A 1-1 draw at home to Southampton was not a game worthy of the occasion, given that it was Jurgen Klopp’s first home game as manager of Liverpool.
Here is a look at a few talking points from what was a rather drab draw at Anfield.
Sloppy passing a recurring theme
Both Liverpool and Southampton have talented attacking players further up the pitch, but the passing in build up play as well as on the counter was sloppy at best. Philippe Coutinho was the chief culprit for Liverpool, getting knocked off the ball far too easily. Adam Lallana’s performances may have pleasantly surprised Liverpool supporters so far, but he was often guilty of not picking the right pass or timing his run as well as he needed to, considering how well Southampton play the high line.
On the other hand, Southampton are usually a much more fluid side than their passing at Anfield suggested. Most of Southampton’s positive attacking play seems to go through Sadio Mane these days, but he and Serbian midfielder DuA?an Tadi constantly missed opportunities to put Liverpool to the sword when on the counter, either holding on to the ball for too long, or not picking the right passes themselves for Graziano Pelle to run onto.
Sadio Mane was lively, but stupidity cost him
Senegalese winger Sadio Mane attracted interest from Manchester United this past summer, and despite his lack of productivity in the first hour of the game, it is not that hard to see why. Mane shows boundless reserves of energy week in, week out; and his performance at Anfield was no different. Southampton were failing to take advantage of their strength in set pieces, but managed to finish the game with a point due to Mane’s awareness and quick thinking at the far post to poke the ball at home.
On the other hand, when you consider that the referee let some foul play go unpunished in the interest of letting the game flow, getting booked twice in 2 minutes is nothing short of criminal. To be fair to Mane, the foul on Firmino to pick up his first yellow card was understandable as it gave the Southampton defence time to organise themselves. However, he was himself in a great position relative to Moreno two minutes later, a few yards away from the halfway line, and did not need to make the challenge that got him sent off. Luckily for him and for Southampton, he will only be suspended for a single game, and a Capital One Cup 4th round match at home to Aston Villa should easily be negotiated without Mane.
Origi having very little impact
The criticism leveled at Divock Origi has been far from fair. Even though he is trusted enough by a manager like Jurgen Klopp to lead the line in a Premier League game, it must be remembered that he has only done so because of Daniel Sturridge’s recurring fitness problems, Christian Benteke’s back injury 4 weeks ago, and Danny Ings’ unfortunate ACL tear during Jurgen Klopp’s first training session at Liverpool. He is Liverpool’s 4th choice for striker after all. To put that into context, Bayern Munich’s 4th choice striker is Julian Green, while Real Madrid have only 2 senior strikers on their books.
All said and done, though, Origi was almost invisible during the first half. The players behind him were in no mood to involve him in the game at all, and his lack of strength in the air rendered him incapable of holding the ball up, to work with Coutinho and Adam Lallana. The fact that Origi did not take a single shot on goal, or even touch the ball within the opposition’s 18-yard box is proof enough of how little impact he had. Getting supporters to show understanding with Divock Origi will be just as hard for Jurgen Klopp as turning him into a prolific goalscorer.
It was also, therefore, no surprise that Christian Benteke contributed more to Liverpool’s attacking play. Yes, he is strong in the air, but bullying someone as good as Virgil van Dijk in the air to score at the Kop end is not easy. His goal from across also shows how daft Liverpool’s management and transfer committee was in selling or loaning out all the wingers they had at the club, and also illustrates why a striker like him needs others to play to his strengths.
Both sides defended very well
The crowd may have been flat, thanks to the sloppy attacking play from both sides, but it must be acknowledged that both teams defended extremely well. Except for a few mistakes in the first half, Mamadou Sakho and Martin Skrtel did well to repel everything in front of them, while Alberto Moreno’s recovery tackle on Sadio Mane after venturing up front caught the attention of the home support. Southampton, on the other hand, have been a well drilled defence even before Ronald Koeman became their manager, and Jose Fonte and Virgil van Dijk ensured that Maarten Stekelenburg in goal had very little to do. Both sides were also alive to the threat each posed on the counter, as Lucas and Victor Wanyama performed their roles extremely well.
. Overeagerness resulting in crucial fouls on both sides
Southampton are known for practicing the high press game in and game out, while Liverpool players are undoubtedly eager to impress their new manager. So while both sides’ efforts were concentrated on closing down opposing players in possession, it also resulted in the likes of James Milner and Sadio Mane showing naivety towards the latter stages of the second half. Sadio Mane, as mentioned earlier, got himself a red card that was unnecessary.
Liverpool’s defence may be blamed for failing to deal with the set piece that resulted in the equaliser, however, one way of not conceding on set pieces against a side as good at set pieces as Southampton is by not giving opportunities in the first place. The foul by James Milner was closer to his manager than to his own goalkeeper, and there was no need for him to be so rash in attempting to recover the ball back. As Jurgen Klopp continues to get his ideas through to his players, he will see his players showing more intelligence when pressing the opposition, hopefully resulting in bigger rewards.