The future is bright for Liverpool with Thiago at his peak

Robbie Copeland
Thiago got his first Liverpool goal against Southampton
Thiago got his first Liverpool goal against Southampton / Pool/Getty Images

Liverpool's routine win over Southampton on Saturday night wasn't much to shout about, but it was a quiet source of optimism as this season to forget draws to a close.

The Reds looked much more like themselves, zipping the ball about with a pace and purpose that echoed the team who stormed to the league last season and the Champions League the year before.

They were shakey at the back for spells - as you will be when your centre-backs have played a combined 30 senior games - but there was a measure of control and a renewed intensity to their play that Southampton struggled to handle.

Both goals were vintage Liverpool. The first was back to front in an instant, with Sadio Mane heading in Mohamed Salah's cross within seconds of a wonderful save from Alisson at the other end.

The second, wonderfully finished by Thiago for his first Liverpool goal, came as a result of Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane pressing Kyle Walker-Peters out of possession deep in his own half. That freed the Spaniard to bring the ball inside and whip a shot past Fraser Forster, sealing a win that put the Reds right back into the top four conversation.

He more than deserved his moment in the headlines. In recent weeks, he has begun to look more and more like the player Liverpool thought they were signing in the summer, but this performance well and truly signalled his arrival.

He controlled the game, seeing more of the ball than any Liverpool player other than Andy Robertson, and barely missed the mark with a pass all evening. The range of his distribution was absurd, as he executed nine of his 11 long passes to perfection and finished the game with a completion rate of 93.1%.

His aptitude at holding onto the ball and picking out a pass from any distance allowed Liverpool to mix things up and keep Southampton guessing in a way they wouldn't be able to without him in the team.

In that sense, it looked like a more unpredictable and dynamic version of the Liverpool of last season, even if the inexperienced duo of Rhys Williams and Nat Phillips at the back left them looking vulnerable at times.

Klopp has had plenty to ponder this season, but one of the puzzles on his mind had clearly been where Thiago fits into his strongest team. Now he has the answer, and it bodes well for the future.

It's been a long, arduous season, but if Saturday was a sign of what Liverpool are going to be in the months ahead, then there is reason to be cautiously excited.

Slowly but surely, they are recovering as a unit after that disastrous post-Christmas slump that cost them any real chance at silverware.

Thiago will be central to that recovery as it continues, and on Saturday's evidence, that could be very fun to watch indeed.