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Defensive Tactics Part of New Liverpool Reality

Southampton's surprising defensive approach only served to highlight the progress Liverpool have made this season.

Southampton v Liverpool - Premier League Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Jürgen Klopp remains without a win against Southampton in the Premier League after Saturday's goalless draw at St Mary's. The defensive tactics adopted by the home side, though, underlines a new reality for Liverpool under Klopp.

A reputation for an energetic, hungry, and attacking approach has been quickly forged this season. A natural consequence is that most opposing sides will attempt to frustrate and defend deeper even when they possess attacking weapons of their own. José Mourinho playing for a draw against a rival team is nothing new, but Southampton playing without much ambition against Liverpool is something unexpected.

Southampton's mentality testifies to the rapid progress Liverpool have made this season. Saturday's game was the first that Southampton didn't have a shot on target in the Premier League since December 2004. Liverpool have been troubled by Southampton—even with some positive results by Merseyside's finest—in recent years, ensuring that the visitors couldn't rely on a psychological advantage heading into the game. Furthermore, only Chelsea (February and October) have beaten Southampton at St Mary's in 2016.

Even still, there was something to fear; there was reason to be cautious. Liverpool are proving to be a taxing team to play against. Danny Rose said that Liverpool was "the hardest game" he's had in years, Curtis Davies reflected on a "ruthless" opponent that refuses to relent, James McArthur revealed that "the best side" he's faced this season had too much, and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg went as far to say that the team he faced on Saturday was perhaps better than the Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich teams he faced. These testimonies from players go beyond mere mind games and rehearsed responses.

Liverpool—fired up by triple training sessions in pre-season—have scored more goals, registered more shots, played more passes, and covered more ground than any other Premier League outfit. Klopp's philosophy has not only made a difference to the results Liverpool are enjoying this season but also changed how teams view games against his side. Although Liverpool were not at their very best, a solid away performance should have been enough to secure all three points.

Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino, and Sadio Mané each had three shots that couldn't put Liverpool ahead. Firmino, in particular, should have given the away side the lead in the second half. Loris Karius' only meaningful action was to watch a Charlie Austin header flash wide in another games where he was a relatively untested specator. Joël Matip and Dejan Lovren were incredibly assured in defence. Nathaniel Clyne was an enterprising presence down the right and should have scored as his team pushed for a winner.

Liverpool's third draw of the season won't be the result that fans should look back on with regret, especially with Sunderland visiting Anfield this weekend. Southampton will not be the only team to line up in a compact formation hoping to profit from counter attacks, but not many teams will be able to stop Liverpool from scoring. Once the goals come, even if there isn't a clean sheet in sight, we enter Klopp’s hard running reality—one where there's no time to rest and no space to breathe.

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