Sunday’s crushing defeat prompted a return to reality for Jurgen Klopp’s men following the club’s most inspired period of the season- a period all Liverpool fans will be hoping to see become a reality in the near future.
More questions over who needs to go and who needs to be brought in this summer. More debate over whether these players can take the team forward.
Match of the Day became extremely tough viewing from the moment Martin Skrtel came on to replace Dejan Lovren. Southampton’s stunning 3-2 comeback win came as a much need reminder of where the club is at – I find the adjective ‘stunning’ somewhat disguises the part Liverpool played in the loss.
This Liverpool team cannot be the victims of these kinds of comebacks if they are to become serious top four contenders moving forward. It comes back down to the infectious feeling that every top flight team has a chance to come away with something against this Liverpool side.
There has to be a balance between work rate and solidity. The players are far from convincing when it comes to seeing out a lead. The players are incapable of keeping possession as a way of dictating the tempo of a game and still struggle to defend sensibly and as a unit.
While there have been questions over Jordan Henderson’s lackluster contributions since his return from injury, the team certainly missed his simplicity in the middle of the park. The old phrase ‘keeping things ticking over’ comes to mind.
Who would have thought, a year ago, that fans would have been ruing Klopp’s decision to bring off Dejan Lovren? He didn’t have the best first half but his rejuvenation over the last few months has meant there are worries when he isn’t on the pitch. The club is finally beginning to see the kind of composure and positioning that made him a wanted man during his time at Southampton.
What is most disappointing is the extent at which Klopp’s men dominated Southampton in the first half, only to leave with little to show for it. A month ago, fans would have been quietly optimistic simply because of the amount of chances the team created at the weekend but performances in recent weeks have amplified yet another frustration- an inability to kill off and punish a team.
With Daniel Sturridge spearheading an attack including the likes of Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino, the expectation is that the team will score more goals. The players should have scored at least five in the Europa League tie against Manchester United at Old Trafford and should have won the game in the first half at St Mary’s last weekend.
Defeat to Manchester City in the Capital One Cup triggered an admirable response from the players with League wins against City and Crystal Palace as well as a memorable Europa League triumphant over Manchester United. Sunday’s loss, however, has reiterated the importance of a busy summer transfer market for the club.
Martin Skrtel opened the eyes of those reds fans who, before now, have failed to realise how his uncertainty and rash decision making is contagious when he is on the pitch. With Joel Matip scheduled to arrive in the summer, Joe Gomez to return from injury and the growing partnership of Lovren and Mamadou Sakho for all to see, it appears the Slovakian’s Anfield career could be nearing its end.
He looked lost in the heart of Liverpool’s defence and was guilty of leaving his position to needlessly attack balls he didn’t need to win at the time. His struggle also exposed a managerial error. Opting to bring on Skrtel rather than Kolo Toure was a mistake but perhaps a sign that Klopp was keen to look at the defender as a way of beginning preparations for the summer and next season. If that is the case, it was not the time to do so.
At first glance, the first choice Liverpool starting eleven looks strong enough to challenge for Champions League qualification in the future- if all are on top form. There has to be no passengers in that side and everyone must do their job.
That means Emre Can, Jordan Henderson and Joe Allen, who was given a rare start on Sunday, contributing goals in addition to offering their defence help. All three offer something different in their own right, but the team is crying out for a proven and world class central midfielder who requires extra attention from opposition defenders.
A lack of brute power has become very apparent over the course of the season. The addition of a powerful and athletic midfielder, who can attack and defend, will go hand in hand with Klopp’s desired pressing game and will add a different dimension to this Liverpool side.
Speaking of pressing- Adam Lallana deserves all the plaudits he is getting lately. His boasts an unrelenting energy and hunger recently and is looking far more dangerous in the final third. The pressure is really on now for him to take his game to the level it should be by scoring more goals.
The loss on Sunday ended what was an exciting period for Liverpool fans but it was a timely display of the work that still needs to be done. Things are in place for this side to score plenty of goals, but it is vital Klopp builds the team he wants and not the one he has been left with.
Fans want to enter next season without having to question team selection or whether certain names should still be at the club.