Mohamed Salah’s two frustrations sum up Liverpool’s issues during West Ham defeat


Salah and Liverpool’s players worked as hard as they always do at the London Stadium, but it was a lack of quality from the Reds which let them down in their first defeat of the season

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West Ham v Liverpool: Match in Pictures

There were two moments in the first half at the London Stadium which summed up Liverpool’s frustrations.

They happened within seconds of each other, and they both concerned Mohamed Salah.

Annoyed and seeking to make something happen up against the massed ranks of West Ham defenders who had turned the game into an extremely narrow one ever since taking the lead, Salah dropped deep and ran from right to left, throwing his arms up at his teammates as he demanded more movement and options.

The midfield he had now dropped in to was static, and ahead of him there wasn’t really anywhere for his fellow forwards to go such was the blanket-like defending from the hosts.

Then a few moments later another Liverpool attack broke down, and suddenly Michail Antonio was haring toward goal with, initially, only Joel Matip in front of him.

Salah “smelled the danger” – that classic Roy Keane saying – and raced back to win the ball off Antonio, turning it over safely to Matip. There was then a glare at what was going on ahead of him.

And as ever, there was nothing wrong with the Egyptian’s work-rate in Liverpool’s 3-2 defeat at West Ham, and the same can be said of pretty much all of his teammates.

Worryingly for Jurgen Klopp it was the quality that was missing, as the midfield laboured and struggled to protect a back four which didn’t have the greatest of days.

Antonio is a menace of course, Liverpool would have known that already, and the way he pinned back the two central defenders and lulled them into that most terrifying of things, a one-on-one battle with him, was incredible at times.

With the game so narrow it meant that the Reds’ flying full-backs were going to be on the ball a lot, but with difficult propositions ahead of them.

Trent Alexander-Arnold tried to force the issue in the manner he always does, not least with that brilliant goal, but Andy Robertson seemed to struggle from the fact that he had many options to pick from in front of him, but none of them were very good ones.

With Jordan Henderson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain drawn into the constant melee that existed about 40 yards from the West Ham goal, that left Fabinho fairly exposed when the Hammers hit the Reds on the counter-attack, something they were always looking to do.

And as the forwards were suffocated, that left every outfield player struggling to make an impact in the manner they wanted to.

When that is the case then you could do with your goalkeeper having a good game to bail you out. And, well, that didn’t happen.

Liverpool’s midfield injury issues are nowhere near as bad as their centre-back crisis was last season.

James Milner, Naby Keita, Curtis Jones and Harvey Elliott were all out here, as was Roberto Firmino who often plays more like an attacking midfielder, but the difference is that they are being replaced by bona fide first-team players.

Fabinho and Henderson would be in a Champions League final XI if it was happening tomorrow, and even though the ongoing concerns around Oxlade-Chamberlain might never ever go away, he is clearly still a player Klopp likes, just not for 90 minutes.

The problem is that those three aren’t really creating, and so is the answer Thiago Alcantara?

He too struggled when he was thrown into the maelstrom just after Pablo Fornals’ goal, and the fact that he spent the immediate aftermath of the match running up and down the London Stadium pitch by himself suggests his fitness isn’t quite where it needs to be yet.

Liverpool will need him to get up to speed soon, and to find the ruthlessness and creativity that often looks effortless when they are at their ‘winning machine’ best.

Winning when not playing well became a hallmark of the title-winning season, but it seems to have eluded them at the moment.

They need to get that quality back if they are to last in this title race.

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