Southampton vs. Liverpool: 6 Things We Learned
The Reds struggled from the moment that Morgan Schneiderlin slid the Saints into the lead in just the sixth minute—from then on, Brendan Rodgers' side battled on but ultimately fell two goals behind when Rickie Lambert's free-kick deflected into the net.
Philippe Coutinho smashed Liverpool back into the game on the stroke of half-time with a goal that convinced many that a victory, which would have been crucial to European hopes, was back on—but with Luis Suarez and his teammates left frustrated, Jay Rodriguez waltzed through the visitors' defence to seal victory with 10 minutes remaining.
Here are some lessons learned from a difficult afternoon for the Reds:
Brendan Rodgers Needs a Stronger Squad
This was pretty much well-known already, but Liverpool don't have a squad strong enough to constantly chop and change personnel—and that was ruthlessly shown again here.
Perhaps looking to freshen things up a bit, boss Brendan Rodgers surprisingly decided to leave out both Jamie Carragher and Lucas Leiva despite their recent strong performances, replacing them with Martin Skrtel and Joe Allen.
Given that Skrtel has struggled in recent months and Allen needs an operation on his shoulder injury, they were brave moves from Rodgers—and ultimately they backfired, as Liverpool struggled to gain any sort of control at St. Mary's.
Perhaps the manager should have stuck with the tried and tested.
Saints Stand a Great Chance of Staying Up
This was only Southampton's second win under new boss Mauricio Pochettino, but given that the first one was against Manchester City, they haven't exactly been unheralded successes.
That was a 3-1 win too, and, just like this one, it was thoroughly deserved.
Here, the Saints were excellent from first minute to last against a Liverpool team they simply didn't allow to breathe—if it wasn't for Reds goalkeeper Brad Jones, they would have won by even more goals.
Now seven points clear of the relegation zone, Southampton look well placed to stay up.
Careless Talk Costs More Points
It partly comes from the need to answer the questions put too them, but Liverpool have a habit of shooting themselves in the foot.
Following the win over Tottenham last week, Reds skipper Steven Gerrard spoke of how he wanted a "perfect" end to the season to help the Reds towards the Champions League places (BBC)—but in truth, Liverpool don't belong there right now. They shouldn't even be talking about it.
The Reds need to stop running before they can walk, and also watch how they talk.
Brad Jones Proves an Able Deputy
The Australian hasn't always looked rock solid in the Liverpool goal, but as he stood in for Pepe Reina again here, he turned in an impressive display that prevented the Reds from losing by even more goals on the south coast.
His long-term future between the sticks at Liverpool remains to be seen—although he has recently signed a new contract of course—but if Jones is happy to remain as No. 2, he could stay at the club for some time yet.
The Reds have him to thank for avoiding an even more embarrassing Saturday afternoon.
Philippe Coutinho Is Becoming a Key Man
He might not be at the level of Ronaldinho or Lionel Messi just yet—despite what Saints boss Pochettino thinks (BBC)—but Philippe Coutinho continues to grow into his role at Liverpool and provided a second goal for the club here.
Hopefully the team will continue to grow around him as he looks to get better and better—the Brazilian is certainly one to watch for Liverpool, and one who the club can look to pin their hopes on over the next few years.
Those hopes will include the desire to avoid more afternoons like this.
A Defensive Lynchpin Is Needed
The return of Skrtel in place of the retiring Carragher ended up backfiring on Liverpool, who showed that they need to pick up a strong defender in the summer or face more frustrations.
Slovakia's Skrtel has suffered an alarming dip in form this season, and with Carragher soon to call it a day, it is clear that Rodgers needs browse the transfer market for a commanding centre-back in the summer.
It already looks like the most important buy he could make in his time at the club so far.