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Football News: Liverpool v Southampton - A Liverpool Perspective

Liverpool v Southampton - A Liverpool Perspective
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Liverpool v Southampton A Liverpool Perspective

 

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A different kind of peformance from the kind Klopp first delivered, though the first half was more like the old Liverpool, with a bit more of a press, but still not the same high energy as we are used to seeing. Added to that, the team does not seem capable of controlling the play when they get the ball as they did last season. Last season it was constant pressure on the opposition, either with or without the ball. Teams were penned in and forced to defend deep, counters were limited in scope, as just one or two players were able to break forward.

The first half was an attempt to play that way, but it never quite penned them in properly. The second half saw a complete change in style, with a much more solid set up, trying to keep the ball and move them around. It felt like the team were playing to see out time, rather than with real intent to get a second goal. One thing that particularly stood out as an emblem of the team's attitude to the two halves was crossing. In the first half the moment players got a good position a cross was banged into a dangerous area. No messing about, just get it and cross it early. In the second half that changed completely, players would get in the same position and then turn back and play a short pass inside instead.

This has certainly been an odd season, with first Pep Guardiola and now Klopp turning to a more pragmatic style, less attacking and more about creating a solid base to work from. It is becoming a worrying trend if the two managers who are known for attacking football are looking to play football that is more Mourinho-like than Cruyffian. I just hope this is an answer to the particular needs of this peculiar season, rather than the way football is going in general.

 


Southampton

 

They played a different formation from their standard 4-2-2-2 box formation, with the lack of a proper left-back in the team, due to Bertrand's refusal to sign a new deal. Instead of asking Stephens to play the way Bertrand does, they played a 3-5-2 when on the ball, with Stephens as a left-sided centre-back. But when the ball was turned over, Stephens went wider into a back 4 in a fairly standard 4-4-2 system. It did allow space for Redmond and Walker-Peters, in the wing-back roles on the ball, to attack, as Liverpool's full-backs could not really come out properly to engage them.

One thing Southampton do very well under Hasenhuttl is overload the wide areas by having central players drifting out there to help, and that kept the Liverpool full-backs penned in having to watch them. In the first half Mane, Jota and Salah were a bit lax in getting back and helping out by covering, which allowed Walker-Peters the freedom of the park, in particular, as Wijnaldum was slow to come out and engage him. Thiago was much quicker to engage with Redmond, probably due to Liverpool's tactical set-up pre-game expecting him to be an attacking player.

That did require an adjustment at half-time to deal with the way Southampton played, which quickly closed off most of their threat. Their passiveness off the ball, curious as Hasenhuttl was known for the high press, high energy he demanded of his teams in the past, allowed Liverpool to move the ball under quite easily. All that Southampton had left, tactically, were attempts to isolate the centre-backs against a quicker man running them. Despite the huge disparity in pace, the Southampton forwards struggled to take advantage most of the time. The few times they did manage to get an opening, Alisson was in their face already, not giving them time to do anything but hit and hope.

 


Liverpool

 

Klopp - it is good that he has finally realised that putting Fabinho in the midfield is more valuable in the protection it gives to the defence than any value to be gained by playing him at the back. If only it had not taken so long, how different could things have been? Actually, probably not that different as Fabinho spent a spell injured too, but the hit to morale would not have been so hard if the Brazilian had been in midfield, as the team is unlikely to have lost so many.

To be fair to Klopp, it is clear that he had much more important things on his mind than football this season and that would have had a huge affect on his ability to make decisions. This game was the first time he seemed to be more like himself and made tweaks throughout the first half and then more tactical changes at half-time, to allow the team to win the game.

 

Alisson - his speed off the line was a key part of the win. Any time a Southampton forward got a chance to get in, he was already on them before they had time to sort their feet out to do anything much. There was one particularly bad error, when he made a loose pass to give the ball away, but he immediately made up for it with a save. Overall, he was excellent.

