It was a night to forget for Jürgen Klopp as the Reds fell to a surprise defeat on the south coast on Monday evening.
With the prime minister administering some more depressing news moments before kick-off, Liverpool where unable to lift the gloom for the fans as poor performances all round have now placed them in a precarious position going into the FA Cup break.
With Manchester United and Manchester City expected to win their games in hand, the Reds will now be chasing both sides for the first time. The overall recent form hasn’t been good, with the exception of the Tottenham and Crystal Palace games, with alarm bells now firmly ringing in Klopp’s ears.
The night started in the worst possible fashion, as they were caught out from a set piece in the first two minutes. With a ball acutely chipped over the top towards Danny Ings, Trent Alexander-Arnold failed to clear the ball, missing it completely, on its way through to the England striker. With just Alisson to beat, the former Red wonderfully lofted the ball over the Brazilian and into the far corner.
It would be a goal that Liverpool would be unable to recover from, as failures in the final third once again cost them majorly. Klopp will be frustrated as his side was always one pass or one decisive shot away from a goal, but neither materialised.
Chance after chance went by, along with two stonewall penalty appeals, but that allusive finish or piece of luck evaded them. It was one of those games that even with another 90 minutes, I believe the Reds still wouldn’t have scored.
It is the first time in the Klopp’s tenure that the players looked bereft of any confidence. Within this recent run the Reds have struggled, and failed to win, against Brighton, Fulham, West Brom, Newcastle and now Southampton. These were games that, even playing badly, Liverpool have won in previous seasons.
This campaign, the lack of any plan b looks to be proving costly as sides sit back and counter, nicking a goal on the break. The manager needs to address this sooner rather than later as it is happening all too often for his, and the fans liking.
The German will now look to Friday’s FA Cup tie away at Villa Park, were the Reds where humbled 7-2 earlier in the season, to start their second domestic cup run. The manager will surely have one eye on the now key Premier League fixture against Manchester United, knowing that anything less than three points could prove extremely costly in the title race.
Liverpool made three changes from the side that drew at Newcastle. Nat Phillips, Curtis Jones and James Milner dropped to the bench, with Gini Wijnaldum, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Thiago Alcântara coming in. The latter two making their long awaited starts after long injury layoffs.
Here are my winners and losers from the game:
WinnersEmbed from Getty Images
A couple of players threatened this column but too many mistakes and the overall disappointing performance from the team, means this column will be empty.
It was great seeing previously injured stars such as Thiago and Oxlade-Chamberlain returning to starting berths which is always positive, but no display from a Reds player was telling enough to warrant inclusion here.
Trent Alexander-ArnoldEmbed from Getty Images
Arguably his worst performance in a Liverpool shirt. Everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong for the young England right-back as he endured a woeful evening.
As early as the second minute it was obvious that he was going to have a torrid game. After following the run of Danny Ings and getting in front of him at the free-kick, he would proceed to inexplicably make a mess of his clearance, missing the ball completely. This led to the opening, and only goal, of the evening and signalled the start of 22-year-olds nightmare.
His set pieces and crosses where completely off, over or under hitting everything all game. His attacking threat down the right was non-existent as Ryan Bertrand kept him quite by pushing the scouser into uncomfortable areas. His defensive work was also an anomaly, as he was pulled apart by Moussa Djenepo and Nathan Tella whenever the Saints manufactured an attack.
Throughout his Liverpool career the right-back has broken countless records since being introduced into the first team. Unfortunately for him, against Southampton he broke one that he wishes he hadn’t. He lost possession 38 times during his time on the pitch which is more than any other player in a Premier League game this season.
This summarises his performance perfectly as his inability to connect with others really restricted what he was able to do. This was eventually recognised by Klopp who, after being clearly reluctant to substitute him, brought him off after 70 minutes to pull him out of the consistent line of fire.
Since his reintroduction from injury, he has shown glimpses of his return to form. However, he has more often than not struggled to meet those lofty heights putting in sub-par performances. With the FA Cup coming up, it might be time for Klopp to give him a rest before the massive challenge of Manchester United in 13 days’ time.
Alex Oxlade-ChamberlainEmbed from Getty Images
After the long injury lay off, it was great to see his return to the starting XI. Unfortunately, that was as good as his evening got, as he was a passenger during his 60-minutes on the pitch.
A clear lack of football was apparent in his display as he miscontrolled several passes, lost possession consistently and was clearly not match fit. It was a difficult watch as his fellow midfielders, Thiago and Wijnaldum, had to work even harder to cover him.
He was replaced after an hour by Shaqiri, which will have been prepared earlier as he works his way back to full fitness, but his poor performance might have accelerated it by five or 10 minutes.
It was a poor evening for the former Southampton and Arsenal player against his old side but it needs putting into perspective. It is his first start after five months out with injury and he needed to start again at some point.
Previously after injuries, he has been eased back in safely by Klopp and he has returned to wins. However, with the Reds in poor form, his mediocre performance was even more noticeable in this team effort. With more game time under his belt in the coming weeks, there is no doubt that a return to form, and a few goals, are just around the corner for the midfielder.
The Front ThreeEmbed from Getty Images
The form of the normally ever reliable front three has been a cause for concern for weeks. An ever reliance for them to get the bulk, if not all, of the Reds goals has brought plenty of success for the club thus far. However, Klopp’s side are currently struggling now that these strikes have dried up.
Considering each were on the scoresheet against Tottenham and Crystal Palace not three weeks ago, if you take away these games, they have each seriously struggled to convert anything. Even managing to create openings is proving extremely hard.
Sadio Mané was arguably Liverpool’s best player against the Saints. His performance against his former side showed willingness and drive to make something happen. Unfortunately, when it came to the final product whatever he chose to do, whether shoot or cross, it was woefully wide of its intended destination. His left foot in particular had an evening to forget.
On the other hand, both Firmino and Salah showed nothing to suggest that they were going to provide anything positive towards the Reds performance. Both were extremely lethargic, losing possession at every opportunity. Even when they eventually received the ball in a decent area, they would choose the wrong option by shooting instead of passing or vice versa.
Klopp will be extremely concerned by his strike forces current output. With the Reds unable to register a goal in their last 258 minutes and Diogo Jota not expected back until the end of January, the current forward line that has been so successful together will have to play themselves, and the team, back into form.
This is arguably the toughest stint this group of players have had since they first played together nearly four years ago. They have been extremely crucial to the Reds winning four trophies in the last two seasons. If Liverpool are going to get any silverware this campaign, they need to find something and find it quickly.
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