Jurgen Klopp himself returning to take Thursday’s session after a short illness, the German was given a major lift as Mane was passed fit.
This means Klopp’s only injury concern ahead of Saturday is Nathaniel Clyne, with the right-back sidelined until February with a back problem.
Clyne underwent surgery on Monday, and is expected to make his comeback during next year’s run-in.
Mane’s availability raises an interesting, but positive, quandary for Klopp as he plots for only his second victory in eight games against Southampton.
And this is overlooking to possibility of leaving out an in-form Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, whose performance at the London Stadium does not warrant dropping back onto the bench.
Klopp is now blessed with a plethora of quality in both midfield and attack, and he is likely to be able to name one of the strongest substitutes’ benches in Liverpool’s recent history.
That this leaves out the likes of Grujic and Ben Woodburn, too, further highlights this.
But given Liverpool play 13 times in his 45 days from Saturday, the 50-year-old will need to rotate, and call upon his strong squad ranks, to survive.
“The satisfaction was for everybody” – Kenny Dalglish talks trials, tribulations, success and Knighthoods
There is nobody who has given more to Liverpool Football Club than Kenny Dalglish. This week we sat down with the King to discuss his 16 years as player, player-manager, and manager of the Reds.
A poignant and emotional film about Dalglish’s incredible life premiered at FACT picturehouse in Liverpool on Wednesday night, with a host of former players, celebrities and current Reds in attendance to see what is a truly superb feature-length documentary.
We had the honour to see a preview screening, then sit down with Kenny to discuss the film and much more.Early days
In the film and in life, Kenny comes across as a pragmatic man who made decisions not always for himself but often with the best interests of football and the football club he served. Speaking of his early decision to sign for Celtic despite being a Rangers fan – even living overlooking Rangers’ Ibrox training ground – he says it was “easy.”
If you look up synonyms for the word pragmatic you get down-to-earth, efficient, hardheaded, logical, practical, realistic and matter-of-fact. It’s fair to say those words pretty well describe Dalglish’s life and attitude.
“Football was more important than who you supported. They were the best team at that time, so it wasn’t a problem,” he explained.
Dalglish signed for Celtic aged 16 and joined Liverpool 10 years later in 1977, as a direct replacement for Kevin Keegan. But it could all have been much different, with Kenny explaining how he had a trial at Melwood when he was 15:
“They used to have trials at Melwood – you could write in! – on a Tuesday and Thursday night during the summer.
“I remember training during the day and playing against Southport B. Shanks and Reuben Bennett gave me a lift to the YMCA and said “we’d like you to sign”.
“There was an Old Firm game on that night and I wanted to get back to watch it. We got the train from Lime Street and then the scout came up and asked me to sign.
“Liverpool is a long way from Glasgow when you’re 15, so I was a bit shy and never signed.”
He did, of course, sign for the Reds and go on to make 515 appearances for the club, scoring 172 goals, winning nine league titles and three European Cups. “I was lucky, not too many people get asked twice!”
Two of Dalglish’s most memorable goals are ones that won trophies for the club – the first, to win the European Cup against Bruges in his first season at Liverpool, and the second to win the league title on the final day of the season in his first season in charge as player-manager.
Asked which one gave him most satisfaction, he provided a typically selfless reply: “The satisfaction wasn’t personal, the satisfaction was for everybody.
“When you scored you wanted to share it with everybody – teammates, supporters, the whole lot.
“For me, any goal that meant anything – every goal means something – was only a culmination of fantastic work throughout the whole year, when a lot of other people have contributed.”
It’s a quote which you could easily attribute to the great socialist Bill Shankly and is echoed when discussing the change from being player to all of a sudden player-manager.
“Getting away from the dressing room was difficult when I stepped into being manager, but the club gave me all the help I could possibly get,” Dalglish explained.
“I had the best administrator in football that there has ever been, Peter Robinson, and Tom Saunders, Ronnie Moran and Roy Evans.
“If somebody asked a question you’d confer with them. You were surrounded by help.
“There would be difficult decisions as player-manager, but I wouldn’t make them without the guidance of Ronnie, Roy and Tom.”
