Liverpool failed to find the net in the EFL Cup semi-final first leg, but it’s players at the other end of the field providing the talking points.
Don’t write off Karius
There have been very few players to have stirred the level of debate that Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius has this season.
The German arrived from Mainz in the summer tasked with delivering some much-needed stability between the Liverpool sticks – a job for which Simon Mignolet had been, probably rightly, unsuitable.
However, the fact that Mignolet was recently restored to his position as the Reds’ first-choice stopper tells you everything you need to know about Karius’ early performances.
Boss Jurgen Klopp publicly backed his man, but there is little doubt that his faith has been shaken.
However, Karius offered a little bit of fresh hope to Liverpool with his performance at Southampton.
In fact, he was just about all that kept Liverpool in the tie during the first half, producing a pair of top class saves from Nathan Redmond.
The truth is, goalkeepers rarely come into high-pressure roles at the top clubs and immediately start impressing.
Thibaut Courtois needed significant time out on loan before stepping into the Chelsea spotlight. David De Gea endured a very unconvincing first year at Man Utd. Claudio Bravo is currently struggling at Manchester City. None are bad goalkeepers by any stretch of the imagination, and all suggest folly in writing off Karius just yet.
Liverpool have the small matter of a trip to Old Trafford up next, and that’s probably the last place you want to field a goalkeeper still adjusting to the spotlight. You would expect the more battle-hardened Mignolet to come back into the side, regardless of Karius’ exploits at St Mary’s.
The German has at least started to give compatriot Klopp a decision to make once again, though.
Here is an uncomfortable truth for all at Anfield: Teams for whom James Milner is the most dominant defender are unlikely to win a Premier League title that season.
That is said without even the merest slither of disrespect to Milner either, who has been a beacon of consistency in an unfamiliar left-back position for the Reds during this campaign. It’s more a reflection upon the rest of the Liverpool back four.
You look at the Liverpool line-up and you think you can get at them. Certainly, once Southampton got a sniff of that weakness at St Mary’s the whole momentum of the game changed.
Klopp’s teams have always been famed for pressing from the front and that’s just as well with Liverpool as it has masked a real vulnerability at the back, this season.
The firepower they possess up front will win them plenty of games, but as things stand their frailties at the back will lose them the chance to win the title. It’s a weakness they must address now the transfer window is open.