Liverpool Focus – Slender Southampton win continues Reds’ progress

A Daniel Agger goal coupled with another clean-sheet helped lively Liverpool overcome promoted Southampton at Anfield on Saturday afternoon. Nigel Adkins’ side, who had previously failed to score on just two occasions this season and were unbeaten in four Premier League games prior to their arrival on Merseyside, were second best for much of the contest and the hosts’ victory was deserved.

Manager Brendan Rodgers will be impressed with Liverpool’s recent home form – the Anfield outfit have now won three of their last four fixtures on home turf, a somewhat impressive turnaround after they failed to collect a single victory from any of their opening four games at Anfield earlier in the campaign.

Rodgers currently equals Roy Hodgson’s sum of points at this stage of the 2010-2011 season – 19 points from 15 games. However, while current England manager Hodgson failed to keep the crowd on his side at the time, the situation with Rodgers is different. There are no widespread calls for him to leave and although there were some natural signs of anxiety and tension as Liverpool failed to add to their goal tally on Saturday, there is little sense of panic. Rodgers’ methods and exciting philosophy is earning him more time. The Merseysiders simply never warmed to Hodgson’s lacklustre style.

That is not to say that the honeymoon period will last forever. Results must continue to improve for Liverpool, who have yet to even enter the top half of the Premier League table this term. The return of influential Brazilian midfielder Lucas Leiva looks likely to help the Reds’ cause, however. Lucas has spent much of the last couple of years out with injury, but he played a key role for the home side during the weekend win. Not only is Lucas the only natural, senior defensive midfielder on Liverpool’s books, but his presence also allows the likes of Joe Allen and Steven Gerrard to play further forward than they have been doing in recent weeks. Given that the only experienced striker available to Rodgers is Luis Suarez, it is important to get Gerrard into more attacking positions.

But even Suarez will be unable to play when Liverpool face West Ham next weekend, where a win would lift the Reds above Sam Allardyce’s high-flying team. The Uruguayan star collected his fifth booking of the season against Southampton for handling the ball and will serve a one-match suspension. Given that he will not be playing a part at the weekend, Suarez is now likely to play in the crunch Europa League group clash against Udinese on Thursday evening, but it will be interesting to see who Rodgers selects to play as the central striker against the Hammers on Sunday.

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