The strong-willed Glaswegian found himself at the centre of two of football’s biggest tragedies, Heysel and Hillsborough.
Made player-manager the day after Heysel and as manager at Hillsborough, Dalglish steered the club through the two toughest times in Liverpool’s 125-year history.
Many supporters have often pondered how Dalglish’s team of 1988, featuring John Barnes and Peter Beardsley, may have fared in Europe.
“We’ll never know will we. Maybe we were that good because we weren’t in Europe?”
“We started in August/September and only had three rounds before Christmas. And then it was March before starting again… maybe we’ll have done alright,” he adds with a grin.
“Irrespective of whether we were in Europe or not, it was a fantastic team. Really entertaining.
“The performance against Nottingham Forest, and against QPR when they were top of the league and we beat them 4-0 – Barnsey was toast. He was unbelievable.
“Peter could bang ‘em in. All types of goals for the team. Aldo too, the DNA was perfect for him. Loads of crosses. Plenty of touches off. Good goals.
“I don’t know how we’d have done, it would have been interesting to see. We need to get, what do you call it, Playstation, and see how we’d get on!”Club before self
Quite a lot of the film highlights the emotional stress Dalglish was under post-Hillsborough and he explains how he came to the decision to quit in February 1991, handing in his resignation the day after a 4-4 FA Cup fifth round tie at Goodison Park.
The decision to resign had been made before the game, with Kenny finding footballing decisions difficult to make: “I would say I wasn’t capable of making a decision. I wasn’t decisive enough.
“At least I could make a decision that it wasn’t fair on the football club. For me, it was more disappointment in myself, that I had to go. But I don’t think the football club deserved me then.”
Again, the club was put before himself.
The question is asked then whether there are any regrets that the club didn’t give him a period of time to recuperate?
“How can they give you a period of time during the season? Everybody has got hindsight. And I knew, what, two months afterwards, that it was a stupid decision.
“But at the time it wasn’t stupid. At the time it was correct. For the club. And for me.”
Does he wish that could have done what Ian Rush did and come back a year later?
“Rushie came back to a substitute’s role, didn’t he?” he jokes.
“You cannot wish your life away. How many people have been as fortunate as I’ve been? Along the way, there’s bound to be some hiccups. And you’ve just got to get over them.
“I don’t think I’ve been dealt too bad a hand.”
Finally, the question of whether he’d ever been offered a Knighthood saw Kenny provide another example of his selfless nature, opting instead to question why Bob Paisley never received one.
“It’s never been a consideration,” he says of the Knighthood.
Would he, though, like to have ‘The Sir Kenny Dalglish Stand’ – like Sir Alex Ferguson, a friend of his despite the rivalry, has at Old Trafford.
“I would. But he got one, and Bobby Charlton got one. Old Bob never got one. I’m not saying they aren’t deserving of it, but why did it not come along the East Lancs for Old Bob? Six championships in nine years. How many European Cups? And he never got one!”
Dalglish may not be bestowed a Knighthood by the British monarchy, but to Liverpool supporters who will always be King Kenny and something makes you think he’s happier with that.
* Kenny was speaking to This Is Anfield, The Anfield Wrap and The Tomkins Times ahead of the premiere of his new biopic, KENNY. The DVD is released on November 20th. You can purchase it here.
Joe Gomez‘s strong performances at centre-back for England have led to some calls for a change in role for Liverpool, but this overlooks a key issue.
After 13 months in the wilderness, sidelined with an ACL injury, the tables have turned for Gomez, who is now benefiting from the absence of other players for both club and country.
Joining the Reds from Charlton in 2015, the young defender made just seven appearances before being struck down on duty with the England U21s.
And in England’s pair of showcase friendlies against Germany and Brazil in the November international break, Phil Jones’ thigh problems granted him a berth at centre-back.
Those displays for the Three Lions, and particularly in Tuesday night’s 0-0 draw with Brazil, proved Gomez’s fledgling quality.
But while his success in shackling Neymar at Wembley was certainly admirable, the predictable suggestions that this should see the 20-year-old take up a centre-back role for Liverpool come too early.
Gomez was a colossus in north London, sticking to Paris Saint-Germain’s No. 10 throughout, with his front-footed approach quelling the threat of Neymar before he was allowed to build.
