Liverpool 0-1 Southampton
League Cup Semi-Final Second Leg, Anfield
January 25 2017
Goals: Long 90’+1
Goal Drought Vs. Southampton
Claude Puel’s side appear to have Liverpool‘s number when it comes to nullifying their attack, and the Reds have now gone 338 minutes plus added time without scoring against the Saints.
The last time they managed to hit the back of the net the south coast club was in the first half of a 3-2 defeat at St Mary’s back in March 2016—a game in which Sadio Mane scored a late winner for the Saints.
Wednesday was just another frustrating performance for Klopp’s side who are going through a bad run of form.
This was compounded by the fact they were facing a team who’ve become something of bogey side, and that it was a game in which Southampton already had a lead to hold on to before the game had even started.
Sturridge Working But Not Firing
This was an opportunity for Daniel Sturridge to prove a few of his doubters wrong.
Having played a rare full 90 minutes in the disappointing first-leg defeat at St Mary’s, this was one of surprisingly few chances he’s had in the side of late as the fixtures have piled up.
He busted the myth that he’s lazy in the opening stages of the game with some good work off the ball, and at one point was seen tracking back to help the defence, Firmino style.
But what Sturridge will want from any game is a goal, or at least a contribution to one.
He had a great chance to get on the scoresheet in the second half but his acrobatic effort from six yards out went over the bar. He got on the end of a James Milner cross shortly after, but again could only find the Kop and not the goal.
It was a frustrating night for the England striker, but it wasn’t necessarily a bad performance from him.
He worked hard and got into some good positions, but for once in his career as a striker, he just can’t seem to find the back of the net when it matters.
Liverpool Look Drained of Confidence
Sturridge is also one player on a long list of players who are low on belief.
Despite signing a new contract in the week, the returning Philippe Coutinho can be put on this list, along with most of the side who’ve played in a recent poor run which now stretches to six games.
Emre Can is struggling in midfield, despite glimpses here of what he can do. Alongside him captain Jordan Henderson is having to contend with a persistent injury as well as trying to motivate those around him in his role as captain.
The defensive troubles are there for all to see, and even the returning Joel Matip had plenty of unsettling moments in tonight’s game especially when it came to defending one-on-one.
As for the rest, they need to turn this around somehow, and then put a good run of games together to help restore their confidence, and their pride.
A New Solution to the Mane Problem
The latest ploy for a Mane-less Liverpool was to set up in the same formation they used when the Senegalese international was in the side, but have Firmino playing from the right and Sturridge up front.
This shape keeps Lallana and Coutinhp in the roles they’ve excelled in so far this season, and is the least unsettling of the tactical changes Klopp could make for this scenario.
Firmino was the man doing the job for the team out of position on the right, but as the player who adapted to the German’s system more quickly than most he is the ideal choice to slot into an unfamiliar position when needed.
But even this latest attempt to make up for Mane’s loss couldn’t get the job done, suggesting that the problems the team are experiencing at the moment go beyond the absence of one player.
Another Cup to Come
Klopp and Liverpool desperately want a trophy. The all-important top four is, well, important, but the fans always like to see some new silverware being added to trophy cabinet, and a new winners medal on the honours list.
They face Wolves on Saturday at midday, with just a short break between games, and it’ll be interesting to see what line-up Klopp goes with at the weekend.
The manager picked a strong side here as they made one final push to get to Wembley, but it was to no avail.
The only saving grace in the league could be that a lot of the important games to come are at home.