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It will certainly be remembered as a great result for Southampton. It’s not every day that an objectively prepared center-of-the-table team beat the defending Premier League champions, although Liverpool seem far from that flattering description at the moment. It has been clear from the start that this campaign will be very different from the previous three when the Reds and / or Manchester City completely dominated the squad, and lapses were expected every turn. But it cannot be argued that Liverpool are now in a situation that looks more like a crisis with every game.
Ings attacks the former club
He tried to stay calm after he scored the first goal, and it turned out to be the only goal of the match in the second minute. Danny Ings didn’t seem to want to celebrate a goal against a club he spent three years with, but he just couldn’t hide his happiness. And even Liverpool’s staunchest supporters will not hold it against you. It really was a brilliant hit, albeit with the help of Jordan Henderson who couldn’t keep the offside trap in working condition and Trent Alexander-Arnold didn’t handle the ball when he got the chance.
Nonetheless, it was a perfectly weighted lobled shot that gave Alisson Becker no chance to save, and somehow symbolizes the current stage of the 28-year-old’s career. Liverpool’s spell ended and it wasn’t pretty, with not one but two ACL injuries to deal with. Now he’s back in his prime, scoring goals on a regular basis, and it’s good to see him smile after everything he’s been through.
Worrying signs in Liverpool
For a time it seemed that Liverpool’s title defense was in danger of unraveling due to back injury problems. Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez are, of course, out of season, leaving the center-back department, as thin as before, completely devastated. Joel Matip has already had two separate injuries, and at the moment Klopp doesn’t have a single senior center-back fit to play.
However, the emergency solutions the German has found have worked reasonably well. Midfielder Fabinho has done superbly on paper, and Nathaniel Phillips (23) and Rhys Williams (19) haven’t done badly either. Ever Henderson did well overall both times he was in the middle of defense. But problems are emerging everywhere.
Liverpool just can’t score goals like they used to. It can be said that they create a lot, but the first three, so lethal for years, seem to have dried up for the moment. It is true that rival defenses take them very seriously and mark them with remarkable dedication, as well as that refereeing decisions tend to go against them, but their sharpness has slipped and they cannot hide from it. They have now scored once in their last three games, and that’s after posting seven over Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park. Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino need to find their shooting boots and fast, although others would also do well to contribute from time to time. The overwhelming feeling is that Liverpool miss Diogo Jota a lot at the moment, more than Van Dijk or Gómez.
And the defenders?
Liverpool’s style in recent seasons has included Andy Robertson and Alexander-Arnold frequently breaking down the flanks, going forward and looking for attackers in good positions in the area with precise crosses. These days it seems they are not handling it as much and it certainly affects the team’s ability to score.
One fact that stands out in this regard is that Alexander-Arnold, according to Sky Sports, delivered the ball 38 times in this game, more than any other player in any other league game this season. Klopp obviously noticed things were going wrong there, replacing the 22-year-old with 35-year-old James Milner after 77 minutes.
Robertson, on the left, wasn’t too bad, especially in the second half, but it was still far from enough for the Scotland captain.
Thiago needs time
Much has been said about the addition of Thiago Alcantara to the Klopp squad this season to help Liverpool break deep blocks. The Spaniard certainly has the ability to unlock defenses with cunning and accurate passing, he has shown it so many times before. But looking at this game, his performance improved noticeably after the break, and there’s a reason why.
In the first half, the home team often pressed as hard as they dared, not allowing the visitors too much time on the ball. Thiago (and everyone else) were forced to move quickly and move frequently to the side. The former Bayern Munich player simply needed too much time to advance when in possession, and his opponents didn’t allow him that time.
In the second half, Southampton fell and the defender deeper, and Thiago’s skills suddenly became obvious. The bottom line is that you will have to speed up your own game before you can speed up the team’s game, which is primarily what you have been hired for. In their defense, only a certain level of rust was expected after being out of service from October 17 to December 30. Klopp will hope that it is removed now; will need the 29-year-old in his prime in the next game: Manchester United at Anfield on January 17.
Referee and VAR are still a problem
It should also be noted that Liverpool were denied two potential penalties in this match, one possibly more obvious than the other. However, with VAR technology installed, neither of those situations should have been allowed to fly.
Both moments came in the second half, when the visitors struggled to achieve a draw. One was Southampton defender Jack Stephens using his hand to block Georginio Wijnaldum’s effort from the edge of the box, and the other was Kyle Walker-Peters cutting Mane from behind just as the Senegalese forward entered the area from the left.
It appears that referee Andre Marriner simply chose not to blow his whistle in the belief that the VAR would correct his decision if necessary, while the VAR referee was reluctant to do so. One question is important here: why wasn’t Marriner sent to see these situations on the field side screen?
On the other hand, the VAR also reviewed a situation like possible Liverpool penalty, Ryan Bertrand tackling Salah inside the box, but the Southampton left-back obviously got the ball on that occasion that it was all completely unnecessary.
Be that as it may, Liverpool must now resume their performance to the best of their ability, before United, who have now caught up with them in terms of point counts with one game in hand, arrive at Anfield. Like four Southampton, coach Ralph Hasenhuttl, who seemed to be crying with joy at the end of the match, will no doubt be delighted with what his team is doing this season.