Liverpool crashed out of the EFL Cup as Southampton scored late on to beat the Reds at Anfield
Having already lost the first leg with the same scoreline, Jurgen Klopp’s men needed a great performance to beat Claude Puel’s side in order to progress. All of Klopp’s talk of revenge and striking back proved fruitless as Liverpool looked out of sorts once again and Southampton deservedly knocked them out of the EFL Cup.
Shane Long scored the only goal of the game in stoppage time after a fine run and pass from 19-year old winger Josh Sims. Long hammered the ball into the net leaving Loris Karius – who was impressive in goal for Liverpool – with no chance of saving it.
Jurgen Klopp complained about the wind after the game but Southampton played in the same conditions and put in a great defensive display. Liverpool can have no complaints about the result and Southampton are now in the final of the tournament.
We take a look at some of the key talking points from the game.
Daniel Sturridge still struggling in Klopp’s system
Daniel Sturridge was poor for Liverpool last night and twice wasted two glorious opportunities to put the Reds ahead. Sturridge is considered Liverpool’s finest finisher, but his profligacy in front of goal last night cost Liverpool a place in the final.
More than this, what stands out is how Klopp’s front line does not look as fluid with Sturridge in it. When Coutinho, Firmino and Sadio Mane were running riot in before the injury to the Brazilian and Mane’s departure for the African Cup of Nations, many hailed how fluidly those three players exchanged positions.
Sturridge on the other hand seems reluctant to receive the ball anywhere but in a central position. This forces Firmino – who has been clinical in front of goal this season – to stick to the wings whereas Liverpool would be much more dangerous if they are able to confuse defenses with their movement.
Another big issue for Sturridge is his lack of defensive workrate. Liverpool’s intense pressing from the front has been the key to their success this season and in Klopp’s system, forwards are the first line of defense.
Sturridge completely failed in that role last night. The Englishman didn’t attempt a single tackle last night and also made no interceptions whatsoever. Performances like this justify Klopp’s reasoning behind benching Sturridge and if the Englishman doesn’t change his game he could well be on his way out of Anfield come the summer.
Liverpool’s form is starting to look worrying
Before the start of the new year Liverpool had not lost a single game at Anfield. They have now lost two consecutive games at home including the surprise defeat to Swansea. They have also won just a single game in the last 7 matches having lost 3 and drawn 3.
That victory came against League Two side Plymouth Argyle, who they needed a replay to beat. They have dropped from second place and at the start of January were only six points behind Premier League leaders Chelsea. They now sit in fourth position and that gap has increased to ten points.
Liverpool have scored the most goals in the league with 51, but now even their attacking play is starting to look worrying. The Reds have scored only 7 times in their last 8 games and for all their attacking intent they seem to have hit a rut.
Counter-attacks still a weakness for Liverpool’s defence
Liverpool’s one weakness this season has been defending counter-attacks. Jurgen Klopp’s attacking intensity in games often leave the Reds slightly short in numbers at the back and usually they have not been punished as their attacking play is often enough to overwhelm opponents.
However, Southampton constantly used fine counter-attacking play – with Nathan Redmond the central figure in these counters – to harass Liverpool last night. It was also a counter that led to the winning goal and despite the fact that Liverpool had nearly everyone forward in search of a goal it looked much too easy for Josh Sims to power down on the home side’s goal.
This is definitely an area Jurgen Klopp needs to address if Liverpool are to prevent disappointing defeats like the ones against Bournemouth and Swansea.
Trent Alexander-Arnold one to watch out for
One positive for Liverpool last night was the performance of Trent Alexander-Arnold. The 18-year old slotted into the side in place of the injured Nathaniel Clyne and put in a good performance for Liverpool.
While he did not look the most confident defensively, Alexander-Arnold definitely came out of the game having only helped his reputation. The England U19 international was a constant threat when Liverpool were on the attack and definitely looks like a player for the future.
Liverpool are definitely missing Mane
Sadio Mane’s departure for the African Cup of Nations has coincided with Liverpool’s dire form this month and it is looking less and less like a coincidence. Mane’s unpredictable, explosive style of play has been a big part of the fear Jurgen Klopp’s side has struck into defences everywhere and Liverpool are definitely missing the Senegalese winger.
The trio of Mane, Firmino and Coutinho looked like one of the best attacking combinations in the league with all of them equally happy to assist one another as they were to score goals. Mane is the kind of player who can turn a game with individual brilliant and while Liverpool also have that in Coutinho – who signed a contract extension earlier this week – Klopp will be hoping the winger returns soon.
Mane had scored 9 goals and picked up 4 assists in 19 appearances before his departure and given Liverpool’s recent – and likely temporary – struggles in front of goal, Mane’s return could be the catalyst they need to turn this run of results around.