Can the defeat at West Ham even be considered as a shock anymore? Should the footballing world be surprised at how comfortable the Hammers looked on the Anfield turf? No. West Ham’s humbling of Liverpool posed as a timely reminder for just how far away the club are from challenging for the title again and, perhaps more importantly, how the Anfield fear-factor persists to die out over time.
Aside from Liverpool’s shambolic display- and that’s what it was, shambolic- the Anfield faithful were again lacklustre in the role as twelfth man, offering groans of frustration rather than the roar that supporters have been so used to in the past. Having said this, the passion and the optimism has been missing from a still committed and proud fan base ever since the side lost out to Manchester City in the title race two seasons ago. Who can blame them, though?
It seems that with Steven Gerrard’s departure, the famous Anfield atmosphere has also disappeared. Only Liverpool fans refused to be deceived by the club’s, supposedly, promising start to the season, in which the players earned two wins in addition to a good draw against Arsenal. While neutrals looked towards results, the fact that the team only played well for 45 minutes out of the first three games emerges as a concern recognised by Reds fans only.
This reality in which Liverpool fans know it is dangerous to be hopeful and confident is a contributing factor to the somewhat deflated stream of supporters around Anfield. The Red side of Merseyside is frightfully quiet and tentative, with very few people knowing what to expect from this current Liverpool side anymore.
Teams are no longer scared to come to Anfield and play freely against Liverpool, unlike previous years where having to perform before 45,000 Scousers as an opposition player would be one of the most daunting tasks in football. Away sides are now free to express themselves on a pitch that used to only accommodate a strong and determined Liverpool performance. While the fans must show more resilience, the players have to give the supporters something to get on their feet for. A crunching Steven Gerrard tackle would be all it took to do so when the skipper was around. Right now, the only thing that appears to achieve this is a moment of magic by Philippe Coutinho, but he can’t be expected to lift the crowd on his own.
Fans have to see that the players are absolutely fixated on carrying out their responsibilities on the pitch and that they are committed to running the extra mile and fighting for Liverpool in gratitude of being given the chance to play for such a prestigious club. Liverpool fans want their pitch back and it is up to the players to once again stamp a mark on authority. At this moment in time, the players are showing nowhere near enough fight on the pitch and it is no good a few players doing this, it has to be a team effort, as it always is at Liverpool Football Club.
The system is crying out for a breath of fresh air to enter the frame, a Stevie G, a Jamie Carragher- someone who will remind those around them of what they stand for when they put on the red shirt of Liverpool. The absence of Jordan Henderson from the game against West Ham expressed how important he is to the team and why he merited the captains armband. All you have to do is watch his delight when he scores a goal to see how hungry he is to do well. Yes James Milner shares a commendable work ethic with Henderson, but he has experienced winning and is most likely satisfied with what he has achieved in his career at the age of 29. Henderson stands as the best chance of inspiring those around him to work hard and give something back to the fans that have spent good money to watch their beloved team play.
Can Jordan Rossiter bring new life to the set up? He certainly deserves a chance. Though he may not possess the qualities Steven Gerrard did, he is very similar with regards to growing up through the Liverpool Academy as Gerrard did, meaning he is already aware of how big an honour it is to break into the Liverpool team. As a youngster, he will undoubtedly fight for his team and will be motivated to ensure he does what it takes to become part of Brendan Rodgers’ plans. An asset in the making, potentially. Likewise, the return of Jon Flanagan from injury couldn’t come sooner with the fullback truly capable of getting the crowd to its feet with his crunching tackles and simple, old fashioned style of defending.
Martin Skrtel’s notable tendency to lose concentration during games is becoming far too familiar, with the Slovakian offering very little consistency in his performances. Liverpool’s centre back continues to make simple errors without losing his place in the starting line-up. As important as it is to form defensive partnerships over a period of time, it is unbelievable that he hasn’t been dropped by Brendan Rodgers at times over the last year.
Similarly, Dejan Lovren continues to have lapses in concentration and appears to forget the basics at times, which forces the question as to whether both he and Skrtel are interested enough? They aren’t aggressive nor do they give opposition strikers enough of a tough time, they make themselves look weak and are nowhere near the dominant force Liverpool fans want. For defenders chosen by Rodgers partly for their ability to pass out from the back, they don’t look assured of themselves and continue to look frail. There is no reason why Joe Gomez shouldn’t be given his chance in the centre of defence. As a new signing and a young star in the making, he will give his all in order to become a top defender and to be given a chance to feature for his country in the future. Brendan Rodgers has to make big calls if he is to be successful at such a big club. If he places confidence in the likes of Rossiter and Gomez with conviction, the youngsters will thrive.
The whole team format desperately needs a lift. Whenever it seems that circumstances are improving, there is always a setback for Liverpool to deal with. A defeat to West Ham doesn’t come as the biggest negative as this Premier League season always promised to be the most competitive yet. It is the lack of passion and the discouraged fans that is most worrying.