Reds “need impetus” of centre-back signing – Media on Southampton 1-0 Liverpool

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The media felt Liverpool’s 1-0 loss at Southampton showed they have become too predictable and desperately need a new centre-back this January.

2021 started as miserably as 2020 ended for the Reds, with defeat at St Mary’s extending the winless run to three games.

Danny Ings came back to haunt his former club, as he netted a classy winner after just two minutes, lobbing Alisson from a tight angle.

The Reds were once again unrecognisable from the dominant force of the last two seasons, and Jurgen Klopp and his squad have major work on their hands to arrest the poor run.

Here’s all the key analysis from the media on the defeat.

 

Reporters bemoaned another poor attacking display from Liverpool and feel the patched-up nature of the team is taking its toll…

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Monday, January 4, 2021: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah during the FA Premier League match between Southampton FC and Liverpool FC at St Mary's Stadium. Southampton won 1-0. (Pic by Propaganda)

ESPN’s Harry Kettle saw three main problems with the performance – namely a lack of midfield structure, poor final ball and an out-of-form front three:

“There was no midfield structure to be found, the final ball was consistently lacking and their usual attacking trio couldn’t conjure the chemistry that they’re renowned for.”

Writing for Goal, Neil Jones bemoaned Liverpool’s poor final pass and touch which saw good openings continuously wasted:

“They had all of the game but precious few chances. Time after time, they worked the ball into decent areas, pinning the hosts back. But time after time, the final pass was lacking.

“Too heavy, too soft, too high. Too poor.”

The Telegraph‘s Jason Burt felt Liverpool’s struggles were borne from a team willing and capable of matching the Reds’ press:

“His team out-Klopped Klopp.

[…]

“They were out-of-sorts, tetchy and careless as they were hustled and harried by Southampton who never relented.”

BBC Sport’s Steve Sutcliffe thought Liverpool’s full-backs both struggled to impose themselves:

Andy Robertson and Alexander-Arnold, so often attacking outlets on either flank, found the movement of Stuart Armstrong and Djenepo difficult to contain when asked to defend.”

The Mirror‘s Sam Meade felt Klopp made an error playing Jordan Henderson at centre-back, with Rhys Williams and Nat Phillips better options, regardless of inexperience:

“He did have two young players capable of playing that position, both of whom he has trusted this season, on the bench.

Rhys Williams and Nathaniel Phillips were both spectators as their captain, a central midfielder, occupied a role they normally would.”

The Mirror‘s John Cross thought such a disjointed display was to be expected as the Reds simply cannot be at their best with such a “patched-up” team:

“Liverpool gave everything but it was a patched-up team, two midfielders – Jordan Henderson and Fabinho – filling in at centre half with an unfamiliar looking midfield in front of them.”

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Monday, January 4, 2021: Southampton's Ibrahima Diallo (L) and Liverpool's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain during the FA Premier League match between Southampton FC and Liverpool FC at St Mary's Stadium. (Pic by Propaganda)

Meanwhile, Sutcliffe pointed out that Southampton were suffering their own injury crisis, yet still managed to produce a good performance:

“While Liverpool can point to the huge void at the heart of their defence and several injured stars, it should also be acknowledged that Southampton began this contest without several key performers.

“Goalkeeper Alex McCarthy’s positive coronavirus test meant Fraser Forster came in for a first Premier League home appearance since December 2017. And with Jannik Vestergaard, Oriol Romeu and Che Adams also injured, Hasenhuttl could ill afford to see Moussa Djenepo limp off after 32 minutes, during which he had caused Trent Alexander-Arnold several problems down the left.”

Kettle did find one positive – that being Liverpool’s second-half reaction which at least offers some encouragement that things will improve imminently:

“The higher pace and intensity was clear from the moment they stepped foot on the pitch in the second half, and that sort of resolve will bode well for them heading into the next few months of the campaign.”

 

The media think the ‘dip’ in form may be something more severe as the Reds have become “predictable”…

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Monday, January 4, 2021: Liverpool's captain Jordan Henderson looks dejected during the FA Premier League match between Southampton FC and Liverpool FC at St Mary's Stadium. Southampton won 1-0. (Pic by Propaganda)

The Reds are suffering from too many key players all being off the boil at the same time, in the view of Neil Jones:

“The culprits were everywhere. Mo Salah was sluggish, anonymous, way off the pace. Sadio Mane carried the fight and never stopped trying, but lacked precision. Roberto Firmino buzzed but rarely threatened, his best work coming in the wrong areas.

