Saturday was a bit of a football feast for me, I watched the intriguing 1-1 draw between two of our rivals: Manchester United and Arsenal. I followed that up with our game away to Southampton and finished the day with an enthralling battle between the German Bundesliga’s finest: Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich; where Dortmund put in a masterful display to win 1-0. It has to be said that the Bundesliga game was the best of the three that I watched and, in all honesty, ours was the dullest, despite my emotional attachment to it.
What is my point in all this? Well, we have being dubbed as ‘the entertainers’ this season, as the best team to watch, playing the most exciting football and ‘must see’ for neutrals. On Saturday, away to Southampton, that wasn’t the case and as sure as you-know-what stinks, it won’t be the only time this season we’re involved in a dull game because this wasn’t the first time it’s happened.
This is in no way a criticism because it happens, it’s football and not every game we play in is going to be a blockbuster of entertainment, it’s impossible. Likewise, there are going to be games when our scintillating attack miss-fires in the way it did at St. Mary’s; again, that’s football, it happens. It’s certainly nothing to get bent out of shape over, especially given the context of the season we are having.
After an international break where some players clocked up significantly more miles than minutes, a degree of drop off was somewhat inevitable. Should Jürgen Klopp have made changes to the frontline, bearing in mind the travelling done by Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino? Maybe, but had he made those changes and we had still drawn a blank he would have been criticised for changing a front line that has operated so well and with such fluidity this season. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and perhaps bringing Daniel Sturridge and/or Divock Origi in for Coutinho and/or Firmino would have got us the goal we probably deserved, but we’ll never know.
Some credit should be awarded to Southampton, they were set up to frustrate us and did just that, largely thanks to a fantastic individual display from Virgil Van Dyke; although his shirt grab on Firmino should’ve resulted in a penalty. However, as well as Southampton executed their game plan to contain us, we still had the chances to win the game. Coutinho was played in, but sliced his effort wide and Firmino skewed a great chance past the post. There were other opportunities also missed which are frustrating in such a tight game, but these things do happen. We have to accept we can’t and won’t score five or six goals every week, so a minority moaning at Firmino or pointing the finger at others is unnecessary and disproportionate, given not only the context of this season, but also how far this team has come over the last year.
In our 12 Premier League games this season we have 27 points, scoring 30 goals in the process, with a +16 goal difference. After the same number of matches last season, we were on 17 points, having only scored 13 goals, with -1 goal difference to boot. Going further back, if you look at 2014/15 season, after 12 games we had just 14 points, scoring only 15 goals and an embarrassing -3 goal difference.
Quite a difference and one that should put results and performances like this past Saturday’s against Southampton into perspective. When you take into account the strides that have already been made under Klopp and factor in that this is still a work in progress, that we are not the finished article – it’s certainly not something to get upset about. In fact, being disappointed at only getting a point from a tough away fixture to Southampton is actually a positive indication of the road we are on. If you were really looking for positives from that game, we kept another clean sheet and although we weren’t tested much by the home side, the defence is slowly improving and Joel Matip gave another assured display.
Looking at the bigger picture, there aren’t many teams in the Premier League capable of restricting Liverpool in the way Manchester United and Southampton have done. Others will undoubtedly try, but that goes with the territory of playing an attacking style and I dare say some will be successful. I am sure we will still largely be ‘the entertainers’ of the Premier League and score plenty of goals, but sometimes there will be off days, like at Southampton, where our midfield doesn’t quite click, our full-backs don’t threaten much and our attack spurn chances to score; days we will unfortunately have to take on the chin.
We should absolutely celebrate the highs such as the 6-1 demolition of Watford, but also maintain perspective and not get too hung up about a goalless draw away to Southampton.