 

Alexander-Arnold - a difficult game for him, as he was constantly caught between pushing onto Redmond and watching the forwards and midfielders drifting out wide. He did get a fair bit of help, but it was much needed to avoid him being simply overrun by numbers. Overall Trent did well not to sell himself and allow time for help to arrive. On the ball he was mostly excellent, with some beautiful balls played, unfortunate not to get, at the very least, one assist.

 

Phillips - it is amazing to see the lad's development in what is his first season of top flight football. He has become a vocal, solid centre-back who is displaying leadership characteristics and major improvements in his defending. It is not an accident that so many balls played across end up at his feet or head to be cleared, it is down to his excellent positional play.

 

Williams - while he was only in the team because Kabak and Davies were both out injured, he never let anyone down. Just once he got caught ball-watching and allowed a runner to run in behind. I believe it helps pairing him with Phillips, as they both lack pace and so he is not worrying about having to maintain the line. They can drop as a pair, secure in the knowledge that their partner will be doing the same. While it must be remembered that the Saints' attackers are not the best, Williams' one-on-one defending was particularly impressive in this game.

Not just his refusal to dive in and to stand up and force the opponent to do something, but also his use of his body against a much quicker attacker to make it difficult for them to run past him. That lean into them, using his bulk to slow them, without resorting to pulling, was good play. He looked a completely different player from the one who had initially got his chance.

 

Robertson - struggled to cope with Walker-Peters, who was running from deep, due to a lack of help from in front of him throughout the first half. Robertson was unable to come out and engage him and help was slow to arrive for him. In the second half that changed and he was able to drive forward more himself.

 

Thiago - from the early stages of the match, when he was able to cause three errors by pressing so quickly, he was excellent. Covered Alexander-Arnold and was still able to get involved on the ball and play some lovely passes. Not everything he tried come off, but he is becoming more and more important to the way the team plays. Great first goal as well, though even that was a pass to the corner of the net! He shut up the idiot commentators, who were constantly banging on about how he fades after 60 minutes, even though he is usually substituted just after that, so any comment claiming that is simply speculation. Apparently that is what passes for punditry in the modern game, morons making up stuff and passing it off as truth.

 

Wijnaldum - in the first half he was not quick enough to get across and help Robertson and one attempt to track back he just lazily hung out a leg from the wrong side, allowing the player to just run off him. However he mixed that with some good forward runs and was unlucky to hit the bar with a header. The second half he was much quicker to get across and provide cover but it did mean he was more restrained with his forward runs.

 

Mane - it was almost like the old Mane, though you have to wonder, was it a return to form or just a player upping his game against his old team? He was very good, really should have scored more goals than the one he did get. His interplay with Jota was much improved and they switched positions with real fluidity.

 

Fabinho - he did what he does and made sure that Southampton were unable to build up a real head of steam. They were mainly limited to set pieces and balls that missed out midfield to put a fast striker running in behind, just to miss out Fabinho.

 

Salah - was dangerous all game, though tried to do far too much and constantly ended up losing the ball trying to beat Stephens, who dealt with Salah brilliantly. When he did get the ball across instead, it became an assist as Mane finished it off. It showed he can do it and he needs to do that a bit more often, especially in games like this when trying to run with the ball just is not working for him.

 

Jota - much better from Jota, real signs of an understanding with the other two up front, his movement was better and he worked harder in the press too. The only criticism is that he really should have scored.

 

Firmino - replaced Jota in the 79th minute. Got involved pressing the ball back, but, other than an assist for a simple pass to Thiago, he did not really have time to impose himself on the game.

 

Oxlade-Chamberlain - came on in place of Salah in the 87th minute. Well, to paraphrase Dejan Lovren, at least he is scoring off the pitch, because he had no time to do anything in this game.

 

Jones - took Mane's spot in the 93rd minute. A time-wasting substitution.

 

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Written by Tris Burke May 10 2021 19:27:51

 

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