Liverpool faced a very organised Southampton side at Anfield. Southampton played with a 1-4-2-3-1 formation but without possession their shape was going to change to a 1-4-5-1 with a deep defensive line.
Liverpool used their usual 1-4-3-3 formation having an overall possession of 65% throughout the match, but, as we know, possession does not win matches unless it is used wisely.
Southampton were a solid and compact defensive unit leaving minimal gaps in zone 14 by overloading this area of the pitch. This was going to be a big challenge for Liverpool.
To resolve this challenge, Liverpool needed to execute to perfection the basic attacking principles of football: 1. Create Space; 2. Maintain Possession; 3. Exploit Space. These principles are based on movement off the ball, quality of passes, decision making, high tempo of play, stretching the opposition, changing the direction of play, and creativity. However, Liverpool failed to deliver these crucial points against Southampton.
NO WIDTH IN FINAL THIRD
Liverpool’s FBs (Milner and Clyne) were constantly pushing forward into high positions on the field to support the attacking plays, but they were often caught in positions not providing enough width to Liverpool’s attack by making runs to inner channels instead of trying to stretch Southampton’s defensive unit by staying in wide channels, as you’ll see in the following video.
QUALITY OF PASSES & DECISION MAKING
Decision making is imperative in winning matches, especially, when playing against solid defensive teams who will try to deny available passing options. But the decision has to be accompanied by the quality of passes; poor execution will lead to failure.
Liverpool were unable to take advantage and exploit the spaces left by “The Saints” because their overall decision making, quality of passing and creativity in the final third was very poor.
Having players on the pitch such as Coutinho, Firmino, Origi, Lallana, and Sturridge; to name a few, one could be excused for thinking of attractive football. However, Liverpool’s lack of width, quality of passing and decision making in the final third were the key reasons we saw Liverpool as completely sterile and drop points at Anfield, despite having control of possession during the match.