Liverpool suffer miserable start to 2016

Last updated : 03 January 2016 By Cameron Hogwood

There’s no point in sugarcoating it. Our great club is made up of painfully average players that are incapable of taking Liverpool back to the top of English football.

By no means can Jurgen Klopp take the blame for Saturday’s abysmal performance at Upton Park. This is not HIS team. The sooner it is a team filled with players he wants, the better.

Benteke struggles…

Starting from the top - Christian Benteke was useless and has only been getting away for relatively poor performances over the last few weeks by scoring a couple of goals. His primary threat in his aerial ability was bettered by James Collins and Angelo Ogbonna from start to finish, setting the tone for a day where he simply made up the numbers.

His touch was poor and for a supposedly powerful man his hold up play was weak. The Belgian was static for large periods of the game and was at the centre of a Liverpool attack that severely lacked penetration, aggression and an idea as to how it wanted to approach West Ham’s defenders. When Alberto Moreno eventually put in a half decent cross at the start of the second half, Benteke could only produce a halfhearted scuffed shot that rolled well wide.

It isn’t even as though he put himself about and tried to bully the Hammers defence. Compare that to our former multi million pound flop Andy Carroll who actually used his physical presence and got about the pitch for his team. Every time the ball was played into Benteke he looked insistent on trying to lay it off for a teammate rather than trying to get a shot away- which is what he is better at, believe it or not.

Games of late are really exposing how crossing isn’t part of the game the majority of our players want to play. Michael Owen summed it up (forgive me for agreeing with him) when he explained how Benteke isn’t good enough for the rest of the team to change the way they play just to suit him.

The onus was on him to make more inventive movements behind and around the West Ham defence in order to do his attacking midfielders some favours but he simply offered nothing. Even when dropping into deeper positions he struggled to play the intricate football his teammates were attempting to play and he lost possession far too easily.

Problems in midfield…

With the problems upfront, you also get problems in the attacking midfield area. Philippe Coutinho has been lucky not to receive as much criticism as some of his teammates have recently. The little magician went missing again today and was unable to respond to the physical challenge posed by his opponents, like most of Liverpool’s players. His recent tendency to produce both wild and tame efforts from outside the box continued today and did him no favours where his skill and creativity is concerned.

The lack of movement today gave him few obvious options and made him look a very ordinary player. Given the way he is viewed as Klopp’s best player, his inability to take responsibility and alter his game to combat an opposition that followed his every move was worrying. At the moment, there appears to be no understanding between Benteke and the three attacking midfielders.

It isn’t just Coutinho. There remains so many capable of creating and so little to show for it. Roberto Firmino couldn’t get involved and again wasted some good opportunities in the first half while Adam Lallana again struggled to make a difference after coming on in the second half, despite making more of an effort to get on the ball than his teammates did.

Jordan Ibe looked the brightest of the attacking midfield trio with some positive direct runs in the first half and an early shot which went just wide. He was guilty of taking too many touches wide positions though and, for a winger, looked to drive into the box as opposed to getting a cross in. Nobody wants to cross the ball in this Liverpool team

Klopp will undoubtedly look at the West Ham game and think about changing the system for similar fixtures. The performance was crying out either for the wide men to put lots of crosses in or for Benteke to put himself on the edge of the box and for the midfielders to play it into his feet before looking to receive it back in order to try and trouble the West Ham keeper Adrian, who had an embarrassingly easy day.

What became evident was how weak a lot of our players were. Lucas was far from the tenacious and tough defensive midfielder Liverpool fans know him to be and his lack of athleticism was clear.

Only Emre Can appeared to match the strength and desire of the opponents. His performance showed how he cannot be restricted to a defensive midfield position in the future. His power on the ball means he cannot be restricted to a holding role in the future to allow him to join and lead attacks. With this in mind, a strong and energetic defensive midfielder has to be brought in.

There was no energy, no explosiveness and no confidence throughout the side. Within minutes of the game starting, it became clear that it was always going to be West Ham’s day.

Stop the cross!

While Liverpool didn’t cross the ball, they allowed West Ham to do so. Klopp was rightly angry at how easily Slaven Bilic’s side were able to put the ball in the box, which resulted in the two goals. Alberto Moreno is becoming an increasingly frustrating ‘defender’. It’s hard to believe he is a defender when you see how often he continues to find himself out of position.

Yes it was a foul on him in the run up to the first goal, but the way he continued to roll around on the ground as though he was injured was a representation of the team’s overall lack of fight. Brad Smith was better than Moreno at left back, even despite only being on for the last 30 minutes.

The side is filled with too many players that aren’t up for the fight or committed to winning. All Liverpool fans will agree that the team is five players short of challenging at the top again. While there may not be five new additions in January, Klopp surely has to do something. 

Follow Cameron on Twitter @CameronHogwood  


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