Liverpool‘s crucial 2-0 victory away to Southampton in the Premier League on Sunday means the top four race promises to be tighter than it has ever been. Just four points separate Arsenal in third and Tottenham in seventh – the Saints and the Reds are in fifth and sixth place respectively – which may see us continue to guess the makeup of the top four right up until the final day of the season.
But what does the result mean to the two sides involved? Here’s three things we learned from Sunday’s game:
1. Newfound defensive solidity could ensure Liverpool’s season ends with success
“A solid defence” is not how you would have described Liverpool’s backline at the start of the campaign, with a steady stream of sloppy goals being conceded leading to the Reds’ early struggles. However, since switching to three at the back, Brendan Rodgers seems to have finally found a system which allows his side to excel in both attack and defence. Sunday’s clean sheet was Liverpool’s fifth in a row away from home in the Premier League, a feat they hadn’t previously managed in thirty years. Maintain this solidity at the back and the Reds are surely strong contenders to finish in the top four.
Liverpool breaking defence records playing with just 3 at the back.. Madness
— Kayne Greenslade (@kaynegreenslade) February 22, 2015
I have no idea how Liverpool's defence has gone from shambolic to historic in the space of eight weeks. #LFC
— Paul Done (@em_pd) February 22, 2015
Liverpool's defence has been impeccable in the last 8-9 weeks! #LFC
— Hendo (@NathanIngham9) February 22, 2015
2. Reds not reliant on Sturridge
Although it wasn’t the most impressive of performances from Liverpool, they did manage to win, and did so largely without the help of Daniel Sturridge who began the game on the bench. While he did fade a little as the game wore on, Philippe Coutinho’s stunner early in the game showed his excellence in attack, whereas Raheem Sterling also managed to get on the scoresheet despite having an off-day of his own. If the Reds can just get Mario Balotelli performing regularly, they’ll suddenly have an abundance of options at their disposal.
3. Southampton need to get Pelle firing again
Liverpool may not be dependent on Daniel Sturridge, but the same cannot be said of Southampton’s main man up front. Graziano Pelle was once again poor as the Saints’ principal attacking threat, and barely threatened the Reds defence all game. The Italian has now failed to score in nine Premier League games, and his purple patch at the beginning of the season must now seem like a distant memory for Southampton fans. Saints boss Ronald Koeman needs to rejuvenate his striker, otherwise one can’t see where they will get the goals needed to finish in the top four.
Didn't take long for the Graziano Pelle hype to die down
— Julian De Martinis (@JulianDM11) February 22, 2015
Not signing another striker in January looks like it's going to cost Southampton a Champions League place. Pelle has peaked.
— Just Football (@JustFootball) February 22, 2015
Have watched Southampton a few times recently on the box & Pelle offers very little.
— Andrew Harper (@andsharper22) February 22, 2015