Jurgen Klopp's side are still a work in progress - What we learned from Liverpool's dismal draw with Southampton
Liverpool missed out on the opportunity to strengthen their position in the top-four by drawing with Southampton at home.
This was the fourth game this season that Liverpool failed to score against the Saints.
Despite dominating possession, Liverpool could not find a way through and the writing was on the wall when James Milner had a second-half penalty-kick saved.
Southampton did not have a single shot on target and did not register a single shot on goal in the first-half, but leave Anfield with a hard-earned point.
Here are five things we learned from the action:
Fraser Forster silences his naysayers
So negative has some of the fan reaction been to Forster’s recent performances that, at the end of last month, Southampton manager Claude Puel felt it necessary to publicly defend his goalkeeper.
“A team for me is a collective,” he remarked. When we speak about the defence we always talk about three, four or five players responsible for protecting the goal. It’s not just the goalkeeper.”
But Forster’s fine display against Liverpool, which included a superb penalty save to deny James Milner, will have gone some way to answering his critics.
Liverpool desperately missed Sadio Mane and Adam Lallana
Mane and Lallana are two of Liverpool’s best players – if not their best players full stop – and so it is no surprise that the club missed the pair of them against Southampton.
But it is concerning just how glaringly they miss them. Without them, Liverpool’s midfield can appear awfully static with a dire lack of penetration and creativity.
Liverpool’s midfield trio of Lucas Leiva, Emre Can and Georginio Wijnaldum made two key passes and embarked on just two forward dribbles between them all match. In his last Premier League outing, against Everton, Mane made more than that by himself. And he was subbed off injured after 57 minutes.
Claude Puel gets his tactics spot on
Puel’s pragmatic decision to drop Nathan Redmond to the bench for this match revealed that the Frenchman had taken the decision to grind out a result against Liverpool – and he was successful.
Southampton may have failed to have a single shot on goal in the first-half of a match for the first time since 2012, but they defended manfully and were successful in frustrating their opponents.
Their defence deserves a lot of credit – especially in the continued absence of Virgil van Dijk – while Oriol Romeu, who made more tackles than any of his team-mates, was imperious sitting just in front of them all.
Liverpool may well come to rue this result
Liverpool’s final game of the season, a home match against a Middlesbrough side almost certain to have been relegated, looks simple enough. But their next match against West Ham looks an altogether different proposition.
Having struggled at the London Stadium all season, the Hammers were superb there last time out, ending Tottenham’s title charge and ending their faint relegation worries.
With rumours abound that the West Ham board told Slaven Bilic he must win his final two home matches of the season to keep his job, his team will be incredibly motivated. Southampton at home looked the more winnable fixture, and Liverpool’s profligacy at Anfield on Sunday could cost them dear in their campaign to finish in the top-four.
Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool remain a work in progress
Before the match, Opta published a statistic that generated an awful lot of interest. After 65 Premier League games in charge of Liverpool, Jurgen Klopp has an identical record to that of his predecessor, Brendan Rodgers: W33, D18, L14.
It didn’t take long for a number of fans and pundits to turn this stat into a stick to beat Klopp with, supposed evidence of a lack of progression over the last two seasons. In reality, that’s a lazy conclusion to jump to.
Rodgers’s first 65 league games included Liverpool’s finest ever Premier League campaign, for starters. It was only towards the end of his period at the club that his previously impressive win ratio began to slide. There is also an argument that the league as a whole is much stronger now than it was a few years ago. Of course Liverpool remain a work in progress, but only the churlish would argue that they have not made strides forward under the German.