This was the second time in five days when Liverpool fans were left biting their nails, hoping for a priceless goal that didn’t come.
Further dropped points led to post-match frustrations, but this 1-1 draw against a spirited West Ham United did increase Jurgen Klopp’s side’s lead at the top of the Premier League, for now at least.
Unlike the draw against Leicester City, where the feeling was of an opportunity missed, this result and performance was more concerning for Liverpool.
There were too many mistakes, too few attempts to try something different and not enough quality to see off Manuel Pellegrini’s team. In fact, there were more reasons for West Ham to have won this, than Liverpool.
West Ham were well worth their point
West Ham were the better team and deserved of their point, if not more. Despite coming off the back of disappointing performances against Wolves and elimination from the FA Cup in embarrassing fashion, Pellegrini’s men were skilful, stoic and steady to achieve what will be considered one of their best results of the season.
It was the organisation of West Ham that was apparent, with Declan Rice and Mark Noble emanating a sense of calm in front of a defence that snuffed out all of the danger which a lacklustre Liverpool tried to create. There was not too much for the travelling supporters to hold close to their hearts, this was a display aided by a fair share of good fortune from the officials and lacking in energy and precision.
Once again it is currently unknown how valuable that point will prove to be, but dropping four in two games will irk and has seemingly put a downer on the sky-high emotions that rose through such a successful December. Liverpool have performed at this level previously this season, and it has been overlooked that Klopp’s side started the season in rather unspectacular fashion, but now the results are beginning to dissatisfy at such a pivotal moment in the campaign.
Liverpool’s defence appeared nervy
West Ham capitalised on – and to an extent, induced – a shaky Liverpool performance. James Milner struggled to contain the swift and skilful Felipe Anderson on the right side. It has not been the first time that Milner has struggled to convert his exemplary showing as a left back, in times gone by, to the right.
There has been a nervousness developing amongst the Liverpool backline in the past three matches; the almost unflappable Virgil van Dijk has not been as serene whilst Alisson has not kept a clean sheet in three games and has been reticent when coming out of his area to address the ball.
The injury crisis has certainly ruffled Liverpool’s defensive feathers. Joel Matip has not brought the same sense of calmness to central defence as Joe Gomez and news is not good concerning his return coming any time soon. Trent Alexander-Arnold’s service into the opposing penalty area and ability to jostle niftily when up against strong, direct opponents have been a miss on the right.
Injuries possibly the reason for Liverpool’s misalignment
Such injuries and absences have affected Liverpool and in midfield, the control that Georginio Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson so often bring is what Klopp needs at the moment.
West Ham were let off by a meagre display from Naby Keita who didn’t appear strong enough nor had the speed of thought to offer any creative threat.
It is the lack of familiarity between combinations that led to Liverpool’s passing becoming misaligned. Crossed wires and differing wavelengths meant that there were not enough chances created in a match where Liverpool had over 65 per cent possession.
Neither Adam Lallana nor Keita would feature in Klopp’s first choice midfield. Although on paper the skill-sets of the pair along with Fabinho appear to marry quite well – defensive steel, box-to-box energy and technical flourishes – in reality, it was clunky and, all too often, ineffective. Liverpool’s midfield set the level for the rest of the team, and this second-choice selection felt second-rate against West Ham.
Salah kept quite whilst Anderson shines
In attack, Mohamed Salah had little impact, as did Roberto Firmino who doesn’t seem to be relishing his time playing as a number 10. Sadio Mane, whose goal midway through the first half stood despite a clear offside, was the only bright spark that gave Liverpool an up-field oomph.
West Ham though have injury problems of their own and such matters did not detract from their showing. Anderson continues to display his fine talents with the ball and was a constant threat when the hosts were in possession. His well-worked free-kick routine led to Michail Antonio equalising shortly after Liverpool had taken the lead.
Unity is what Klopp called for during the second half and he will do so again in the aftermath of this match. There is still a long way to go in this tight and enthralling title race, but Liverpool have aspects they must address sooner rather than later.