Liverpool show they can cope without Luis Suarez this season
Last updated on .From the section Football
Of all the photographs proudly on display in the Anfield press room, the one which really strikes a chord is that of Luis Suarez wheeling away in celebration.
It could be any of the 31 goals he scored in 33 Premier League games last season, but for as long as the picture remains on that wall it will serve as a reminder of what Liverpool have lost.
Life without the prolific Uruguay striker began much as the Reds would have wanted; three points in their opening fixture and goals for two of their most important players.
There was even a text message from Suarez to Brendan Rodgers on the morning of the match to wish his former manager and team-mates well as they embark on a new era.
But if that era is to yield success, Liverpool will have to improve dramatically on the display they produced against a Southampton side who could well have left with a shock victory.
Did Liverpool miss Suarez?
Any club would miss a player of Suarez's calibre and while the £75m Barcelona paid for his services does cushion the blow, it cannot guarantee he will be adequately replaced.
Liverpool have spent heavily to bolster their squad, but the only striker recruited so far is Rickie Lambert and it was no surprise to hear Rodgers in his post-match news conference reiterating a desire to add to this department before the transfer window closes.
Against Southampton, the absence of that constant menace up front - the rare talent who can create something out of nothing and win matches almost single-handedly - was noticeable.
But, interestingly, there were signs of a more ruthless streak emerging as Sterling converted the game's first meaningful chance and Daniel Sturridge got the winner with his only clear-cut opportunity.
Although Liverpool had the same number of shots as Southampton (12), with fewer on target (five to six) and less corners (two to six), they still came out on the right end of the result.
Rodgers accepted his team lacked their usual fluency but pointed out that some players are still finding their fitness while others are soon to return from injury.
If the Suarez tally subtracted from Liverpool's 2013-14 league total, they still managed 70 goals - a figure surpassed only by champions Manchester City (102) and third-place Chelsea (71).
"We are bigger than any one player and our ambitions have to be," Rodgers added.
Philippe Coutinho was picked to support Sturridge in the role Suarez used to occupy and Rodgers called him over to deliver instructions on several occasions before substituting him on 76 minutes.
There was little sense of dejection among the home fans at the loss of their star man, however, tougher opponents than Southampton await.
Did the new signings work?
As Tottenham showed after the departure of Gareth Bale, not even spending £100m on a raft of signings will necessarily mitigate the loss of your best player.
Liverpool have committed a similar outlay on eight new faces: Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana, Emre Can, Lazar Markovic, Dejan Lovren, Divock Origi, Javier Manquillo and Alberto Moreno.
The fact that three of them - Lambert, Lallana and Lovren - came from Sunday's opponents was lost on nobody but only Lovren and Manquillo started, Lambert later replacing Coutinho.
|Liverpool's major summer deals|
|Adam Lallana [Southampton] £25m||Luis Suarez [Barcelona] £75m|
|Dejan Lovren [Southampton] £20m||Pepe Reina [Bayern Munich] £2m|
|Lazar Markovic [Benfica] £20m||Martin Kelly [Crystal Palace] £1.5m|
|Alberto Moreno [Sevilla] £12m|
|Emre Can [Bayer Leverkusen] £10m||Iago Aspas [Sevilla] Loan|
|Divock Origi [Lille] £10m||Luis Alberto [Malaga] Loan|
|Rickie Lambert [Southampton] £4m||Andre Wisdom [West Brom] Loan|
|Javier Manquillo [Atletico Madrid] Loan||Divock Origi [Lille] Loan|
While those who did not feature offer Liverpool plenty to be excited about, there is every likelihood that Lovren could prove the most important piece of business.
The 25-year-old seems the natural successor to Jamie Carragher.
He was a towering presence at the heart of defence, winning most of his duels in the air and on the ground, organising the back-four and showing impressive positional awareness.
Lovren was outfoxed by Dusan Tadic for Southampton's excellent equaliser but, in a summer when eight of Europe's 25 most expensive transfers have been centre-backs or full-backs, he is good value at £20m.
Of the top eight in last season's Premier League, only Tottenham (51) conceded more goals than Liverpool (50) and the Croatia international should ensure that record improves.
Manquillo arrived on a two-year loan deal from Atletico Madrid and, at 20 years of age, his youth and relative lack of experience means he will take time to settle.
The right-back is not blessed with pace and made a nervy start, brushed aside by Tadic and Ryan Bertrand on a couple of occasions, but he grew into the contest and provided a balance between attack and defence that Rodgers will hope Moreno can replicate on the left.
Lambert's introduction, according to the manager, "unsettled them [Southampton] a bit" and allowed him to experiment for the first time with a genuine hold-up player. A different option.
The squad's potential will become a lot clearer when the other signings - aside from Origi, who has returned to Lille on loan - are integrated over the coming weeks.
Can they challenge for the title?
Liverpool defied expectations to challenge for a first title in 24 years last season and, once in the hunt, many felt they would never get a better chance because there was no European football to distract them and they made early exits in both domestic cup competitions.
Now the Reds have to contend with Champions League and it is difficult to imagine them getting the better of City and Chelsea given their greater familiarity with such a juggling act.
On the evidence of this narrow win they will need to enhance their creativity, guard more effectively against the counter-attack and add a world-class striker to their artillery.
"I don't think anyone has given us hope of getting in the top four," said Rodgers. "But they didn't last season and we will attack this season as we did that."
|Opening day fortunes - How Liverpool have performed in recent seasons|
|2014 Liverpool 2-1 Southampton||2013 Liverpool 1-0 Stoke City|
|2012 West Brom 3-0 Liverpool||2011 Liverpool 1-1 Sunderland|
|2010 Liverpool 1-1 Arsenal||2009 Tottenham 2-1 Liverpool|
And what about Southampton?
If the Saints are a club in crisis, plenty of others would happily swap positions with them.
Aside from the three players who went to Liverpool, they saw manager Mauricio Pochettino leave for Tottenham, Luke Shaw for Manchester United, Calum Chambers for Arsenal and Dani Osvaldo for Inter Milan. It might get worse if Morgan Schneiderlin is granted his wish to join the exodus.
But of the almost £100m recouped, nearly £50m has been used to rebuild and new boss Ronald Koeman is already showing signs of picking up where he predecessor left off.
Goalkeeper Fraser Forster, left-back Bertrand, playmaker Tadic and striker Graziano Pelle slotted in neatly alongside captain Jose Fonte, right-back Nathaniel Clyne, midfielders Schneiderlin, Steven Davis and Victor Wanyama, and the free-roaming James Ward-Prowse.
The role played by Tadic in Clyne's equaliser underlined the promise of a player sure to generate hype and whose name was sung loud by the travelling supporters as he left the field.
Shane Long had an impact off the bench - though he headed wide when well-placed to equaliser - and while defender Florin Gardos and midfielder Saphir Taider did not figure, Koeman clearly has strength in depth at his disposal. And there is also still money available, of course.
|Home discomforts - Liverpool and Arsenal are the only hosts to win on the first weekend|
|Manchester United 1-2 Swansea||QPR 0-1 Hull City|
|Stoke City 0-1 Aston Villa||West Ham 0-1 Tottenham 1|
|Leicester City 2-2 Everton||West Brom 2-2 Sunderland|
|Newcastle 0-2 Manchester City||Monday: Burnley v Chelsea|