Player ratings: Southampton 1-3 Liverpool

Henderson-and-Salah-celebrate
Well what a strange game that was. The opening 20 minutes was as bad as I’ve seen from us since Klopp took over and it really looked for a while like the title was slipping away from us. We rallied however and in the end, recorded the all important victory. Without further ado then, let’s see how the lads got on.

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Alisson (6) - Not a lot to do for Alisson on the night although he was annoying me in the opening 20 minutes with his decision making when playing out from the back. It’s like he deliberately chooses the most difficult option to show how good he is but it invites pressure and in the first twenty minutes when we were all over the place, we could have done with him relieving the pressure a bit, not adding to it. Still, much improved from his last display.

TAA (6.5) - Mixed night for Trent as he was a threat going forward and grabbed himself an assist, with a fine cross for Keita’s equaliser but defensively, Southampton were having plenty joy down our right all evening, until Trent made way for Milner. Made an impact though and is developing all the time, both physically and technically. Big future awaits this lad I think.

Matip (7) - Another solid display from Matip, who has been consistently good since coming back into the side. Created our first decent chance of the night after some fine work with the ball at his feet, where he easily dribbled past a couple of Southampton players. Makes you wonder why nobody in our midfield ever attempts something similar. At the other end, he did brilliantly to thwart Redmond, after the Southampton attacker had skinned Fabinho. Definitely first choice partner for VVD now in my opinion. Gomez will need to earn his place back.

Van Dijk (7) - His positioning was suspect for Southampton’s opener, although he was put in a difficult situation after none of our midfielders tracked the Southampton run from midfield that led to the chance being created. Made up for it though with some fine defending in the second half. Must have been hoarse by the end of the game, the number of times I saw him (justifiably) blasting his team mates.

Robertson (6) - Not one of Robbo’s finest displays. Like Van Dijk, was in no man’s land positionally for Southampton’s goal but also like Van Dijk, could be forgiven for not expecting the cross to have come in as easily as it did. It wasn’t really Robbo’s night though, as even his usual trusty left foot wasn’t obeying his commands. Fluffed what should have been an easy cross for a man of his ability, denying Salah what would have been a tap in. Robbo is similar to Firmino however, in the regard that his work rate and general level of involvement in games, means he pretty much always justifies his place in the team.

Fabinho (5) - Possibly his worst performance in a Liverpool shirt. Sloppy in possession, positionally suspect and he was done like a kipper on at least three occasions and even nutmegged - twice! He even tried to foul a couple of players and he couldn’t even manage that! Players rarely get around Fabinho with such ease though, so we'll just put it down to an off night. Improved as the game wore on but struggled to impose himself or positively affect the game. One to forget.

Wijnaldum (5) - Nowhere near his usual ‘dirty’ self. Showed a few nice touches throughout but was as culpable as our other midfielders for the way Southampton were just strolling through them in the first half. Klopp said he was feeling the effects of the season and to be fair, Gini must be right up there in the squad in terms of minutes played this season. He’s certainly played more than any of our other midfielders so we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. Big improvement needed for the remaining games however.

Keita (6) - The only reason Keita isn’t getting an absolute roasting here is because he scored. Other than that and the fact he should have been awarded a penalty, I thought he was pretty diabolical and dare I say it, a bit lazy? The amount of times he just lets the opposition player jog away from him is ridiculous and it’s such the polar opposite of what we’ve come to expect from Klopp’s midfield, that it stands out a mile. It’s a permanent feature of his game however and something I see from him every time he plays. The Kante/Iniesta hybrid that he was described as before signing, is becoming more laughable with every performance. The more I see him play, the more doubts I have that he'll make the grade with us. He needs to hit the ground running next season or I fear he’s finished. Hopefully the goal gives him some confidence and he can kick on but I have my doubts.

