Liverpool lacking strength in depth, says Jamie Carragher

  • Sturridge

Liverpool lacking strength in depth, says Jamie Carragher

Liverpool crashed out of the EFL Cup semi-finals with a 2-0 aggregate defeat to Southampton on Wednesday night, and Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher says fatigue is exposing the Reds’ flaws.

Shane Long’s late winner at Anfield, combined with Nathan Redmond’s decisive strike in the first leg, sent Southampton through to February’s Wembley final and delivered another blow to Liverpool’s stalling season.

Jurgen Klopp’s side signed off 2016 with a seemingly significant New Year’s Eve win over Manchester City – their fourth Premier League win in a row – but a frustrating draw at Sunderland 48 hours later started a January slump which, as well as ending their EFL Cup ambitions, has also blunted Liverpool’s title hopes.

Reflecting on the Reds’ recent struggles, Carragher says Klopp’s side are tiring and don’t have the squad to sustain the high-intensity football he wants them to play.

Asked whether Liverpool’s season is now at a crossroads – with an FA Cup tie against Wolves on Saturday before a crunch league clash with table-toppers Chelsea – Carragher said: “Yes. Liverpool look like they’ve run out of energy and legs which is a big worry.

“Is that down to the intensity that they play at, that they train at? Klopp has got no winter break. They’ve still got the whole of the second half of the season to go and they don’t look as though there’s that zip, that energy there.

“I just look at it now and all season it’s been about Liverpool maybe going for the title – but that squad, you’d never think it would be good enough to win the league.

“The reason you may have hope is no Europe and also I think Liverpool have got a top manager.

“Out of the top six, Liverpool’s is probably the sixth best squad or the sixth best team. But they are where they are because of the manager and no Europe.

“Now, with them running out of the legs, that energy, we’re maybe seeing what this Liverpool squad is. And when we’re talking about squad, you look at that bench and it’s nowhere near big enough or strong enough.”

The absence of Sadio Mane, away at the Africa Cup of Nations with Senegal, and recent injuries to Philippe Coutinho and Joel Matip – as well as the administrative issues involving the defender – have stretched Liverpool’s resources.

However, Carragher said Klopp has also made tactical mistakes in their back-to-back defeats to Swansea and Southampton in the past week, and criticised the selection of Emre Can alongside captain Jordan Henderson in central midfield.

“I look at the manager, certainly in the last two games – and I’m a massive fan of him – but the changes from the bench have been far too slow to come, they’re coming late in the game,” he added.

“The teams he’s picked at the start I haven’t agreed with, I mentioned Can being in the team alongside Henderson. I think Can can only play holding midfield, I don’t think he’s got the legs to play anywhere else.

“But there was one occasion in the game tonight where he fell over into the hoardings in front of The Kop and I thought he had to get that ball. I don’t know if his pace has completely gone or whether he’s that worried with injuries that he pulls out of something.

“Sturridge is not the player to run in behind, so you can forget about him replacing Mane. All he does is come to feet now. The only reason to have Sturridge in the team is for his finishing ability. You’ve basically got to put things on a plate for him. Liverpool did that against Southampton and he didn’t finish.

“More often than not you cannot question his finishing but he doesn’t do anything else in a game now, whereas he did when he first came. He’s had a really poor night in front of goal.

“That’s the case with that type of striker now, if they’re not a target man, or don’t run in behind, everything has got to be put on a plate. So when he doesn’t score you’re basically down to 10 men because they are not offering anything else whatsoever.

“You have to criticise Sturridge tonight because he missed chances, but when you look at his Liverpool record – his finishing and goal-to-game ratio – it’s fantastic. But I’m talking about his pace and his overall game because when he doesn’t score it’s like playing with 10 men.”