Liverpool fell to an abject defeat away to Brighton & Hove Albion in the Premier League on Saturday afternoon, compounding their deteriorating season and leaving a cacophony of deafening alarm bells to ring across the proud fanbase.
The 3-0 loss, which was comprehensively deserved against a cohesive and gelled Albion unit, was preceded by a 3-1 defeat at Brentford in the league, with a fortunate home draw against Wolverhampton Wanderers in the FA Cup wedged in the middle of those two abject results.
Jurgen Klopp‘s side yield just 28 points from their first 18 matches of the league campaign; for comparison, the Merseyside giants recorded 92 points and a second-placed finish last year, also winning both the FA Cup and Carabao Cup.
This current crop of withered players are a shadow of the superlative, relentless squad which came so close to an unprecedented quadruple just last year.
It was an unequivocally woeful display from a squad which had aspirations of mounting another title challenge at the inception of the current campaign. Instead, the focus now lies simply on finding a vein of form to carry the team back into European contention, with current prospects suggesting that even that modest ambition might be a tall order.
With Brighton’s intense aura and inner belief that the sizeable chink in Liverpool’s armour could be exploited, the Reds were brushed aside, with several inexcusable displays from Klopp’s team.
Captain Jordan Henderson was unable to get a grip of his team and looked weathered at the heart of midfield, while 31-year-old centre-back Joel Matip was at the epicentre of the damage, giving away the ball in the build-up to the opening goal.
However, it was Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – deputising on the left flank once again in the absence of many of the club’s regular attacking options – who perhaps left the south coast with his head hung lowest.
As per Sofascore, the Englishman recorded a lowly average rating of 6.1, making only 29 touches across his 69 minutes on the pitch.
Despite completing 80% of his passes, the £120k-per-week dud was incapable of mustering any morsel of cutting edge, having two shots (one on target) but both of those branded as big chances missed.
In an affair which desperately called for someone to take the reins and demonstrate their worth to the beleaguered Klopp, Oxlade-Chamberlain could do little more than muster an “atrocious” display – in the words of prominent blogger Johnny Ward – who emphastically stated that it was a “war crime” for the player to still hold a place in the Liverpool team.
With the 29-year-old’s contract up for expiry at the end of the season, he is quickly running out of opportunities to impress, and he faces the daunting prospect of departing as a free agent unless he can stake an unlikely claim over the coming period of fixtures.
It was a pivotal afternoon, a clash of great magnitude for Klopp’s squad, and the manager was let down by the sheer absence of inspiration and cohesion. Change is needed, and Oxlade-Chamberlain is very much in danger of being deemed expendable.