A defensively sound Southampton got in the way of Liverpool and 3 points as league leaders drop points at the rainy St. Mary’s but remain top of the league on goal difference.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp made two changes to the lineup that smashed Watford before the International break, Lovren coming back to replace Lucas and Wijnaldum coming back to replace injured Adam Lallana.
The shape of Liverpool was 4-3-3 with Wijnaldum and Can partnering Henderson in the midfield three, the front three of Mane, Coutinho and Firmino all started despite doubts over two of them after heavy International duties and trips.
We’ll move over to the tactics board and analyse as to where Liverpool could have done better and how Southampton were able to stop the Reds from scoring :-
As we can see in the image above, the general positioning of players for most parts the game. Southampton even though at home were very happy to sit back and absorb whatever Liverpool threw at them.
In the first half, Liverpool’s front three were quite central and the two no 8s also supported them in central areas which made it quite easy for the Saints to defend. The use of fullbacks were minimal which allowed the likes of Boufal and Redmond to track and mark the channel runs. There were one or two occasions when Clyne got into space but lack of runners in the box and Southampton doubling up in wide areas made it tough for the visitors.
We can see in the tactics board, the shape Saints deployed today had three central midfielders who had their primary job to defend. So, virtually 5 defenders marked the front three of Mane, Coutinho and Firmino. As the game progressed, Coutinho and Mane tried to be flexible in their positions but never really threatened with through balls or runs that couldn’t be marked.
In the second half, Liverpool made use of the width more and involved Clyne and Milner more, the shape changed a bit as the centre-backs split up and Henderson slotted himself in between them. This change in approach did trouble the home side more, wide runs were either not marked or the defence got stretched on few occasions and space was made for runners from midfield for the Reds. There was one moment when both fullbacks Milner and Clyne were forward, Sturridge got space in the channel as the defence got stretched and the striker lifted the ball up towards the far post for Clyne to attack, the Liverpool man eventually got there but spurned the chance to score.
What Southampton did well all game long was never allowed the midfield of Liverpool to roam freely, they made it very difficult and with Firmino as centre-forward, Liverpool never had an out-ball like in the channel or the ball over the top of the back-line. Saints made few errors in midfield that led to some glorious opportunities for the visitors but it was not the evening where the net would bulge.
All in all, two points dropped for Jurgen Klopp’s men but they should not be too disappointed by this performance, they did alright but came up against a strong defensive unit who were determined to stand their ground, Liverpool are still top on goal difference and with no European game this week, they have full 6 days to recover and prepare for their next game which quite evidently is an advantage.
By Mizgan on 19th November, 2016
Twitter – @mizgans