A disappointing result for the reds last night, against a resurgent Southampton, who have lost their last 3 games. The Saints took full advantage of a below par performance, and exploited the rear weaknesses of this year’s team. We miss the steel of Matip and the fluidity of Henderson to make the team gel as a unit. Klopp has said before that our best form of defence is attack and to have the ball in our possession, but this is where the problem lies. When players are missing, our starting 11 does not take the shape or performance we all wish for.
Defensively, Klavan will take a shunt for his errors, but with a poor game, Clyne should also be there. In the goal he made the wrong decision not to follow Redmond, and it was his indecisiveness that let Cedric through with a clear cut chance. It should have been 2-0, and that’s when it becomes a far worse situation for the second leg. I read a tweet that Clyne has been the unsung hero from our Southampton purchases, but I have to disagree. However, I will always give credit where its due and Nathaniel has earned his immovable position at RB, it’s just now, I feel I need to highlight what I see he gives us. His stopping when moving forward to pass a sideways ball is starting to become annoying. It’s detrimental to the flow our game. I miss the times he used to take it in his stride and power down the outside, creating chances. He also has to stop shooting. Or at least train more, because his efforts have been woeful. It’s time to give him back a challenge, a competitor fighting for his place. A feat known to work for complacent players. Just look at Karius. The German played well. But for the love of God Jurgen, don’t put him in for the United game. He needs his time on the bench, to make sure he trains hard and better understands the game.
Emre Can has been a talking point recently and again for his display in this game. For me, he’s not a defensive midfielder but that doesn’t mean he can’t play in the centre. Emre’s strengths are when he gets the ball, turns, and bursts forward, turning defence into attack. He still needs to remember to play the simple ball more often, and he needs to know when not to shield the ball, something he does far too often. If he amends his game slightly, and plays games when we will be attacking more than defending, then he can grow and be a vital cog in the team.
Another of his central partners, Lucas, played his style as effortlessly as he does. The thing is, it just slows the tempo of our game down, as he himself is slowing down. His short passing is brilliant, and hopefully he can pass that on to Emre. Maybe even invite Gini Wijnaldum for one of his sessions, so he can learn from Emre, in passing the ball forward. Gini played best on Tyneside when he had the licence to push forward and make his late runs into the box. He plays fine, he just misses that spark whilst in a red shirt. Going back to my point about Lucas, if he either stays or leaves, we need someone to step up and fill his boots.
It shows that when we make changes, our players seem to play like they don’t know what the others are going to do. With our free flowing football, we need to make sure our backups are ready to slot in and help the team play in the style that works. Evidenced again with Sturridge in the middle, we seemed to lose the fluidity when Firmino is not up top. Like Lucas, Daniel’s decisions seem to slow the play just enough for the opposition to regain ranks. I’m not saying that Firmino is wasted on the wing, because during the game, I saw why. Roberto can only be utilised out on the wing when our game plan is to be more defensive; the big away games. His hold up play is second to none, no matter where he is positioned, yet he still has the flair to create at least one chance.
On the South coast we set up with a more defensive outlook, maybe due to missing players, but defensive none-the-less. Lallana’s creativity went missing and this is where we seem to become unstuck. With Coutinho returning we saw glimpses of what he can do, albeit way off his usual standards, and this is to be expected after his layoff. Without these two firing, it seems no one else produces moments of attacking simplicity; whether it’s a through pass perfectly weighted or switching play quicker, with intent to unsettle our opponents back line.
It may seem like a tirade of negatives, but this is what I saw. There was little to celebrate in a semi final contrary to the fact it’s the first leg. In the comfort of my own home, I predicted a 1-0, I just thought that maybe it would have been us who nicked it. Instead we go to Anfield in an OK position. We still have the time to resurrect this, we just need some of that BVB atmosphere we can produce it seems only in the big games.