Liverpool failed to maintain their five-point lead at the top of the Premier League as they were held to a 1-1 draw by West Ham at the London Stadium – Manchester City’s comfortable win over Arsenal at the weekend meant that the gap has now been reduced to just three.
The Reds have now dropped seven points in their last five Premier League games and have drawn their last two, leaving the door ajar for Pep Guardiola and City to take the lead next time out.
Jurgen Klopp’s side failed to improve on their apathetic performance against Leicester, instead reproducing a similar calibre of display that lacked verve and imagination.
The Reds were uncharacteristically outmanned and outplayed in the middle of the park – they usually swarm opponents in numbers but the Hammers rarely looked under pressure until the last ten minutes or so, when the visitors finally started to wake up.
The absence of the industrious Gini Wijnaldum in Klopp’s midfield three may have had something to do with that, as did the presence of Adam Lallana, who was given the nod in the Dutchman’s stead.
Trent Alexander-Arnold’s injury meant that utility man James Milner filled in at right-back for his compatriot and the Anfield Stadium outfit could have done with his tenacity in the middle of the park, as Lallana was poor.
The former Southampton man, making just his third start of the season in the Premier League – he has made six appearances off the bench – is usually reliable in possession, but completed just 82% of his passes on Monday night.
That might not seem too bad, but when you consider Naby Keita and Fabinho, the former of which was dispossessed three times, both recorded upwards of 90% passing accuracy, the 30-year-old was clearly the weakest link.
A benefit of Klopp’s high-pressing style is that, when the ball is won back, there are usually plenty of players in attacking positions to have a shot but Lallana had just one attempt on goal – the joint-fewest out of the Reds’ attacking contingent.
West Ham sat deep and limited Liverpool’s opportunities to break quickly and instead allowed the league leaders to have more more possession – in theory that should have allowed Lallana even more opportunities to test Lukasz Fabianski, who had a comfortable 90 minutes.
The Reds lacked focus at times and this manifests in Lallana’s two unsuccessful touches – again, the highest in their midfield – the Hammers were able to pounce on the loose ball and counter through Felipe Anderson.
The 30-year-old completed one key pass, which was in the build up to Sadio Mane’s opener – he tidily flicked the ball between two West Ham defenders for Milner to fire into the feet of Mane, who swivelled in the box and finished neatly – but, beyond that and like so many of his teammates, he struggled to find a killer, forward ball.
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West Ham’s Declan Rice completed a whopping 8 tackles in the 90 minutes he played, while Lallana completed just one and was substituted in the second half as Klopp opted to keep the equally unimpressive Keita on the pitch and bring on Xherdan Shaqiri.
While he may not feel too disappointed by his performance, he needed to have outshone the other Liverpool midfielders if he was to be in with any chance of increasing his game-time going forward and he failed to do so, even when the entire starting XI was having an off-day. How much time does he have left in a red shirt?