Reds come crashing back down to Earth

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Mamadou Sakho: Has been forced to play out wide at Anfield

Mamadou Sakho: Has been forced to play out wide at Anfield

Liverpool FanZoner Richard Garnett analyses the fall-out after two successive defeats, and speculates over a defence-based selection headache.

One thing almost guaranteed in the lifespan of a football fan is that your hopes and expectations will be dashed as quickly as they were raised.

You are, after all, only as good as your last game.

Having made a perfect start to the season which saw the Reds play King of the castle for a couple of weeks, Brendan Rodgers' side have now failed to win any of their last three matches and are out of the Capital One Cup.

If narrow defeat at the hands of Manchester United at Old Trafford is acceptable then the disappointing loss at home to Southampton is anything but.

You don't need to be Rafa Benitez to figure out that Liverpool's first 11 is very good and exciting to watch but just a couple of injuries to key players can vastly diminish the effectiveness of the side.

The most obvious loss has been the creative nucleus, Philippe Coutinho. The Brazilian's link-up play and admirable innovation were missed greatly following his withdrawal at the Liberty Stadium - a problem that had not been resolved by the time the Saints visited Anfield.

The continued absence of Glen Johnson and Aly Cissokho supplemented by Jose Enrique's mysterious knee issue has given Rodgers a dilemma at full-back as he tries to find an agreeable balance between solidity and attack.

Rodgers is renowned for his Barcelona-style football philosophy but he looked more Walter Smith then Pep Guardiola when he selected a back four entirely comprised of centre backs against Southampton.

As Liverpool struggled to contain the visitors' pressing game, Rodgers had to concede that such a decision in hindsight was not his greatest.

It serves to highlight, however, the decisions he must make about who his settled centre back pairing will be or whether he will continue with the three centre-back formation adopted at Old Trafford.

The deadline day swoops for Mamadou Sakho and the younger Tiago Ilori showed that Rodgers is determined to reinforce his rear-guard but it is unclear who he sees as his first choice pairing.

The appointment of Daniel Agger as vice-captain would suggest on the face of it that it would be Agger +1, but the Danes' susceptibility to injury (which has blighted his Anfield career) means that others have their chance to stake the place as their own.

Martin Skrtel looked like he was on his way out of the club but seemingly averted his exit with an imperious performance against United at Anfield.

Sakho was an expensive investment but has found himself playing some games at left back - a position that is doing him no favours as he settles into English football.

The former Paris Saint-Germain favourite has looked much more comfortable at centre-back, although his tendency to jump into challenges remains a concern.

One player who should be starting most games though is Kolo Toure. The Ivorian has been a breath of fresh air since his arrival from Manchester City.

He brings strength, speed, experience and a determination to win; qualities which are personified by his all-action performances.

If Liverpool lost a leader with the retirement of Jamie Carragher then they have certainly found a new one in the infectious Toure.

Of course, the biggest positive to pull out of Wednesday night's Capital One Cup exit was the return of Luis Suarez.

The Uruguayan looked bulky and sported a heavy first touch, but even without the advantage of match fitness, he still provided Liverpool's most dangerous attacking threat.

His skill, strength and creative mind put him on a level that most can only stare at in wonderment.

The early link-up play with Daniel Sturridge was a source of encouragement and it will be exciting to watch that rekindled partnership foster over the next few weeks.

Liverpool travel to Sunderland on Sunday desperate to end their mini-barren spell and put the abjectness of the Southampton defeat behind them.

Sunderland away followed by Crystal Palace at home looks like two very winnable games on paper, but as the well-organised Saints proved last Saturday, complacency is devastating.

With Paulo Di Canio gone, the Black Cats may be managerless but how many times in past have teams reacted positively following their dismissal of their coach?

As long as the unsettled defensive line can stay tight to the beach ball, there is a chance of an away win on the sabbatical.

You can find Richard on Twitter @garnster - and don't forget to follow @FanZone too for links to all the latest blogs.



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