It was not pretty for Liverpool at Southampton as they proved their own worst enemy in the 1-0 defeat, leaving plenty to discuss after the final whistle.
The Reds did little to inspire once more, primarily in the final third, to see two games go by without a goal to their name – a rarity under the tutelage of the German.
The result leaves the door ajar for both Manchester clubs to leapfrog Liverpool in the table, and while it is certainly not a crisis there is plenty to improve upon in 2021.
Here, This Is Anfield’s Joanna Durkan (@JoannaDurkan_) and Jack Lusby (@LusbyJack) are joined by David Comerford (@Dave_Comerford) to discuss the defeat and how the Reds can get their spark back in attack.
DAVID: I’m reluctant to single players out because it’s clear that collectively, levels have dropped these past three games. But I do think Trent’s dip has had an especially big impact.
His delivery in open-play and his decision-making have been poor recently. His confidence has visibly suffered, and he’s not enjoying his football to the same extent.
Life becomes so much easier for the opposition when he’s off the boil.
Robbo has had an incredible season on the left but this team only functions with both full-backs firing.
This was another game where Liverpool couldn’t ‘find a way’. We built our title bid on those wins last season. That’s why I expected us to turn it around in the second half yesterday, and why I expected late winners against Newcastle and West Brom.
Why aren’t we grinding out wins? In fairness, this isn’t the same team and it lacks the same structure. And maybe we’re too demanding – the level of spirit was superhuman.
Liverpool never seemed to waver in their belief that they would win games last year. Now it feels like hope rather than expectation.
JOANNA: It was just a shell of a performance, wasn’t it?
I thought Liverpool were unusually hot-headed, especially in the early stages. Using that sort of emotion has never been part of our game and that no doubt clouded judgement.
While the defensive unit did not embarrass themselves in regards to protecting their goal, Trent aside, the fact two midfielders, later three, occupied the back-four proved damning as we lost control in the middle of the park.
Ox and Thiago were always going to take time to adjust and in hindsight, it mightn’t have been the time to start both at the same time having entered the game with one start between them this season.
JACK: I lost count of the number of times Salah did that little hop of disappointment after losing the ball when play was still going on around him.
It’s an individualist, ‘woe is me’ mentality that goes against him at times like this, and it’s really grating when on the other flank Mane grafts for the entire game without complaint.
And as Jo mentioned, the decision to start Thiago and Ox together after so long out respectively, in front of two midfielders at centre-back, may have been the wrong one in hindsight.
DAVID: Why were we so hesitant to shoot? Southampton‘s No. 2 was in goal and even he must have been surprised at the plain sailing.
Okay, at times the angle wasn’t perfect. But try and catch the ‘keeper out. Hope for a deflection in the mass of bodies, take responsibility. It bordered on infuriating.
‘Terrible’ just about sums up Liverpool’s away form this season. Consistency looks like it will decide this title and at this moment my optimism is the lowest it’s been all season. We could be third when City and United play their games in hand.
It’s all a bit of a miserable bundle of circumstances right now, even if the importance of football does pale in comparison to the wider issues.
JOANNA: Liverpool’s performance was by far and away inexcusable really but what the hell was with the referees? Absolute madness and the TV felt the brunt of my frustration.
It’s the consistency, or lack thereof, which is inexcusable and you can pick out a number of challenges: Thiago getting a yellow for the one that led to the goal, Mane being bundled over countless times, but how Walcott got away with two-footing Milner is beyond me. Atrocious.
And I’m not one to dogpile but Trent continued to be out of sorts and it proved costly on the right-flank as Salah too saw play after play breakdown. Creativity is a real struggle at the moment.
JACK: With the backdrop of more collective misery in the UK, it’s hard to muster enthusiasm not only in a run like this, but with so many factors going against the enjoyment of the game.
We’re back to no fans across the board, with little to shout about on the pitch and, on top of that, dogged by a truly off-par night for Andre Marriner as referee.
The big calls obviously take the headlines here, but his decision to award a foul on Fraser Forster for falling over while parrying a corner, because he was embarrassed to have awarded the corner in the first place, summed it up for Marriner.
And how do Liverpool get their spark back in attack?
DAVID: I’ve seen it suggested that Liverpool play the front three, or at least one or two, against Villa on Friday in the hope they can get back in the goalscoring mood pre-United. Obviously, you have to balance that with the risk of a silly injury, but how often do we see Liverpool’s sharpness fade after a lengthy gap between games?
There’s no escaping the fact that Jota’s injury has been a serious blow. We’ve lost a forward who looked on course for about 25 goals in all competitions and who was proving to be a consistent match-winner. He was an invaluable asset to this team.
Whilst he’ll be back in the not-too-distant future, I am starting to worry that we’ll spend the whole season banking on returnees who will enable us to pull away from our rivals and that this may not materialise.
JOANNA: Firstly, someone needs to be prepared to shoot. Usually, when things are awry you have potshots all over the place but for us, it feels we are far too timid in the box.
That and the appearance that we seem to want to carve out the perfect goal, much like Arsenal did under Arsene Wenger, but someone needs to take the responsibility and fast – 75 minutes for a shot on target is shameful.
Alisson coming up for the late corner says it all!
Diogo Jota would be the ideal solution as he has a brilliant knack for finding the net but he is out until the end of the month still and the solution needs to come elsewhere.
I’d love to see Minamino given the chance as he has been starved of the opportunities, while Shaqiri could provide an alternate option either in the forward line or midfield to add the much-needed spark.
Having Thiago will open up more avenues to goal in itself but the players certainly need a bit of a wake-up call.
JACK: It’s obvious the return of Jota is needed, but I’m so baffled as to why Taki has been unused for the past three games – two draws and a loss, no less – after arguably his best performance yet as a start against Palace.
Granted, the occasion may not suit his qualities in certain games, but with the front three struggling as they are, surely sending on a player who scored in his last appearance may be the boost Liverpool need?
Instead, he’s likely to be part of the skeleton crew playing Villa on Friday night. Talk about disillusionment.
It is important, however, to stress that I believe this is simply a poor patch for the Reds, and that things will click again soon enough – but getting some of those bodies back is a must.