Comment and Analysis @ghostgoal
Concerns for Liverpool: Problems evident in draw at West Ham
Premier League leaders held to 1-1 draw at West Ham
Last Updated: 05/02/19 12:42pm
Everything looked good for Liverpool when Sadio Mane scored early against Leicester on Wednesday night. They appeared set to be going seven points clear of Manchester City at the top of the Premier League table. It is a very different picture now.
Jurgen Klopp's team failed to hold on to that lead and once again surrendered the advantage despite Mane giving them the lead against West Ham on Monday Night Football. A second consecutive 1-1 draw means that City will go top if they beat Everton in midweek.
Just as worrying as the results are the performances. The free-flowing football that has been a feature of their season was nowhere to be seen at the London Stadium. It was a struggle throughout. "It doesn't quite feel right," Jamie Carragher told Sky Sports afterwards.
Here, we look at some of the problems hampering Liverpool right now…
Harry Maguire punished Liverpool in midweek and the same flaws were evident against West Ham. They were badly caught out by a training ground free-kick for Michail Antonio's equaliser as Naby Keita failed to track him while others were anticipating the cross.
It could have got worse for Liverpool when Declan Rice was left unmarked to head over as the visitors held a similarly high line soon after. Issa Diop then headed wide from a right-wing corner soon after the break. Liverpool looked so vulnerable from set plays.
Keita still struggling
It was not just that Keita could not deal with the free-kick for West Ham's goal, he endured another underwhelming evening in general. Partnering Fabinho in the centre of midfield, these were the players whose arrival in the summer had sparked such optimism.
Instead, the injured pair of Gini Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson were missed, with Keita, in particular, struggling. "He keeps losing the ball," said Carragher. There were hints of the driving runs that he was supposed to bring to this team but it's still not happening for him.
Key players missing
As well as Wijnaldum and Henderson, Klopp is also without Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez, which has forced James Milner, the third of his first-choice midfield from last season, to move to right-back. It's an unfortunate situation but many will wonder whether it was avoidable.
Liverpool allowed Nathaniel Clyne to leave for Bournemouth last month. "Klopp has made a big mistake in letting Clyne go," said Carragher. "I don't understand why Klopp did that. I know there were a couple of injuries after but you don't need to let him go, just keep him."
The versatile Milner was not at his best in the right-back slot. "James Milner has played there twice now and watching him play right-back you can't quite believe he played left-back so well for so long," Carragher added. "He looked like someone out of position."
Rhythm has been lost
Klopp's frustrations could be detected even in his pre-match interview and his admission afterwards that Liverpool had to change their formation numerous times in preparation for this game because of the changeable injury situation helped to explain that.
"We had to change three positions," he told Sky Sports afterwards. "That's not cool." It might encourage Liverpool supporters to know that their struggle for rhythm in attack and their marking difficulties from set plays can partially be explained away by these changes.
What happens next?
Perhaps time on the training ground is all that is needed to address the problems, but for now the concern will be that Liverpool are less equipped than the defending champions to ride out these difficult moments. The depth of the squad is not quite there.
Divock Origi and Xherdan Shaqiri have had their moments this season but it is not quite comparable with a team that can leave Leroy Sane on the bench as an unused substitute at the weekend. Liverpool need their own big players firing and their injured players back. And fast.