Devil’s advocate Ian Wright didn’t win many new friends at Anfield for daring to suggest Daniel Sturridge may have to look for a new club in January.
But after Liverpool’s Saturday tale of dud, wet and cheers on the south coast , Match Of The Day pundit Wright was only addressing the proverbial elephant in the room.
If England striker Sturridge can’t get in Jurgen Klopp’s starting XI when the Reds ‘ holy trinity of Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane have just clocked up 40,000 air miles during the international break, when is he going to be first choice?
Coutinho, Firmino and Mane did not play as if they were paralysed by jetlag at St Mary’s.
Far from it.
They did, however, spurn Liverpool’s best chances, and sub Sturridge was given only 12 minutes to pull a rabbit from the hat.
DUD: This was only the third time Klopp’s free-scoring team have drawn a blank this season.
WET: In foul conditions nearer the end of the world than the end of autumn, Sturridge should have been granted more time to add to the three goals he has scored on Liverpool’s last two visits here.
CHEERS: Under his hood, Klopp saluted the travelling fans with clenched fists afterwards, but it was still two points dropped on his title crusade.
Sturridge has yet to score in the Premier League this season and West Ham have reportedly expressed an interest – although why he would want to go from the title race to a relegation battle in an athletics stadium is not clear.
But former England striker Wright lit a bonfire, saying: “When you look at it (Coutinho, Firmino and Mane’s globetrotting), if Daniel Sturridge – who has just scored for England and is buzzing – can’t get in the team when those lads have done so many miles, he’s got to start looking at what’s going on for himself in January.”
Sturridge did well in his cameo, teeing up a chance for Nathaniel Clyne to head wide 10 minutes from time, but Southampton – resolute, organised and disciplined – deserved their point.
Manager Klopp had no complaints about Saints’ defensive blanket, admitting his side will have to get used to opponents’ smothering tactics.
But he seemed surprised by the suggestion that Liverpool, 27 years without the title, are the people’s champions and enjoy a large swathe of neutral support.
“I have no idea – nobody told me this until now,” said Klopp. “I live in Liverpool, so I don’t hear from a lot of neutrals who are not Liverpool supporters. I’m not sure Everton supporters will want us to do well.
“It’s not a problem that Southampton made it difficult for us. It would be crazy to give us space, so why would they do that? We had enough chances to win the game.
“Tired or not, the players are more disappointed than I am, but we take the point, it goes on our account and we get ready for Sunderland next week.”
Southampton, whose tenacity was a credit to manager Claude Puel, can now turn their attention to the Europa League, where victory against Sparta Prague in the Czech Republic on Thursday will take them into the next phase of an interminable competition.
Midfielder Oriel Romeu said: “We don’t want to put any limit on what we can do in Europe.