Points Tally: 6 / 9 points (Europa League Quarter-Finals)
Besides the dismal end to the month, March has probably been Liverpool’s best month so far this season. Reeling from the Capital One Cup final heartbreak, Jürgen Klopp’s side managed to avenge that defeat with a convincing 3-0 win over Manchester City at Anfield. The Reds followed that victory with a late, controversial, come-from-behind win at bogey ground Selhurst Park, when Christian Benteke won and converted a last-minute penalty after the Reds went a goal and a man down in the second half.
the single best moment of march
The epic Europa League last 16 double header against old rivals Manchester United brought the best out of the Reds, as they produced a scintillating display in the first leg at Anfield to bring a 2-0 lead to Old Trafford. In the second leg, Klopp’s men held firm in the first half even as they went a goal down to a Anthony Martial penalty, but all but finished the job on the stroke of half-time when Philippe Coutinho produced a moment of Messi-esque magic to score the vital away goal. However, the Reds could not round off the month unbeaten, as they produced two extremely contrasting halves at St. Mary’s, racing to a two-goal lead in the first half before capitulating in the second, conceding three and losing all three points.
Player of the Month: Emre Can (average rating: 8)
The whole team performed generally well throughout March, but the German international shined brightest in the heart of Klopp’s team. Can has truly hit a consistent patch of form, producing quality displays throughout the month.
can: developing into a leader in midfield
He has looked tactically more astute, positionally more secure, and has been able to harness his obvious physical and technical capabilities in the centre of midfield. His tackling and interceptions, ability to move forward with the ball and decent passing range have all improved as Can is able to dominate most opposition midfields recently. He has outshone midfield partner Jordan Henderson, with his place in the side more secure than the Liverpool skipper.
Flop of the Month: Martin Skrtel (average rating: 3)
Picking the Slovak might be a little harsh considering he had only played one game, or just one half to be exact, throughout the month of March. However, considering how well the rest of the team has done, and how poorly Skrtel played in that second half capitulation at Southampton, he is rightly the worst player of March.
was his st. mary’s display the start of his anfield demise?
Skrtel’s display at Southampton, where he was at fault for all three Southampton goals, was just days after his poor showing for the U21s in the youth cup semi finals, where his sending off contributed to the U21 side’s eventual 3-2 extra time defeat. With Kolo Toure looking a better bet as the back-up central defender for Klopp, Skrtel’s days are numbered after his dismal return from injury.
The main one has to be sending United out of Europe. The first leg did the most damage, and as much as it was due to a fine team effort, the Anfield crowd also played their part with what was probably the best atmosphere since Liverpool’s last European excursions under Rafael Benitez. United looked ordinary throughout the first leg, and it was only really a true contest during the first half of the second leg. That was how good Klopp’s side was.
The 3-0 revenge triumph over City, which dented the Cityzens’ title hopes, was another major plus point of the month. The Reds shut down what little threat City posed that night, and it was one of the most comfortable performances against a side above them.
In terms of playing personnel, Liverpool fans are certainly liking what they are seeing with the emergence of a top-class defensive partnership in Dejan Lovren and Mamadou Sakho. Both were previously maligned for their clumsy performances in the past 18 months, but seem to perfectly complement each other in the middle of defence, and look so much more assured together. The duo are the main reason why the Reds only conceded two goals in four (and a half) games in March. Their ever-improving partnership was further highlighted after Skrtel’s nightmare second-half showing at Southampton.
Areas of Improvement:
There wasn’t really much to go on about the Reds this month. They’ve managed an average of two goals per game, with the Reds only failing to score more than one during the second leg draw at Old Trafford. But yet one thing they could possibly improve on is their finishing, and maintaining their improved form in front of goal. Had the Reds been even more clinical against Southampton, with countless gilt-edged chances, Klopp’s men would have enjoyed an unbeaten month.
more striking options for klopp
Daniel Sturridge looked a little off during March as well, even though he did score from the spot against United and took a super goal at Southampton. He could have scored a few more, but you could put it down to his lack of sharpness so far. Hopefully, Sturridge will return from the upcoming international break injury-free and back to his best, especially as the Reds have some tough games coming up in April.
Other than giving away needless goals in key moments of matches, the Reds have done pretty well this month, and it should not be blighted by that poor second half showing at Southampton. They look very much improved defensively, with Lovren and Sakho commanding at the back, and in midfield, the likes of Can and Adam Lallana seem to be stepping up. With a game in hand on City, United and West Ham, the Reds could still put some pressure on that 4th spot. However, the lack of consistency in this Liverpool side would mean they should enjoy the best chance of success during the one-off nature of the European knockout stages.