Salah (8) - Mo is one lucky boy that he scored that opportunity or instead of the 8 he scored, we could have been looking at a new LBN lowest score record. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced blind rage turning to jubilation so quickly, it was a bizarre experience. Finally though, he gets that elusive goal and in doing so, killed two back-monkeys with one ball. He’s ended his goal drought and finally broke Torres record. Thank god. What a finish it was as well and he was a threat throughout. Unlucky not to get an assist when Mane should have done better with the header from Salah’s cross and as mentioned above, Robbo should have been able to roll the ball across to him for a tap in. Slightly fortunate in the build up to our first goal as he was offside when he initially received the ball. Much improved though, here’s hoping the aforementioned monkeys off his back, will kickstart a blistering end of the season from him.

Firmino (7) - Another good display from Bobby, although I did think he was dropping too deep at times. Saying that, he probably thought somebody had to try and do something about that midfield. Linked play well as always and does all the upfront dirty work to allow Salah and Mane to do their thing. If only he was more of a natural finisher, he really would be the total package.

Mane (7) - Lively throughout and caused Southampton plenty problems. Should have done better with two free headers however, especially the first one from Salah’s delivery. Still, Mane remains in good form and looks full of confidence heading into the final stretch of the season.

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Subs:

Hendo (10) - Impacts don’t come much bigger. The tempo of our game changed immediately when Hendo came on and he grabbed himself an unlikely assist (considering it was a header from the edge of his own box) for the all important second goal and then made the game safe by scoring the third himself. Superb cameo from the skipper.

Milner (6.5) - Helped shore up the troublesome right hand side and brought much needed urgency and experience to the game. If Klopp had any remaining doubts over who his most trusted midfielders are, he won’t after last night’s display.

Lovren - (N/A) - Back from injury.

Klopp-watch (6) - I hummed and hawed for a while over Klopp’s rating as we did win the game but that midfield was a shambles. I was quite excited to see it but I don’t know why he didn’t play Gini and Fabinho as a double pivot - something we had success with earlier this season and play Keita at the tip of a midfield triangle where he has less defensive responsibility, as he’s proving something of a liability in that department. I also thought his subs were too late as usual. What you can’t fault however, is his man management. You can see the confidence he gives them and you can also see how highly motivated they all are.

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Summary:

So, another victory and a vital three points but we don’t half make it difficult for ourselves, although I suppose that is the Liverpool way. That opening twenty minutes really was diabolical though. You’d never have believed we were top of the league and Southampton were fighting relegation, as they carved through us at will and we simply couldn’t cope with them. The problem was unfortunately predictable. Midfield.

Before a ball was kicked this season, I expected that last night’s starting three would have become our first choice by around Christmas. How wrong I was. They were an absolute shambles in the first half. It’s no secret that I think we could do better then Hendo and Milner in midfield but I’ll say one thing for them, teams never just waltz past them, the way the Southampton players were just breezing through our midfield in the first half. In possession they were even worse! Sloppy pass after sloppy pass, poor decision making, constantly running into trouble and inviting pressure. We could have easily lost that game in those first twenty minutes, such was the ease that Southampton were creating chances.

I was interested to see that after about 22 minutes we’d had over 70% possession but it’s the worst kind of possession you can have - nervously passing backwards and sideways while the opposition press higher and higher up the pitch, forcing mistakes and creating chances. Basically, we fell into our own trap and allowed Southampton to do to us, what we do to other teams but we needed someone in that midfield to get on the ball and start calming the play down and controlling play but they were all found desperately wanting. The inability to string three passes together in midfield is becoming something of a joke as well.

Hendo changed the game when he came on but I’m not going to get carried away by that, as our midfield has been very poor in plenty games Hendo has played this season as well but he at least provides some kind of controlled possession. There was none of that for our midfield three last night and as I stated earlier, if Klopp had any nagging doubts about who his most trusted midfield is, he doesn’t now.

Anyway, on a more positive note, we got the job done and move back to the top of the league. This was also one of our trickiest games in our run in, so to emerge victorious is a big boost. Chelsea next and if we play to our potential, I believe we’ll have too much for them, however they are capable of being a very good team when they’re in the mood so we need all our players to turn up.

City now have a gruelling few games coming up, let’s hope it starts to take its toll. More nervous times ahead I suspect but it just wouldn’t be the Liverpool way if they didn’t put us through the mill. We keep winning though. Over to you City. Walk on.
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