Southampton 3-1 Liverpool: Rating the Reds Players in Loss Against Saints
So, normal service is resumed.
After Liverpool's 1-3 loss to Southampton at St. Mary's on Saturday, once again their distance from the European spots in the Premier League has been increased courtesy of Arsenal's 2-0 win at Swansea.
Last week's 3-2 win against Tottenham Hotspur was a victory to savor, but this week's capitulation against the Saints was not.
Here are our ratings for the Reds in their loss against Southampton. Beware; they aren't pretty.
Brad Jones stood in once again for Pepe Reina and improved upon last week's uncertain performance against Spurs.
Against an incessant Southampton attack, Jones stood firm, saving a few one-on-ones to keep Liverpool in the game.
Ultimately, however, it just wasn't enough.
Following an impressive first few months of the season, Glen Johnson's form has dipped in recent weeks with another unconvincing display at St. Mary's to match last week's at Anfield.
Once again, his defensive frailties are coming to the fore as he was caught out too far up supporting the Reds attack and made the Reds vulnerable to Southampton's quick counterattacks.
Young Saints left-back Luke Shaw showed explosive pace to match, and even outstrip, Johnson on the Southampton left. Bombing forward, this time, wasn't a saving grace for Liverpool's right-back.
A fresh new hairdo (depending on your taste) for Jose Enrique was unfortunately not matched by an equally invigorating performance from the Liverpool left-back.
While the majority of the Southampton attacks came from the left and through the center, Enrique had a quiet game, which was epitomized by his gaping miss just a few yards from goal in the dying minutes.
With Jamie Carragher restored to the bench, Martin Skrtel was handed a chance to reclaim a spot in Brendan Rodgers' first team.
Instead, he only proved why Carragher had been favored in the previous few weeks with a soft and slow performance against a marauding and high-pressure Southampton midfield and attack.
Indeed, it was Skrtel who couldn't keep up with an advancing Morgan Schneiderlin for the first goal, while the likes of Rickie Lambert and Jay Rodriguez tortured him time and again with pace and dribbling.
Where has the Skrtel of last season gone?
For years, Daniel Agger has been thought of as one of the finest ball-playing center-backs in the Premier League. This season he seems to have recovered from his injury problems, but somehow, just somehow, his performance levels haven't been as high either.
Perhaps it's a matter of playing with an unconvincing partner in defence.
But Agger also didn't enjoy the best of afternoons against Gaston Ramirez, whose running and dribbling caused the Liverpool defence ample problems. That Southampton were allowed to get into the final third too easily wasn't entirely Agger's problem, but Rodgers' defensive problems have been truly concerning.
Oh dear, oh dear. Joe Allen has had such an alarming dip in form in the past few months that it's hard to imagine this was the same player whose impressive performances for Swansea City made him Brendan Rodgers' first signing from his former club.
Given a chance to impress against a Southampton team with a similar passing and pressing philosophy, Allen not only failed to make the most of his opportunity, but he put in another abject display in the center of midfield to basically confirm that he just can't start for this Liverpool.
Allen lost the ball time and again, came up short against the Saints midfielders both for pace and physique and it was no wonder that he was brought off at half-time.
A far cry from the new midfield star that was supposedly on his way to replacing Xabi Alonso after an excellent first few games in a Liverpool shirt.
Sometimes not even Superman can save the day.
For all of the great form and consistency that Steven Gerrard has displayed since December, even he couldn't find the moment of inspiration and pure quality to lift a Liverpool team struggling badly to find rhythm and form at St. Mary's.
Gerrard has of course been redefined as a deep-lying playmaker this season, but he tried to take the game by the scruff of its neck by injecting his trademark pace and bursts into the box.
Alas, football is a team game, and today the team didn't show up.
Game by game, Philippe Coutinho is showing his importance to the Liverpool cause.
With the Reds' only goal of the game, Coutinho displayed composure and trickery for the best part of an hour before visibly tiring. Rodgers ultimately allowed him to complete his first 90 minutes since arriving in the Premier League in what will have been a valuable lesson towards the importance of stamina and physicality in England's top flight.
But Coutinho was for most of the game Liverpool's only goal threat. That speaks volumes both about Liverpool's abject display on the afternoon and about Coutinho's development and growing influence.
Rating: 7/10 (Man of the Match)
Just as his captain didn't provide the awe-inspiring moment, so too Luis Suarez failed to lead from the front as he has usually done for Liverpool this season.
There was plenty of work and fight from the Liverpool No. 7, but there was also too little to work with as the Saints midfield dominated possession and cut off the Liverpool supply line.
Stewart Downing, just like the vast majority of the Liverpool squad on show at Southampton, didn't replicate his performance from last week.
Our man-of-the-match against Tottenham, Downing had a quiet game on the Liverpool right but showed decent combination play with Coutinho. Nothing much more of note from the winger.
It's not been smooth sailing for Daniel Sturridge following his latest injury layoff.
Last week he was the Liverpool attacker who foiled his team's attacks by losing the ball up front due to his will to impress with his trickery. This week it was his selfishness that was the order of the afternoon, as he squandered chance after chance by either shooting poorly or failing to pass to a better-positioned teammate.
His air-shot on 76 minutes was an indication of his dropped form, and it was his deflection that took Rickie Lambert's free-kick past Brad Jones in the Liverpool game.
It'll take much more work to resume the electrifying initial partnership with Suarez, but he'll be more aware than most that the Liverpool attack need to get back to that flowing telepathy if they are to challenge for the European spots come the end of the season.
By his own admission and by Rodgers' defence, Lucas hasn't enjoyed the best of seasons since returning from his own spell on the sidelines.
But Rodgers' decision to hand Lucas a rest backfired spectacularly as Joe Allen turned in an abject performance, and so the Reds once again turned to their trusty midfield enforcer in a bid to turn the tide at half-time.
Initially, it worked. Lucas showed why he remains the undisputed first-choice defensive midfielder for Liverpool with timely tackles and good anticipation, but the defence he was meant to shield ended up imploding and letting Southampton in too easily.
Substitute: Jordan Henderson
So what does Jordan Henderson have to do to regain his spot in the first team?
A spell of good consistent form as Liverpool's advanced midfielder since the turn of the year has been cut short due to Coutinho's rise, but surely Rodgers should have gone with Henderson as a more physical presence in the center of midfield alongside Steven Gerrard than the hapless Joe Allen.
While Henderson didn't have time to impress, having come on in the final few minutes, the good thing is that Allen had all the time in the world to fall down the pecking order.
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