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SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Sunday, May 28, 2023: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp during the FA Premier League match between Southampton FC and Liverpool FC at St Mary's Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

A match that summed up the season – 5 talking points from S’ton 4-4 Liverpool

Liverpool wrapped up their 2022/23 season with a crazy, back and forth and ultimately irrelevant 4-4 draw at Southampton.

Southampton 4-4 Liverpool

Premier League (38), St. Mary’s
May 28, 2023

Goals: Ward-Prowse 19′, Sulemana 29′ 47′, A.Armstrong 64′; Jota 11′ 73′, Firmino 15′, Gakpo 72′


Farewells for some…and the others?

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Sunday, May 28, 2023: Liverpool's Roberto Firmino celebrates after scoring the second goal during the FA Premier League match between Southampton FC and Liverpool FC at St Mary's Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Roberto Firmino and James Milner were handed a final Liverpool start before leaving on frees this summer.

It didn’t take long for the Brazilian to make his mark, a wonderfully composed solo goal coming inside a quarter of an hour to double the Reds’ lead, but pre-game the acclaim for our departing vice-captain was on show too.

A banner in the away end paid tribute to him, but it was far from a classic departure as he was somewhat bypassed in the centre and ended up at full-back.

Elsewhere, though, the lineup perhaps gave pause for fans to wonder if other included names might also be waving goodbye.

Caoimhin Kelleher started in goal just days after rumours suggested at least three clubs are keen on him, while Jurgen Klopp said he wouldn’t leave unless a big bid came in.

Kelleher couldn’t keep out the first real effort he faced and certainly should have done better with Kamaldeen Sulemana’s equaliser, in what was not the greatest return to first-team action for the Irish stopper.

Kostas Tsimikas was another starter and after his tears at Anfield last week many suggested he might be off – but his presence in the lineup was more likely due to Andy Robertson carrying a minor knock.

 

A final day to sum up the season

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Sunday, May 28, 2023: Liverpool's goalkeeper Alisson Becker during the FA Premier League match between Southampton FC and Liverpool FC at St Mary's Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Good in bits, irresistible in moments, but mostly stupid, irritating and forgettable.

That was this 90 minutes, but it was also this season as a whole: one Liverpool were miles below their best for apart from a few select occasions and one which cannot be repeated in terms of inconsistency, sloppiness or all-round lacking quality.

The Reds were cruising here.

Firmino left more than one player on their backside to roll home for 2-0 and at that point, against the league’s worst team, there’s only one way you expect the match to go – drill them further into misery and make sure our own mentality and concentration is right.

It wasn’t, or even close. And if a dead-rubber final match of the season is the excuse for this kind of performance, then simply put, there are too many of that type of player at the club.

Still, at least there was plenty of goalmouth action and we didn’t end up losing.

 

Setting the standards or just falling short?

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Sunday, May 28, 2023: Southampton's Carlos Alcaraz (L) is challenged by Liverpool's Fabio Henrique Tavares 'Fabinho' during the FA Premier League match between Southampton FC and Liverpool FC at St Mary's Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

We’ve heard for years at how, more than any others, Milner and Jordan Henderson “set the standards” for this club, in training and performance level, preparing himself right and doing what needs to be done to ensure professionalism matches ability and results in non-stop wins.

So has that stopped being the case this year? Or are they absolved of playing a role in dictating standards when the outcome is rubbish?

In either case, it’s not clear what Henderson really brings on the pitch these days with his technical and athletic level so far below that which is required.

His giving up the ball in easy fashion for the fourth Saints goal (!) was far from a one-off occasion this season.

Meanwhile, Milner and Fabinho provided a pretty clear underlining of how badly things have gone wrong in midfield this season, when they were both left no chance of playing catch-up after half-time as Sulemana streaked away behind them to score his second and Saints’ third.

So many changes are needed in that area of the park and this summer is enormous – we have to get it right.

 

Optimism for the attack

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Sunday, May 28, 2023: Liverpool's Diogo Jota celebrates after scoring the fourth goal, to level the score at 4-4, during the FA Premier League match between Southampton FC and Liverpool FC at St Mary's Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

So, problems in midfield and a defensive structure, if not necessarily the usual defensive quartet, which still has holes in it to fix.

But in attack, there remains reason to be hopeful.

Somehow Liverpool played a game in which there were eight goals and Mo Salah scored none of them, with one effort hitting the post being the closest he came to making it 20 league goals for the season yet again.

Even so, Diogo Jota was gifted one and buried another, Cody Gakpo scored and almost bent in a brace…and, of course, Firmino gave us one final moment to smile at early on.

Add in Luis Diaz still getting back to full fitness, the hope that Darwin Nunez finds both form and a role in the team for next season and there’s still scope to think next term could be far smoother, far more effective, far more consistent in the final third after a full pre-season in this shape – and some new faces joining in.

 

Onto summer days and Thursday nights

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Sunday, May 28, 2023: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp before the FA Premier League match between Southampton FC and Liverpool FC at St Mary's Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The end of a season, not one as magical as Liverpool usually have but perhaps a necessary one given the extent of changes which have so clearly been required.

What happens now is obvious: fans start to fume within the next 48 hours that five signings haven’t been completed yet, or, if they are, they’ll spend all August fuming that another five aren’t getting done on top of them.

On a more serious note, the planning starts quickly even as the players begin to go on their summer breaks.

Hopefully the limited international action – some have qualifiers of course, but no tournaments – means a long and much-required rest for some who have looked well off the pace for too long, including some of the coaching staff maybe.

And then, we’ll be back with pre-season and the Europa League.

We’ll see if it’s used as a proving ground for kids, a runaround for backups or a competition to take seriously – or more probably one which changes priorities the deeper we manage to go.

Enjoy the summer off, Reds, and let’s hope we don’t see another 10 months like these any time soon.