London called, but Liverpool
Grey shirted, the Premier League leaders produced a performance to match the East London sky. This, their second draw in the space of five
They will surrender top spot if City can win at Everton on Wednesday. Here, against a West Ham side wounded by recent setbacks, they looked like a team burdened by the situation they find themselves in. Pressure, it seems, can do strange things to a football team.
An easy assumption? Perhaps, but how else to explain the way the Reds’ basics have deserted them of late. They got to the top through solidity, security and composure, but it has been lacking since the turn of the year.
Here at the London Stadium, they were unable to take advantage of a helping hand from an assistant referee, who allowed Sadio Mane’s opener to stand despite James Milner being offside in the build-up. West Ham, who had been the better side to that point, levelled through Michail Antonio within six minutes, with the kind of goal that title hopefuls simply shouldn’t be conceding.
The sloppiness was everywhere. It was there in the way both Naby Keita and Roberto Firmino, under little pressure, ceded possession on the Liverpool left, and in the
From there, West Ham worked the ball admirably, Felipe Anderson rolling a disguised pass down the side of the visitors’ wall for Antonio, who was too strong for Keita and who finished accurately off the far post. Impressive from the Hammers, appalling from Liverpool.
A worrying trend. Jurgen Klopp’s side conceded just seven goals in their opening 19 league fixtures, but have shipped eight in the last six, keeping just one clean sheet.
Injuries are catching up with the Merseysiders. Here, they were without two of their main midfield men, with Gini Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson sidelined. Dejan Lovren, too, was absent.
James Milner, who will give whatever he has, whenever he is asked, was tormented by the pacy, skilful Anderson as he again filled in at right-back here, having overcome a bout of illness over the weekend. Trent Alexander-Arnold’s return should ease matters, but news of a setback for Joe Gomez in his recovery from a fractured leg is far from welcome. Liverpool
They lacked quality here, unable to muster too much by way of clear-cut chances and far too sloppy with their passing, particularly in the first half. Roberto Firmino had a nightmare, Naby Keita fused promise with alarming carelessness in possession. Mo Salah and Sadio Mane
And so the baton is passed to City, with Liverpool asking for a favour from their neighbours at Goodison Park in 48 hours’ time. They should have been seven points clear last Wednesday; a week later they could find themselves wondering where their lead went.
Improvement is needed, and fast. Liverpool remain in the driving seat, but the road is getting more and more treacherous by the day.