It is never a good sign when the one positive a manager can find is sitting in a corporate box. Brendan Rodgers spoke with genuine relief at the end of Luis Suárez's 10-match suspension but while the expiry date was perfectly timed the topic was merely a diversion against Southampton. Second-best to Mauricio Pochettino's intelligent side throughout Liverpool's part in their downfall could not be disguised.

"A bad day at the office" was the Liverpool manager's verdict and in fairness he has not overseen one since losing at Southampton in March. Rodgers had also injected reality into the optimism generated during Liverpool's unbeaten start accepting his team rose to the top without a convincing 90-minute display.

His programme notes captured perfectly the balance between Liverpool's ingrained ambition and the leap required after four seasons outside the Champions League. The team-sheet he compiled however lacked any such finesse. The bad day commenced in his office.

Rodgers' decision to start with four centre-halves dominated the post-match scrutiny on Liverpool Suárez apart and the manager was steadfast in his own defence. "It is what we had available" he argued given injury to Glen Johnson Martin Kelly's lack of match fitness and a knee problem for José Enrique that did not stop the Spaniard's introduction shortly after Dejan Lovren headed Southampton into a deserved lead.

The selection accommodated all the experienced voices and recent £16m signing Mamadou Sakho in a left-back role he recently stated was not for him. More importantly and inevitably it disrupted Liverpool's cohesion penetration from full-back and distribution. Southampton accepted the initiative gratefully.