After taking 10 points from their first four games and sitting pretty at the top of the Premier League, Liverpool had the right to go into this home game against
feeling fairly confident. The Saints started the season relatively well, but if
Liverpool had performed as they did in their
first three games of the season, you can’t help but feel this game would have
been a walk in the park. The fact is they didn’t play like that; they played
awfully. Southampton’s drive and determination to win was contrasted by Liverpool’s lacklustre, uninspired performance, and
consequently they flopped to a 1-0 home defeat.
If I was trying to be kind to
Liverpool, I could say that nobody was
entirely to blame. A perhaps more accurate way of looking at it would be to say
that everybody was, to some degree, at fault. This includes Brendan Rodgers,
who made some very odd selections. Despite Jose Enrique being fully fit,
Rodgers opted to play Sakho, a centre-back by trade, at left-back. Kolo Toure,
another central defender, was also played at full-back in the absence of Glen
Johnson, meaning that Liverpool lined up at
the start of the game with 4 centre-backs in defence. At first I thought this
could be a shrewd tactical decision, as the sheer physicality of Agger, Skrtel,
Sakho and Toure should have been enough to prevent Southampton from getting
anywhere near our goal, but as it transpired they simply could not function
properly out of position.
This was the first mistake; unfortunately it was followed by many more.
started the game relatively brightly, but right from the start seemed to be
lacking the incisive edge that they have shown when on the attack in previous
games this season. Steven Gerrard had a free kick saved well by Boruc, and Liverpool should blatantly have had a penalty when Lovren
took out Sturridge in the box. Moses also looked relatively bright, but those
were the only two real chances of note for Liverpool
in the first half. This was partially down to the absence of Philippe Coutinho,
who is normally so good at creating chances. Iago Aspas was played in the
number 10 role for the first half, and he simply wasn’t good enough. His poor
performance led to his replacement by Raheem Sterling after just 45 minutes.
If the first half was underwhelming, the second half was downright disgraceful. The attackers continued to fail in making chances, but now it was coupled with defensive sloppiness. Mignolet looked extremely uncertain whenever he received the ball from his defenders, and the defenders themselves kept tying themselves in knots by refusing to boot the ball clear. In attempt to retain possession by passing it around the back, the defence gifted
many chances, and eventually a goal. Their refusal to clear the ball out of
danger led to the conceding of a pointless corner, which Dejan Lovren
subsequently scored from. Daniel Agger, who was meant to be marking him, got
nowhere near the ball. Gerrard was also at fault: he was standing on the
goal-line, and had he used his left foot he could have smashed the ball off the
line, and away to safety. Instead he opted to use his favoured right foot, and
consequently he was only able to hit the ball into the roof of his own net.
I hoped that this may prove the stimulus that
Liverpool needed to kick on
and start playing some decent attacking football. I was disappointed. Not only
did the reds seem unable to create attacks, they also seemed unwilling. Their
was no desire to push forward and try to equalise, and the team merely
continued to pass the ball around in midfield, never really troubling the Southampton defence. To be fair, Sterling
(who had replaced Aspas at half time) looked bright; he combined well with
Sturridge on a couple of occasions to create the only half-chances Liverpool made throughout the second half.
I defend Liverpool whenever I can, but there is simply no denying that
deserved the victory in this game. They pressed the ball, put pressure on our
defence, and generally harried us into mistakes. In the end, they were
rewarded. Liverpool were the polar opposite:
their lack of desire and effort were what lost them the match. It was not the
performance of a team that can finish in the top 4, and we will need to up our
game hugely if we want to keep that ambition alive. Hopefully the return of
Suarez next game will rejuvenate our side. Whatever his faults, nobody could
accuse Luis Suarez of lacking passion and drive. If he slots back in well, I
expect to see a huge upturn in performance in the League Cup against United,
and subsequently in our league match against Sunderland.
Follow me on Twitter @JamesMartin013