Southampton 1-0 Liverpool: Four Things We Learnt

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Redmond could have scored four – football365.com

A strong defensive display helped Southampton to a 1-0 first leg win over Liverpool in the League Cup Semi-Final First Leg. But what have we learnt from the game?

Saints defended superbly

The approach of defending deep carried great appeal last season, when Leicester won the league title with very little possession. This season, the struggles of Hull and Sunderland provide a reminder of the dangers of defensive tactics when performed with too much fear. On Wednesday night however, Southampton executed their plan superbly.

They were disciplined – a basic requirement against the Premier League’s top scorers – but they were also tactically diligent and brave when they had to be. The commanding Virgil Van Dijk won every time he was challenged to an aerial battle with a frustrated Daniel Sturridge. Oriol Romeu led by example in midfield. Steven Davis worked tirelessly. Jordy Clasie and Jay Rodriguez kick-started a brief press on occasions to give the defence a breather. Ryan Bertrand and Nathan Redmond worked in tandem, helping each other in different phases of play.

Redmond vs Karius

Redmond has been criticized at times this season for poor decision making, not knowing when to look up and release the ball. On Wednesday night however, he was dutiful in his protection of Bertrand against Nathaniel Clyne and his work in the opposing box could have earned him four goals. He scored the once, a cool finish from Rodriguez’s setup on 20 minutes, another of his efforts hit the woodwork while two in the first half forced reflex saves from Loris Karius. The German’s place in that Liverpool line-up had been up for debate before the match, with Simon Mignolet impressing in his absence. Karius is unlikely to return to the standing line-up, particularly with the North-West Derby coming up on Sunday, but he was the only saving grace in an imbalanced Liverpool display.

Liverpool looked imbalanced

Nine of Liverpool’s starting 10 outfield players looked to either stay or move into central areas, none of those nine being blessed with natural pace. The ony man who could theoretically have provided some speed and width was right-back Clyne, who looked reluctant to take on a menacing Bertrand. Liverpool’s other flank consisted of a right-footed James Milner, who slowed the game down and an out of position Roberto Firmino, though the latter had two of their better efforts at goal. The Brazilian’s snapshots were nodded on and laid off respectively by Adam Lallana, but on the right of the front three, the midfielder did not have the pace of fellow ex-Saint Sadio Mane.

Mane missing

The Senegal international’s participation in the African Cup of Nations had a similar impact to his absence in the away game at Burnley back in August. The Reds had a lot of players coming short into central areas – and those players did try snappy, over the top balls – yet there was nobody running onto them. There were times early on when Liverpool got into a good position, but midfielders such as Emre Can and Georginio Wijnaldum did not sense the opportunity. The lack of movement meant Southampton’s players did not have to worry so much about tracking runners and could therefore focus more on crowding out the space then winning the ball. Sheyi Ojo may not have the same ability as any of the front three who started on Wednesday, yet in style he is the closest to Mane. Putting the youngster into the team could be the best way to restore balance until the key man’s return.

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