There is a quote that could be erected just above Liverpool's 'This is Anfield' sign. "However beautiful the strategy, sometimes you should look at the results." It is an observation that might have come from Brendan Rodgers after recent fixtures. It is actually from Winston Churchill; not one of his best-known quips, but it would resonate with Anfield visitors.
Too often home games have resembled a portrait gallery full of unfinished landscapes — much to admire but too many reminders of a job incomplete. For 45 minutes, Rodgers would have felt the usual attractiveness of his side deserved much than a solitary goal — what proved the winner - from Daniel Agger.
In the second half he would be grateful it was all about the result.
Southampton belatedly made life uncomfortable for their hosts and there was deterioration in Liverpool's performance.
A late booking for Luis Suarez after he flipped his hand at a ball he couldn't reach with his head — in frustration rather than trrying to score — also means Liverpool must go to West Ham next week without the suspended striker after his fifth booking of the season.
It was to Southampton's credit they provoked such anxiety, especially as the first half was played wholly in the away team's half. A combination of Paulo Gazzaniga and the woodwork deprived Liverpool a big lead despite incessant pressure.
Nothing unfamiliar given Anfield was waiting for consecutive home league victories for the first time in over a year. There was a significant difference, however, thanks to the presence of Lucas for the first time since August. Liverpool started by playing 10 yards higher up the pitch, Joe Allen and Steven Gerrard ensuring the team attacked in numbers rather than with a lone Suarez cavalry charge.
Lucas has effectively been out for a year. His first comeback after knee surgery lasted one full league game at the start of the season. "He was excellent," said Rodgers. "My plan was to only use him for 68 minutes but you see he's a player who makes a difference to us."
As Lucas protected the defence, everyone else camped in Southampton territory, and Jonjo Shelvey struck the join between the post and bar after 36 minutes. Glen Johnson, Suarez and Shelvey had already forced Gazzaniga into action, before the breakthrough — seemingly inevitable on the balance of play but not on recent Anfield history — came on 43 minutes.
Suarez had again struck the bar with a brilliant free-kick, but Johnson collected the rebound, crossed for Agger and the Dane headed into the top corner.
Rodgers' mood would have darkened before half-time had Ricky Lambert's audacious 40-yard volley not been pushed wide by Pepe Reina. Nigel Adkins' side improved in the second half, pushing Liverpool much further into their own territory. Gaston Ramirez was prominent in a free role and the home side were flat in comparison to their vibrant first half. "I was pleased with how we adapted our game. We wanted to play on the counter attack and have a real go in the last 10 minutes and we did that," said Adkins.
Despite their nerves, Liverpool held on for a deserved three points, but having suggested there is more to them than Suarez, now they must prove it next weekend.
Liverpool (4-3-3): Reina; Johnson, Agger, Skrtel, Enrique; Lucas (Carragher 89), Allen (Henderson 69), Gerrard; Shelvey, Sterling, Suarez. Subs: Jones, Sahin, Downing, Suso, Wisdom. Booked: Suarez, Lucas, Carragher.
Southampton (4-4-1-1): Gazzaniga; Clyne, Fonte, Yoshida, Shaw; Puncheon (Rodriguez 78), Cork (Davis 70), Schneiderlin, Lallana; Ramirez; Lambert. Subs: Davies, Hooiveld, Ward-Prowse, Mayuka, Reeves.
Referee: M Oliver (Ashington)