He made eight interceptions on the night, more than any other player, and was also level with Ryan Bertrand for the most clearances (four).
But his outlook was more nuanced than simply reading and removing the danger, with Gomez also proving his ability to step out of the defence with composure on the ball.
He completed more passes than John Stones, with 39, while he was more accurate in possession than their fellow centre-back Harry Maguire, with a 87.2 percent success rate.
Only Neymar (six) and Marcus Rashford (four) made more successful dribbles than Gomez (two), whose confidence moving into the midfield was crucial to the prosperity of Southgate’s back three.
These are qualities he has shown from a young age, be that for Charlton or as he worked his way through the ranks for England, from the U16s up to the U21s, for whom he is currently captain.
And they are qualities that suggest he can be a long-term solution for Klopp at centre-back.
But the same situation that has thrust Gomez into prominence at Anfield this season is also one depriving him of a run in his preferred position, as he has detailed on a number of occasions.
“For me being a young player getting regular games, regardless of the position, I’m just happy to be able to learn,” he said on his call-up to Southgate’s squad.
“I do see myself moving inside towards centre-half and hopefully playing most of my career there.
The sudden absence of Clyne, who played more minutes than any other player in his first two seasons with the Reds, is a considerable blow to Klopp.
The manager has previously described the right-back as a “machine” due to his remarkable fitness, and the loss of this reliable, consistent presence was a setback to his plans.
But, for better or worse, rather than turn to the transfer market to find a solution, Klopp opted to keep his faith in Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold.
The former has so far started 10 games this season, with the latter starting the remaining eight; it is a balance that has served Klopp well, and one designed to aid their development.
As Liverpool head into their busiest period of the season, there are plenty of reasons to feel positive at Anfield. Here are five that stand out.
The international break is now over, and we can all look forward to domestic football until March.
The Reds found their feet before the players went off to represent their countries, with three wins on the bounce for Jurgen Klopp‘s side.
It would be wrong to suggest that everything is positive at Liverpool right now, but we should be feeling optimistic about a number of things.
ADVERTISINGKey Players Fit Again
It is easy to be biased and assume that Liverpool’s injury woes are worse than their rivals—invariably, they’re not—but the Reds just haven’t been able to keep all their key attackers fit.
For the first time this season, however, Klopp has them all at his disposal, and it has come at just the right time.
Adam Lallana has recovered from a thigh problem, and Philippe Coutinho and Sadio Mane are also back, which means the mouthwatering prospect of the trio dovetailing with Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino will happen very soon.
That may even occur at some point against Southampton on Saturday, if we’re feeling ultra-optimistic.
Everybody knows about Liverpool’s defensive woes, but if they get their best players back in the team, it will make problems at the back less fatal.Winnable Fixtures on the Horizon
The upcoming schedule leading up to the festive period is non-stop, with Liverpool facing 13 games in 45 days from Saturday’s clash at Anfield.
As Liverpool’s players return from international duty for Saturday’s clash with Southampton, a number of individuals have enjoyed a productive break.
The Reds haven’t played since their 4-1 win away to West Ham on November 4, with international commitments taking over for the final time this year.
World Cup play-offs made the domestic interruption slightly more bearable, as did being able to watch certain Reds in action.
There were a number of positives to take from the action—and here are seven that stand out.Gomez Excels For the Three Lions
Having become an established first-team member at Anfield this season, the 20-year-old was handed his senior England debut against Germany on Friday night.
A solid performance was followed by a man-of-the-match showing at home to Brazil on Tuesday, arguably the proudest night of Gomez’s career to date.
The youngster’s composure belied his years, and the fact that he shone as a centre-back will surely give Klopp food for thought.
He has to start being given a chance there, considering Liverpool’s lack of options and quality in that area.Promising Signs From Solanke
Although it was Gomez’s assured display that made the headlines against Brazil, Dominic Solanke also showed the potential he has.
The striker switched from the U21s to the senior squad in time for Tuesday’s clash at Wembley—he scored the opener for England’s youngsters in their 2-0 win over Ukraine last Friday—and he made his Three Lions bow as a late substitute.