Liverpool’s 1-0 defeat to Southampton at St Mary’s on Monday night means that while the champions remain top of the Premier League table, they have handed the initiative to Manchester United who are level on points with them but now have a game in hand.
With Manchester City also able to move about Jurgen Klopp’s side if they win their games in hand, this is a troubling time for Liverpool – and Jamie Carragher sees worrying signs.
“Liverpool are a top team that have scored a lot of late goals, but it is almost like they have forgotten how to play the last seven or eight minutes,” he told Monday Night Football.
2:58 FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Southampton’s win over Liverpool
“Liverpool were fantastic in the first 15 minutes of the second half but you would expect Southampton to be hanging on at the end and they weren’t.
“I could not believe what Liverpool did with their late corner, with 10 seconds left it had to go in the box, but they played it short. It was unbelievable.”
2:36 Jamie Carragher says Liverpool will struggle without a new centre-back
Since 7-0 victory over Crystal Palace, Liverpool have produced just seven attempts on target in their last three games.
“I did not see that coming, I expected a reaction from Liverpool on the back of two really poor performances. We have just seen another one,” continued Carragher.
“Liverpool’s away form this season is so poor. When it comes to chances created, they have not looked like scoring, even tonight again. Did Fraser Forster have to make a good save, a big save? Did anyone miss a real chance where they had to score?
3:39 Jurgen Klopp says his Liverpool side are in a ‘rusty moment’ right now
“That is a really big worry for Liverpool at the moment, in terms of what they are creating away from home. It is nowhere near enough.”
Liverpool did not have their first shot on target until the 75th minute of the match – a tame left-footed effort from Sadio Mane that was easily smothered by Forster.
It is over five years since they had to wait so long for their first shot on target in a Premier League match and there was no second save for the Southampton goalkeeper to make.
It represents a worrying trend for Liverpool away from home where they have now won only one of their last eight Premier League matches. For all the focus on the disruption at the back, it is their attacking numbers that are undermining their efforts.
“If you take that Aston Villa result out, Liverpool have done quite well defensively and that is quite worrying,” added Carragher.
“At times I watch them and think where is the goal coming from.
“Look at what has happened since the Manchester City game in terms of actual goals. Yes, there was the freak result against Crystal Palace but look at chances created from open play.
“Last season’s average was 10 from open play. But they are not creating what you would associate with a top team this season.
“Look at the average chances created from open play away from home and they are down in seventh. When you are a top team like Liverpool you should be in the top two or three for everything offensively.
“The big problem for me, if you go back to the last game against Newcastle, yes, [Mohamed] Salah missed chances and Mane missed chances, but if they don’t score then who else is going to score?
“Take out the Crystal Palace game and nobody else has scored away from home for Liverpool who was available tonight. The other one is Diogo Jota who scored against Brighton.”
The fact that Klopp felt compelled to play Jordan Henderson at centre-back alongside Fabinho shows why Liverpool’s defence will continue to be in the spotlight.
But unless the team’s attacking output improves away from home – and the long-term data shows that this is the least creative they have been away from home – there is a risk that the Premier League title will be surrendered regardless of what happens at the back.
“This Liverpool team is amazing but it is going through one of its first rough real patches it has been through in the past two seasons,” added Carragher. “The big worry is where are the goals and creation coming from, because it has been non-existent.”