It might be a new year, but we saw the same old failings in East London today as Liverpool were comprehensively beaten by a West Ham United side that have now done the double over the Reds for the first time in over fifty years and leapfrogged them in the standings to within touching distance of the top four going into the all-important second half of the season.
An early start gave the Hammers a springboard in the reverse fixture when they ran out 3-0 winners at Anfield and Slaven Bilic’s side did the exact same at Upton Park. The opener may have come under controversial circumstances with Liverpool fullback Alberto Moreno fouled in the build-up to Michail Antonio crashing a diving header past Simon Mignolet, but if you don’t play the whistle, then you’re not doing it right.
Manuel Lanzini could have made it two not long after, but his swerving efforts crashed off the post, letting the visitors off with an easy one. Unfortunately, they failed to capitalize on that gift with Emre Can coming closest at the end of the first half when his guided effort smacked a shot off the bar with a satisfying, but wholly unhelpful, thud.
While they’d certainly start the second half better than the first, Jurgen Klopp’s side failed to deliver anything of real note as their continued lack of end product in the final third undid them yet again. Looking logey at the best of times, the number of misplaced passes the Reds played coming out of midfield was indicative of a lack of focus almost as much as it was a testament to just how well their hosts were set up to counter-act their passing game. We may have been able to paper over these failings against the likes of Sunderland and Leicester City with the intensity in our pressing game working for us, but there was none of that today — a combination of tired legs and tired minds doing us no favours.
“The game was decided by two crosses and two headers,” explained Klopp following the final whistle. “At the end of the first half we had our moments but it was not enough,” he continued, matter of factly. “We always had the ball. We could have made more chances but we didn’t so we have to accept that again we didn’t play like we should.”
Very few moments highlighted that more than when Andy Carroll doubled up to effectively put the match out of our reach before we’d even reached the hour mark. On the counter-attack, the Hammers cruised down the left flank and whipped in a cross for the big man to head home. What either goal lacked in originality and finesse, it made up for in both work rate and plain old effectiveness. You’re not winning if you’re not scoring and we’re doing neither.
Lucas, handed the armband in the absence of both Jordan Henderson and James Milner, had a header cleared off the line by Mark Noble and Joe Allen, on as a late sub for Mamadou Sakho, saw his own headed effort fly wide from Philippe Coutinho’s cross with the goal at his mercy as Liverpool’s only real chances of note in the second half were squandered. I’d say something about it being ironic that they fell to defensive minded players with no real eye for goal when we have the likes of Christian Benteke leading the line, but I’m tired of writing this and you’ve already stopped reading it.
If we’re starting the year the way we plan to end it, we’re in for a rough ride. That being said, sayings like that are just hokey nonsense; Klopp may be saying publicly that he wants to work with and develop these players, but the glaring truth is that many of them don’t fit the system or are able to play the style of football that he favours and though some of them will be able to adapt, there will be changes made before this date on the calendar rolls around again.
Mind you, that doesn’t get us three-points in East London…