Since taking the reins as Liverpool's manager, one of Jürgen Klopp's more notable qualities has been a refreshing willingness (at least relative to certain other managers in the Premier League) to speak plainly and candidly about his footballing decisions. There was definitely some explaining to do in the wake of Liverpool's second half collapse against Southampton, in which a seemingly comfortable 2-0 lead was quickly and comprehensively surrendered. When asked about the motivation behind his fateful decision to remove Dejan Lovren for Martin Škrtel at the half, Klopp did not mince words.
"[It was] his yellow card. I thought at the end of the first half it looked like the ref was maybe not completely free anymore of the emotion in the stadium. Maybe he thought later it was a penalty with Dejan Lovren.
I thought we had to change this because it was clear that they will play a lot of long balls to Pelle and it’s not easy for a centre-half to challenge for these without a yellow card, especially when the ref changed a bit the mood."
It was by no means an unreasonable explanation for the decision. The home crowd's discontent at the penalty that wasn't given had clearly been amplified by the quick succession of Liverpool goals that followed, and also by a string of decisions that seemed to go the way of the visitors. Lovren, while not exactly playing poorly, did appear visibly affected by his return to St. Mary's, and was flying about with more fire than usual - not always in a good way.
Despite managing to pull out a win with ten men against Crystal Palace, one sensed that asking Liverpool to do the same against this Southampton side would be a different proposition altogether, even taking into account the fact that Klopp's team was sitting on a two goal advantage at the half. Injuries to key players and an inability to consistently cope with Southampton's midfield - made more robust by the addition of Wanyama at the interval - meant that Liverpool spent much of the second half on the back foot. Here again, Klopp was quick to pinpoint what went wrong.
"In the second half, the first moment which was not too good – we were 2-0 in the lead and they had a counter-attack, that doesn’t make much sense.
We lost formation in the second half and we couldn’t avoid these long balls to Pelle anymore, who is always fighting for second balls. If you are then not compact you have the problem that they are better in the game."
As the second half wore on, it was apparent that the combination of uncertain central defence, plus lack of overall positional discipline, plus perhaps residual weariness from the midweek tussle with Manchester United, was going to be a potentially catastrophic mixture for Liverpool - and so it proved to be. And in hindsight, it became clear that any benefits from avoiding a potential red card for Lovren were eclipsed by the shakiness of the Škrtel-Sakho partnership. Less clear from Klopp's post-match conference was a sense of what the manager could have done to right the ship once it was apparent that Lovren's substitution was not working out. It's possible that Klopp himself doesn't know the best answer for that question, and how the club goes about providing their manager with more options over the summer will be an interesting process to observe.