Liverpool are in danger of becoming a “static, safe and predictable” club unless they improve upon their Plan A, according to former Manchester United defender Gary Neville.
Jurgen Klopp’s side limped to a goalless draw against Southampton on Sunday but still managed to keep hold of third place in the Premier League and hold the advantage over the likes of Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United in the race for the top four.
The Reds have played a game more than United and City, and two more than Arsenal, but would still remain in the Champions League places if their rivals win their games in hand.
Liverpool 0 Southampton 0 player ratings
Liverpool 0 Southampton 0 player ratings
1/22 Simon Mignolet – 5 out of 10
He was only forced to make a small number of saves, so it was an easy afternoon for the keeper.
2/22 Nathaniel Clyne – 6 out of 10
He was charging up and down the channels, but at times he was leaving Liverpool vulnerable the back when he was struggling to track back.
3/22 Dejan Lovren – 5 out of 10
Was clumsy in his challenges which gave away a cluster of unnecessary fouls. However, he held the line well at the back and used possession well.
4/22 Joel Matip – 6 out of 10
It was a relatively straight forward afternoon for the defender due to a lack of attacks from the Saints, but he did his job when he was called upon.
5/22 James Milner – 4 out of 10
He missed from the penalty spot, which denied Liverpool the chance to take the lead. Despite an impressive record from the spot, Forster came out on top this time.
6/22 Emre Can – 5 out of 10
Appeared to run out of ideas in possession – when he was on the edge of the box he was just giving the ball away.
7/22 Lucas – 6 out of 10
He was pumping balls up to the strikers, but his efforts went unrewarded. He looked energetic, but he came out second best in a number of 50/50 challenges.
8/22 Georgino Wijnaldum – 6 out of 10
A textbook display from Wijnaldum in the middle, but sometimes he needs to use the simple option as opposed to always going for the long ball.
9/22 Roberto Firmino – 7 out of 10
Was Liverpool’s best player in the first half – he appeared to have no end of energy and his movement off the ball was creating chances.
10/22 Philippe Coutinho – 4 out of 10
His movement was good, but when he was on the ball he failed to take any of his chances. He looked as though he needed an injection of confidence.
11/22 Divock Origi – 6 out of 10
He looked menacing when he was charging at the Southampton defence, but he was just lacking the final product.
12/22 Fraser Forster – 9 out of 10
His exquisite penalty save kept the scores level and he made a collection of crucial stops throughout.
13/22 Cedric Soares – 7 out of 10
His repeated interceptions and clearances stopped a handful of Liverpool moves. He also used possession well from the back.
14/22 Jack Stephens – 5 out of 10
His moment of inanity for the handball was rescued by Forsters excellent save. Aside from that he defended well today.
15/22 Maya Yoshida – 5 out of 10
He was playing very deep, which was allowing the Liverpool to have a lot of space going forward.
16/22 Ryan Bertrand – 6 out of 10
He was crashing into challenges, holding his position well and looked more than capable of maintaining the Liverpool forwards.
17/22 Dusan Tadic – 6 out of 10
He was finding himself in all of the right places, but just lacked service throughout.
18/22 Steven Davis – 6 out of 10
Was highly influential in the Southampton side today and he started a handful of promising moves for the visitors.
19/22 Oriol Romeu – 7 out of 10
His bruising challenge on Origi marked his authority in the early stages of the game. He battled hard and tackled well.
20/22 James Ward-Prowse – 6 out of 10
His deliveries into the area were menacing, but the Saints lacked an aerial threat so his crosses were never converted.
21/22 Sofiane Boufal – 4 out of 10
Aside from the occasional pass, Boufal had no input to the game today. He was constantly marked and did not seem to want the ball.
22/22 Manolo Gabbiadini – 4 out of 10
The striker went missing at times today and he failed to make any real impact when in possession.
And while Liverpool have been outstanding against fellow top-six sides this season, it is the mid-to-lower table teams whom they have struggled against most. In the 21 matches against teams in the bottom half of the table this season, Liverpool have only won 10, while losing six and drawing five – taking just 35 points from a possible 63.
Neville believes the reason for this is that they have lacked the attacking football they showed at the start of the season which is needed when teams set up for the draw against them.
“I think that over the last two or three months, or maybe longer than that, teams that sit back against Liverpool and make it very difficult for them are their Achilles heel,” Neville said on Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football.
“They can't beat lesser teams at home. Teams that come out against them and are expansive [Liverpool] are OK, they can play the combinations and be quick on the break.
“People talk about 'do they need a Plan B?' Maybe actually improving on Plan A is something they've stopped doing.
“Me and Jamie [Carragher] could have played as centre backs in that game for Southampton because they weren't shifted anywhere near enough.
“Liverpool, the nature of the club, they will always come up against inferior teams who will come and defend deep. They have got to do Plan A better.
“They have stopped making those little corner runs, those positions where they show and pinging people in on the edge of the box. If they play the likes of Firmino, Origi, Sturridge, whoever it might be, they've got to get them making those runs again.
“Because when they don't they become static, safe and predictable and for me that's the problem at the moment.”Reuse content