Looking back on Liverpool’s dismal defeat at Southampton on Monday night, it seems, at the risk of sounding unpalatably bleak, that the only surprising part about the game was that it wasn’t actually all that surprising.
What was certainly of no surprise was yet another abysmal refereeing performance. In keeping with the theme of the season, Andre Marriner seemed physically incapable of awarding Liverpool anything- even for Theo Walcott’s two-footed lunge on James Milner or Jack Stephen’s diving save. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but it’s clear that Liverpool will have to account for officiating incompetence as they negotiate the rest of the season. But that wasn’t the main takeaway from Monday.
We readily heaped praise on the team when they produced results like the 4-0 win against Wolves, or the 7-0 win at Palace in spite of our injury list. But irrespective of whatever mental resilience they have shown so far, the players are human- and they are running out of gas.
The last three games have reeked of torpor and lethargy. While the winter period usually rains goals for Mo Salah, his form has nosedived since that brace at Selhurst Park. An uncharacteristically profligate performance at Newcastle was sandwiched between two anonymous showings against West Brom and Southampton. Sadio Mane has been far from his influential self either, and it seems that the midfield, deprived of Fabinho’s presence, lacks energy and inspiration game-in game-out.
Having a scapegoat or someone to point fingers at always goes some way in mitigating the pain of poor results. That’s probably why plenty have taken to social media to accuse the team of being disinterested, or even lazy. But the fact of the matter is that most of these players have been running their socks off every week for years, and have now been deprived of rotational options to grant them some much-needed rest. There isn’t a whole lot we can actually ask them to do beyond defying their biological capacities.
The only thing that remains in the club’s hands is the option of utilising the transfer market. I will admit – I’m disappointed that a deal to bring in a centre-back on Jan 1st wasn’t put in place in advance. Surely the situation is desperate enough to warrant some preliminary action?
However, the thought of Jurgen Klopp not signing anyone this window is a far more frightening prospect, and would frankly be grossly negligent. Looking for ‘value in the transfer market’ is a commendable tactic, but there is too much at stake here. Liverpool’s hopes of retaining the title could potentially hinge on the management’s decisiveness this month.