Liverpool have Roberto Firmino problem after West Ham defeat as Trent over-reliance clear
Liverpool v Atletico Madrid: Match in pictures
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Liverpool have plenty to ponder as their Premier League title hopes suffered a body blow in east London, where they were beaten 3-2 by West Ham and it was no less than they deserved, in truth. This was not the usual, slick, relentless, pressing Liverpool juggernaut that we have become so accustomed to seeing in recent seasons as they were nullified by David Moyes’ impressive pack of players, who showed commitment to the cause to once again showcase that they are potentially genuine top-four challengers.
West Ham opened the scoring inside four minutes when Pablo Fornals’ in-swinging corner flew in after Alisson Becker failed to punch clear.
The Brazilian was challenged by Angelo Ogbonna but there appeared to be nothing wrong with the Italian’s efforts to attack the ball following a lengthy VAR review.
David Moyes’ side were keen to sit on their lead, organising two banks and looking to use their pace and creativity on the break.
Liverpool found the leveller though from a dead-ball when Trent Alexander-Arnold whipped a free-kick into the top-corner after Mohamed Salah was fouled, leaving Lukasz Fabianski powerless.
After soaking up the pressure, West Ham enjoyed their purple patch in the second half as they put Liverpool to the sword.
Pablo Fornals restored the lead after a piercing run from Jarrod Bowen cut the Liverpool defence open.
Minutes later it was 3-1 when Kurt Zouma evaded Sadio Mane and headed in from a corner at the back stick.
Liverpool did not lie down though as substitute Divock Origi pulled one back after finishing brilliantly on the spin to set up an interesting final seven minutes, plus stoppage time.
Express Sport takes a look at five things we noticed from a Liverpool perspective in the frustrating 3-2 defeat in east London…
Diogo Jota is no Roberto Firmino
Both have their qualities but this game was far better suited to the injured Roberto Firmino, who you can’t help but feel would have made a huge difference today.
Jota did not seem capable of making the ball stick, while he was often guilty of failing to looking after the ball.
This was a match that provided further evidence that Firmino remains criminally underrated, mastering the false-nine role is by no means an easy feet.
When Liverpool are attacking in number like madman, Jota is the perfect player to help wreak havoc as we’ve seen this season against Atletico Madrid and the second half against Manchester City at Anfield.
But on bitterly cold November evenings like this when you need to dig in, Firmino’s link and hold-up play, coupled with his cunning imagination could have ultimately played a big part.
Mane and Salah did not look the same either without their South American partner in crime, particularly the Senegal international, who endured one of his most difficult afternoons of the season.
Liverpool will be pleased to see the international break in order to buy Firmino some precious recovery time, they need him back as soon as possible.
Over-reliance on Trent
When teams defend deep and in numbers, Liverpool have sometimes had trouble finding a way to cut through. They have improved at that over the years but West Ham’s resolve and organisation seemed to get the better of the Reds, who were lacking ideas.
With Naby Keita, Curtis Jones and Harvey Elliott all missing through injury, Liverpool were starved of creativity.
And besides Alexander-Arnold, nobody really looks capable of picking the lock.
His delivery will always give you a chance but West Ham soon cottoned onto that and tried to double up on the right-back.
West Ham deserve the plaudits for nullifying the Reds but the over-reliance on Trent to harvest an opportunity as Liverpool tried to unlock the door was telling.
It was even his lung-busting surge into the box that created the space for Liverpool’s second, that came through Origi.
The performances of Jota and Mane in particular, left a lot to be desired…
Jordan Henderson off the leash
Just a matter of months before he lifted the European Cup aloft in Madrid, Jordan Henderson wasn’t enjoying his football at Anfield, something relayed by his father in a private chat with Jamie Carragher in the player’s lounge.
Klopp saw him as a No 6 but with Fabinho dropping flawless performances week after week, Henderson found himself temporarily out of favour.
That soon changed though when Henderson discussed the possibility of moving back into the No 8 role and he got his chance as he came off the bench to score in Liverpool’s 3-1 win at Southampton in April 2019.
Since then, he hasn’t looked back – besides the odd cameo at No 6 in Fabinho, Gini Wijnaldum and Thiago Alcantara’s absence.
He has been the driving force and heartbeat of this Liverpool side ever since and his influence was stamped all over the first-half, when he took up several clever positions and made a handful of purposeful passes forward.
Henderson still seems to have his critics but the Liverpool man really does continue to show that he has matured into a far better footballer than he tends to get credit for.
His experience, leadership and general midfield industry remains so, so important to this Liverpool side in their pursuit of more trophies.
Trent drops into midfield
With just under half-an-hour gone, Trent Alexander-Arnold found himself playing as a quarterback in the middle of the park.
Naturally, Jordan Henderson shifted over to the right but Trent was quite happy just to sit centrally for several minutes, to get a feel for the ball.
With West Ham defending deep and it numbers, was clear Alexander-Arnold’s passing and crossing could hold the key to an equaliser.
The right-back was soon back in his natural before another quick switch around moments later that eventually saw Alexander-Arnold fire over following a cutback from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
He was adamant he should have had a penalty following contact from Said Benrahma.
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