Liverpool had their Top 4 hopes hanging in the balance as they were held to a goalless draw by Southampton at Anfield on Sunday
Liverpool suffered a blip in their charge for a place in the Top 4 as Southampton held them to a goalless draw at Anfield on Sunday. The Reds struggled to create chances all through the game as a resolute Southampton side that did not give an inch to the hosts.
Meanwhile, Claude Puel’s side did not take a single shot on target, highlighting just how drab of an affair it really was at Merseyside. Liverpool did get a chance to break the deadlock midway though the second half though when Jack Stephen and Southampton were penalised for a hand ball.
Liverpool 0-0 Southampton FT:
Pass accuracy: 83%-67%
Chances created: 12-2
Shut out once again. pic.twitter.com/neceoc5b0K
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 7, 2017
The usually reliable James Milner took the resulting penalty, but Fraser Forster was equal to it as he made a superb save to thwart the Englishman and Liverpool. Jurgen Klopp’s men came close towards the dying stage of the match as Marko Grujic forced Forster into another fine save but the match ended goalless.
Liverpool remained third in the Premier League table while Southampton are placed 10th with 42 points. The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at some of the major talking points that emerged in the aftermath of the match.
Liverpool Continue To Crawl In Their Top 4 Charge
As has been the case for nearly two months now, Liverpool continued to stutter in their bid to finish in the Top 4 for the first time in three seasons. Sunday was another such instance, as they stumbled in pursuit of Champions League qualification.
It ends goalless. pic.twitter.com/etQKVEiCoq
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) May 7, 2017
Claude Puel organised his side in a well organised manner to deprive Liverpool of space between the lines to create goalscoring opportunities. And his charges responded dutifully, as with men resolutely behind the ball, chances came few and far between for the hosts.
In the end, the match ended just as it started – with the scoreline reading 0-0. Liverpool have now failed to put on a consistent winning run together since mid-March as a result of which they are crawling towards a place in the Top 4.
The other result on Sunday meant that the Reds remain in control of their fortunes, as both Manchester United and Arsenal need them to slip up again to have a chance of making the Top 4. That is exactly what must not happen as they prepare to face West Ham United and Middlesbrough in the final run-in.
The Anfield (and Southampton) Woes Continue
A key factor in Liverpool’s recent inconsistent run of results is their uninspiring home form. While the Reds have won their last three games on the road – a first under Jurgen Klopp, their form at Anfield has been quite average to say the least.
32 – Liverpool had 32 shots against Southampton in the Premier League this season without scoring. Blunt. pic.twitter.com/9OjWYMKBcp
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) May 7, 2017
In fact, Liverpool have managed to win just one out of their last five league games at home and it’s easy to see why their rivals have been getting opportunity after opportunity to displace them from that third place in the Premier League table.
Visiting teams have often been overly defensive whenever they are hosted at Anfield, shutting off the space for Klopp’s men and denying them the chance to be at their fluid best. Southampton did just that as well, and they now boast quite an enviable record against Liverpool this season.
Sunday’s encounter was the fourth meeting between the two sides, and Liverpool failed to find the back of the net in all four of the games. Of course, they haven’t beaten the Saints in four attempts either, and the winless run continues until the two sides meet again next season.
Romeu Leads Southampton Defensive Masterclass
Speaking of Southampton stretching their unbeaten run against Liverpool, and a player who was instrumental in Claude Puel’s side achieving that on Sunday was Oriol Romeu.
— talkSAINTS (@talkSAINTS) May 7, 2017
The Spaniard has enjoyed a solid campaign this season, as a result of which he has been adjudged as Southampton’s Fans’ and Player’s Player of the Year. And just a couple of days after winning that double honour, Romeu showed, yet again, just why he is such a key figure for the Southampton boss.
Sitting right in front of his back four, Romeu kept things tight and organised alongside his partners in midfield, as the defence was shielded admirably. His numbers made for incredible reading as well, as he made four tackles and six interceptions – more than any other Southampton player.
Barcelona and a few other clubs have recently been linked with Romeu, and after Sunday it’s not hard to see why. But, it is crucial that Southampton keep hold of him in the summer as he is exactly the kind of player around whom Claude Puel can build a squad that can challenge for European football again.
Familiar Problems Return – The Need To Invest Is Apparent
As the game wore on, it looked increasingly evident that Liverpool lacked any sort of idea to break the resolve of the gritty Southampton defence. With men behind the ball, Liverpool’s attack was slow and they needed someone to inject pace into the game to get in behind the opposition defence.
Liverpool average a league goal every 39 minutes when Sadio Mané has played and every 71 minutes without him. (Paul Joyce)
— Anfield HQ (@AnfieldHQ) May 8, 2017
That someone is on the sidelines – a player without whom Liverpool have often struggled to string together a consistent run of results. Sadio Mane is, perhaps, the only player who brings a lot of menacing pace that most defences often struggle to deal with.
The numbers prove that too, as Liverpool have a winning rate of 68% with Mane, and a dismal 40% without him. To make matters worse, the industrious and tenacious Adam Lallana was held back till the dying stages of the match – another player whose nimble feet could have made the difference.
It is becoming increasingly apparent that Jurgen Klopp must persuade the Liverpool owners to shell out some cash to invest in improving the squad significantly. If not, there is a danger that things might be heading downwards with the pressure of competing on four fronts again.
Fraser Forster To The Rescue
Midway through the second half, Liverpool had their best possible opportunity to finally break the deadlock, establish a foothold in the match and maybe even put the game to bed against a defensive side that wasn’t looking likely to score on Sunday.
— Match of the Day (@BBCMOTD) May 7, 2017
Jack Stephens was penalised for a hand ball, a penalty was awarded to Liverpool and on came James Milner, like he always does, to take the penalty for Liverpool. However, unlike most of the times he takes the shot from the spot, this penalty kick was delayed and delayed and delayed.
As he finally got the chance to take the shot, Fraser Forster was equal to it, as his majestic figure reached Milner’s penalty kick with ease. It goes without saying that that moment was the most decisive in the match, and Forster couldn’t have chosen a better time to make his first penalty save in top flight football, as he earned Southampton a valuable point.