Everton Winning Makes Liverpool's Shocking Collapse Even Harder To Accept
So we did it again didn't we? On a day when we could have enhanced the momentum provided by four wins in a row in all competitions, coupled with a clear upturn in both confidence and form, we shot ourselves in the foot.
Early indication from well-placed sources was that there would be surprises on the team sheet. An absent, injured Carragher meant a chance of redemption for Martin Skrtel, whose profile has dropped significantly of late. The presence of 17 year-old Jordan Ibe on the bench was pleasant news: his form in the youth team has been excellent and his selection here was a major show of faith by Rodgers, and gave some hope that we may see a debut from another promising talent.
That the midfield selection saw Joe Allen replace Lucas instilled less hope and came to be crucial in the match. The absence of Lucas removes a great portion of control from our midfield play. Allen has his merits and has recently returned to his early season form but is unable to break up play and protect Liverpool's defence in the manner that Lucas Leiva can.
Post-match reports say that Lucas was carrying 'a niggle', the assumption being that the coaching staff didn't want to risk him due to this as his last start with a 'niggle' saw him sidelined for three months. That he was deemed fit enough to play the entire second half in place of Allen and emerged from the game as one of our more impressive performers would seem to indicate that this 'niggle' wasn't overly serious as either Henderson or Shelvey could have been used in his stead.
It was revealed during the week that Allen requires surgery on a shoulder injury, surgery that will sideline him for three months. Surely then the sensible action here is to take him out of the team, have the surgery, work through recovery and be ready for a full pre-season ready to fully prove his worth next year. If we weren't willing to risk Lucas with a slight niggle then why are we willing to risk Allen with a long term issue and variable form? Again at St Mary's he had little positive impact on the team. This change to an efficient, performing midfield was detrimental to the performance as a whole.
A woeful first half saw an unbalanced, listless Liverpool thoroughly dominated by a lively, purposeful Southampton; the only shock in conceding two goals being that we hadn't conceded far more. A Coutinho goal on the stroke of half time gave hope of a second half revival – one which didn't arrive, in the manner that it hasn't many times over too many years. Ultimately, despite an improved second half performance, we gave ourselves too large a mountain to climb with our first half failure.
A win was vital here. At noon we were ahead of Everton on (vastly superior) goal difference and victory would have put us up to fifth in the table. To watch their excellent performance laying further waste to Manchester City's league pretensions and then witness our implosion under the pressure to maintain pace with our neighbours was galling. Once again, given the chance to make ground in the league we spurned the opportunity.
Yes, this is a transitional season and this may have been a bad day at the office. We fans have no idea what happens on the training pitches or the true fitness levels of the players but still: we are now in one competition. We play once a week. We don't have a game for a fortnight. There should be no changes other than those absolutely enforced by injury.
We now need to build impetus again. A week ago Everton's season was over, their fans in revolt, the manager's head demanded. This weekend their manager and players responded in the best possible manner to their setback, displaying an improved mentality and determination.
Liverpool now need the same response at Aston Villa in two weeks' time. Our strongest eleven on the pitch, focused and determined.