The Reds had gone into the game brimming with a belief after an unbeaten start to the new Premier League season but their old frailties were brutally exposed by the visitors
COMMENT By Tom Maston
If Brendan Rodgers thought he’d stumbled upon a solution to Liverpool’s troubles last season during his opening three matches of the season, he was sorely mistaken. After being thoroughly outplayed by West Ham at Anfield, the questions over the Northern Irishman’s managerial capabilities will again be asked.
Despite their win over Arsenal on the opening day, West Ham were there for the taking. Successive home defeats to Leicester City and Bournemouth had seen Slaven Bilic’s men installed as relegation candidates and labelled as a team almost as unstable as their new boss.
However, on Merseyside, the Hammers were outstanding and left a Liverpool team that performed so admirably themselves at the Emirates with very few answers to the questions they were posed. A first win in 52 years at Anfield was their reward, and it was richly deserved.
Christian Benteke was left isolated to fight against both central defenders and James Tomkins tucking in from right-back, while Roberto Firmino – an early long-range effort against the post aside – showed little to suggest that he is ready to shine at Liverpool.
Fellow new signings Nathaniel Clyne and Joe Gomez both endured their most difficult outings for the Reds so far, but it would be unfair to blame just the summer arrivals for what occurred on the pitch against the Irons.
Dejan Lovren, whose early season form has been praised following his disastrous debut season on Merseyside, reverted to type with a showing to go down as his very worst in a red shirt. A lack of concentration allowed Manuel Lanzini to nick the ball off him to create the second goal for Mark Noble, and from there he lost all confidence in his own ability.
The Croatia international allowed balls to bounce in front of him, backed off midfield runners and saw Diafra Sakho – who was clearly still struggling after being arrested earlier in the week – get the better of him on almost every occasion.
These kinds of performances from individual players are not new to Liverpool fans. Throughout the Premier League era the displays of certain players have continually frustrated those who pass through the Shankly Gates on matchdays.
But a selected few, including Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez, have always been relied upon to lift the side and grab games by the scruff of the neck. Philippe Coutinho is the man currently tasked with that role, but even he could not inspire them towards victory.
The Brazil international shanked an early shot out towards the corner flag before seeing very little of the ball due to the close attentions of Pedro Obiang and Mark Noble. Lacking any service, the former Inter man grew understandably frustrated, though he can have no excuse for picking up a booking for dissent late in the first half.
In the end, his poor attitude led to his downfall as a late challenge on Dimitri Payet – who incidentally put in a performance for the visitors that Coutinho would have been proud of – saw him given his marching orders with more than half an hour to play by referee Kevin Friend.
Though the referee took both barrels from the home crowd following his decision, it was the correct call and one which rules Coutinho out of a trip to Old Trafford once domestic matters resume following the upcoming international break.
Rodgers will argue that a game against Manchester United is the perfect tonic for his side to put right the wrongs of this performance, but visiting the Theatre of Dreams without his best player and talisman will make his task infinitely more difficult.
A defeat to the Red Devils may well see the former Swansea boss moved back to the head of the Premier League sack race just five games in. If anyone had any doubts that his job was safe after seven points from three games, they were sorely mistaken.