Andy Robertson couldn’t find a telling cross, while Trent Alexander-Arnold, caught out for Southampton’s goal, gave the ball away 38 times, more than any player has in any Premier League game this season.”

Kettle thinks Klopp’s change to a more counter-attacking style is not working:

“Pushing forward with a counter-attacking style isn’t going to work when you’re put up against a side who are more than happy to give you plenty of time of possession.”

The Liverpool Echo‘s Ian Doyle feels the big difference is the drop in intensity in the Reds’ performances:

“The reasons are myriad. The intensity has dipped with players jaded having been repeatedly called upon during the injury-hit start to the season, and the attack, after a record-breaking seven goals at Crystal Palace, has suddenly forgotten how to score.”

However, the Mail‘s Ian Ladyman thinks it is more than just a dip, insisting that the issues are in fact long-term, with Klopp’s side having not been the same force all season:

“Despite a recent 7-0 thumping of Crystal Palace in London, Liverpool have not been as fluent with the ball this season.

Jurgen Klopp’s team do not look as irresistibly dangerous and do not create as many chances. That has been apparent since the defence of their Premier League title began.”

Kettle thinks Klopp should shoulder some blame for allowing his side to become too predictable and therefore easy to defend against:

Jurgen Klopp has been forced into a situation whereby he can easily blame injuries for the problems Liverpool are experiencing on the pitch, but in reality, he does need to bear some of the responsibility.

“His side’s reliance on working the ball down the flanks was predictable and some may suggest he’s not urgent or inventive enough with his substitutions.”

Meade thinks the timing of the drop in form is “the biggest concern” as the Reds have wasted a favourable festive schedule just as rivals hit form:

“Liverpool have now endured the same sequence of results, but the timing of it will be of the greatest concern as teams around them continue building momentum.

“The Reds have seen their rivals close in over the festive period and now both Manchester clubs can leapfrog them should they win their games in hand.”

 

Journalists are in no doubt that Liverpool’s transfer window activity will make or break their season…

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Monday, January 4, 2021: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp during the pre-match warm-up before the FA Premier League match between Southampton FC and Liverpool FC at St Mary's Stadium. (Pic by Propaganda)

Ladyman discussed how it is almost impossible to maintain elite performance level with a patched-up team featuring key players out of position, citing Man City last season as a case study:

“As Manchester City found out last season, playing your best central midfielder in defence creates another problem. It was Fernandinho who played at the back for City and his deployment there always looked unsatisfactory because it took the Brazilian away from the area where he excelled.

[…]

“Here, as Liverpool struggled to dominate for periods, they missed Henderson in the centre of the field. They already miss Fabinho there and the removal of Henderson asked questions about Liverpool’s midfield three of Thiago, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gini Wijnaldum that they could not really answer.”

Paul Gorst of the Liverpool Echo called on the club to sign a centre-back and says the success or failure to do so will determine whether the Reds can retain the title:

“While the Reds’ centre-back shortage is almost certainly not the root cause for this bitterly disappointing setback, this is now a long-term problem that could ultimately decide whether or not the Premier League continues to reside in Anfield’s trophy cabinet beyond May.

[…]

“But with Joel Matip, Joe Gomez and Virgil van Dijk all on the shelf, a move must be made in the transfer market, sooner rather than later. An awful lot could rest on it.”

Doyle stated that, given Henderson started over Williams and Phillips, Klopp now has no choice but to buy this month:

“If neither Rhys Williams nor Nat Philipps can be trusted for a regular run, and Joel Matip remains injury-prone, Klopp may have no option but to move in the market before January is out.”

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Monday, January 4, 2021: Liverpool players before the FA Premier League match between Southampton FC and Liverpool FC at St Mary's Stadium. (Pic by Propaganda)

However, Ladyman reckons Klopp won’t bring anyone in and therefore feels Liverpool’s potential success this season hinges on Matip being fit:

“Is it too simplistic to say that the direction of Liverpool’s season now hinges on the fitness of Joel Matip?

[…]

“But with Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez injured for the rest of the campaign, it feels like Matip will have to make a significant contribution when he returns from his latest problem if his team’s underwhelming form is not to continue.

[…]

“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 bringing in who could be bought mid-season.”

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