Friday 18 January 2019

Klopp halo slipping as Saints pour on the pain

A frustrated Jurgen Klopp argues with the fourth official during last night’s defeat
A frustrated Jurgen Klopp argues with the fourth official during last night’s defeat

The halo is slipping. After months of relentlessly positive reaction to Jurgen Klopp, it's now his turn to deal with doubt.

Defeat by Swansea after a short string of poor results and shallow performances suggested something more worrying for Liverpool supporters than a simple bad patch.

The major impact of that mini-slump was on Liverpool's Premier League aspirations and with Chelsea's tail lights disappearing up the road, Klopp targeted the next three games as crucial to his season.

First off Southampton in the League Cup followed by Wolves in the FA Cup and then a win or bust against Chelsea.

Realistically, the Cup route offered the best chance of glory for Klopp this season but based on the first three quarters of this two legged semi-final, Liverpool had no right to dream of Wembley.

By rights, Southampton should have had a bigger cushion such was their dominance in the first game and in second-leg, the tie should have been out of Liverpool's reach by half-time.

Playing a tight, defensive brand of football, they smothered everything Liverpool managed in attack and broke two or three times with pace and precision causing panic in Klopp's increasingly disorganised defence.

Joel Matip was back from the start for this one but his presence didn't change the trend and it was the much-maligned Loris Karius who stood between the Liverpool back line and calamity.

At the other end, there was more than one moment when you had to wonder what Daniel Sturridge is for.

After two years patient nursemaiding, he is fit but woefully ineffective even if he shows flashes of skill which will probably get him a lucrative move next summer.

Bottle seems to be the missing ingredient and he is not a patch on the player who for six glorious months was one of the best strikers in Europe.

Klopp has singularly failed to turn Sturridge into a productive member of his squad and while he has rightly received credit for turning Adam Lallana from a 70-minute wonder into a team player who goes for 90 minutes, there are also many moments when you wonder what he's doing.

He runs around an awful lot but to what purpose?

Liverpool owned most of the possession against the Saints but they could do very little with it and apart from one miraculous double save from Frasier Foster which tested the goal-line technology to the limit, Southampton were comfortable.

A minute into injury time, Shane Long, a relatively anonymous presence following his half-time release from the subs bench, scored a precious game winner and suddenly, the doubts about Klopp magnified.

The reality is, he doesn't have enough quality players to mount a serious Premier League challenge in this or any season and now, short of a miracle, he's down to the FA Cup.

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