Liverpool have problems all over the pitch now… Jurgen Klopp’s side no longer carry an irresistible threat and their extraordinary standards are slipping
- Liverpool are reliant upon Joel Matip, which shows where their problems are
- Jordan Henderson and Fabinho were deployed as centre-backs v Southampton
- Liverpool missed Henderson’s presence in midfield as they fell to a 1-0 defeat
Trent Alexander-Arnold gave the ball away 38 times during this game. Liverpool managed one shot on target all night. Anyone who thinks Jurgen Klopp only had problems at the centre of his defence needs to have another look.
This was never likely to be a straight forward Premier League title defence for Liverpool. It’s hard enough to retain it anyway and this was a season when factors other than talent and mental application were always likely to be at play.
Liverpool have certainly suffered at the whim of the hectic schedule more than most. Injuries have come and they have come to important players. But there are other issues here too.
Trent Alexander-Arnold gave the ball away 38 times for Liverpool before he came off
Alexander-Arnold had been a shadow of last season’s version even before this difficult night that began with him offering Danny Ings the opportunity to score the winning goal in the second minute and then got steadily worse. As the young right-back’s form has fluctuated, Liverpool have lost a vital attacking outlet.
Further forwards, Liverpool’s front three have stayed fit and have scored goals, 24 in the league between them. Nevertheless, they have not always carried that familiar irresistible threat.
Early in the campaign, they were helped by the Portuguese forward Diogo Jota who hit the ground running with five goals. But then Jota got injured too and remains so.
Liverpool missed Jordan Henderson’s presence in midfield as he was deployed in defence
If Liverpool have to rely on the injury-prone Joel Matip then it shows where their problems lie
So Liverpool have fallen marginally but significantly below the extraordinary standards of the last two seasons and over Christmas and New Year it has caught up with them. Three games against West Brom, Newcastle and Southampton have brought just two points and a solitary goal. It is no crisis but it is quite unlike them nevertheless and this night at St Mary’s offered a glimpse at some of the problems that have restricted them over the last three months.
Klopp’s team have a tendency to concede poor goals and this one – expertly taken by Ings though it was – was an absolute rotter. Though they can be devastating on their day, meanwhile, there are too many occasions when they appear less potent with the ball. Chances don’t follow possession and territory in quite the same way we have come to expect.
On Monday night, Liverpool were poor in the first half and much better in the second. But they could create only half chances and the night ended with them failing to deliver a last chance corner kick in to the penalty area which was frankly baffling.
It will be very interesting to see what Klopp does to address the issues that Liverpool have
Short of his best three central defenders, Klopp asked Jordan Henderson to partner Fabinho at the back. When Milner replaced Alexander-Arnold in the second half, Liverpool’s defence featured three midfield players. Henderson did okay but it does not have the look of a long-term solution. The Liverpool captain remains too valuable in midfield and was missed here on a night when Thiago Alcantara and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain endured uncertain games.
Liverpool’s season needs impetus now and it will be interesting to see what Klopp does. He has suggested he is not keen to buy a central defender this month but what the German really means is that there is nobody out there worth buying or who could be bought mid-season.
If he doesn’t buy then he must hope that Joel Matip returns to fitness as soon as possible. Liverpool face Aston Villa in the FA Cup on Friday and then a resurgent Manchester United in the league nine days later. Klopp’s team suddenly have a look of vulnerability about them and it is a while since we have said that.