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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 October 2018

Premier League talking points: Xherdan Shaqiri gives Liverpool even more attacking options

A look back on some of the major talking points of Matchday 6 in the Premier League

Xherdan Shaqiri speaks with Liverpool teammate Mohamed Salah before taking a free kick against Southampton. Reuters
Xherdan Shaqiri speaks with Liverpool teammate Mohamed Salah before taking a free kick against Southampton. Reuters

Shaqiri offers attacking alternative for Liverpool

Liverpool's 3-0 win over Southampton had so many positives that it was hard to understand if Jurgen Klopp was doing a sideline in self-effacing stand-up rather than an honest assessment in criticising his side's performance at Anfield.

Klopp pointed the finger of blame for what was a pretty impressive performance but which he described as a lack of organisation at himself. Xherdan Shaqiri and Joel Matip were handed their first starts of the campaign while captain Jordan Henderson was preferred ahead of the tireless James Milner.

Shoehorning Shaqiri into an an attacking line up already boasting Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino is a luxury few other managers have and prompted a reshuffle that saw Salah operate the more central attacking striker's berth usually the preserve of Roberto Firmino, who took up a wide position on the left.

On paper, the thought of Shaqiri filling the No 10 role behind a rampaging Salah certainly whets the appetite. The reality was even more tantalising. Never ones to be restricted by formal positions, the constant interchange of Liverpool's front four left Southampton defenders gasping for air long before Shaqiri's effort was deflected comically into his own goal by Wesley Hoedt. The Swiss constantly probed for openings and Salah could have got his name on the scoresheet well before bundling home Shaqiri's fee kick that cannoned off the crossbar.

To cap what everyone else bar Klopp will see as a masterstroke, Matip, picked ahead of the impressive Joe Gomez, scored his first goal at Anfield as Liverpool made it seven wins from their first seven matches (six Premier League, one Uefa Champions League), surpassing their previous best start to a campaign in 1961/ 62.

With Chelsea failing to match Liverpool's perfect start after being held at West Ham United, Klopp's men are two points clear at the summit. With a trip to Stamford Bridge up next, Klopp's abundance of attacking options, coupled with a new-found resolve at the back that has previously undermined much of his time in charge at the club, should give the German little else to complain about.

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Read more:

Jurgen Klopp hails 'cool' win over Southampton, criticises Liverpool's performance

Premier League team of the week: Lacazette and Aguero combine up front

Richard Jolly: Obdurate West Ham find a way to stifle Maurizio Sarri's Chelsea

Andy Mitten: Alexis Sanchez's form becoming a concern for Manchester United

Match report: Petr Cech stars as Arsenal beats Everton 2-0 for fifth straight win

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Aleksandar Mitrovic, right, has netted five league goals in six league games for Fulham since switching from Newcastle. Reuters
Aleksandar Mitrovic, right, has netted five league goals in six league games for Fulham since switching from Newcastle. Reuters

Mitrovic shows Newcastle what they are missing

Aleksandar Mitrovic looks the sort to avoid when walking on your own down a dark alley, but for Fulham, the burly Serb could steal candy from a baby and still do no wrong. His equaliser against Watford displayed all the cunning of a fox and strength of a bear to get in ahead of Christian Kabasele and the finishing of a Leonardo Da Vinci brushstroke to convert past Ben Foster from an awkward angle. Only the frame of the goal denied him a winner late on.

The goal was a fifth in six games since making his move from Newcastle United permanent over the summer, and how Mitrovic's former employers must be ruing the decision to let him leave now.

Rafa Benitez's side's struggles in front of goal show no signs of abating. The stalemate at Crystal Palace secured only a second point of the season, and a point at Selhurst Park is always one hard earned. But unless the as-yet-to-score Solomon Rondon, a player whose attributes are more aligned to unnerving defences through brute force rather than technical brilliance, and Joselu, who has scored exactly half of Newcastle's four goals this term but is mostly resigned to cameo roles off the bench, then Newcastle are in real danger of being sucked into the relegation struggle.

Aaron Lennon, left, scored his first Premier League goal in over 18 months against Bournemouth. Reuters
Aaron Lennon, left, scored his first Premier League goal in over 18 months against Bournemouth. Reuters

Burnley back in business

Eddie Howe must still be scratching his head trying to figure out how his Bournemouth side left Turf Moor on the back of a four-goal hiding. The South Coast club dominated possession, had 19 attempts at goal to Burnley's 12 and were more than a match in the tackle.

That Burnley recorded their first victory in the Premier League this season owes much to the performances of wingers Johann Berg Gudmundsson and Aaron Lennon. The former provided two assists while the latter scored his first goal since January 2016 and was a constant threat throughout. The fact Lennon is back playing regular first-team football after his well documented mental health issues is testament to his character and perseverance.

Questions remain over whether Sean Dyche's squad have the quality and depth to cope with commitments in both the Europa League and Premier League, but a 4-0 victory over an in-form team on the back of just 38 per cent possession suggests that there will be no deviation from the Burnley way of getting the job done.