At exactly the time when West Bromwich Albion most need to present a united front, divisions have begun to appear between the board, the manager and the supporters.
Survival in the top league was always going to require a strong collective effort from the Midlands club. But following his side's solid, if predictably unspectacular, start to the Premiership season, Gary Megson, the West Brom manager, has become aware of an unscheduled board meeting at the Hawthorns apparently concerning his own future.
And when the travelling fans received the team news ahead of Saturday's defeat at Anfield, it was their turn to question the manager. Some thought his tactics overly negative, with two full-backs playing out of position in midfield, while others wanted to know why Zoltan Gera, the captain of the Hungarian national team, and Robert Earnshaw, the £3.4m acquisition from Cardiff City, both started on the bench.
Since what followed was an entirely routine home victory for Liverpool, Megson's afternoon was a wholly unhappy one, as gloomy as the slate-grey skies that swept across Merseyside.
"I don't know anything about the meeting other than what I've seen in the papers," Megson said. "None of it is emanating from me and as far as I'm concerned I'll just keep doing my job until someone tells me different.
On the subject of team selection, he was more assertive. "I just didn't think it was fair to play Robert [Earnshaw] from the start, considering he only arrived with us on Thursday after the internationals. But I thought there were signs when he came on that look exciting for us."
In midfield, Bernt Haas was preferred to Gera. It was a selection born of pragmatism, but once Steven Gerrard had given Liverpool the lead after 16 minutes, the personnel within the West Brom team was rendered largely irrelevant.
Put simply, they caught Liverpool on a very good day. This was the first compelling evidence that Liverpool could become a title-challenging force under Rafael Benitez. On the face of it, his team, like Megson's, appeared predominantly defensive in outlook, with Djibril Cissé the only striker.
In practice it was anything but as Luis Garcia, on his home debut, offered a master-class in the art of the second forward, always inventive and linking delightfully with Gerrard. West Brom had no answer to his intelligent promptings. He should have scored more than the one goal he managed after his own shot had been parried by Russell Hoult, but Benitez was delighted by the performance of his signing from Barcelona.
"He gave us lots of attacking options," Benitez said. "We were especially good on the counter-attack once we were ahead." With Steve Finnan having provided a second before half-time, Garcia's strike allowed his manager the rare luxury of withdrawing Gerrard with 20 minutes to go as thoughts inevitably turned to the Champions' League, and Wednesday's visit of Monaco.
"We are getting better with every game," Benitez said. "This was one of many steps forward for us to take."
Goals: Gerrard (16) 1-0; Finnan (42) 2-0; Garcia (60) 3-0.
Liverpool (4-4-1-1): Dudek; Josemi, Hyypia, Carragher, Riise; Finnan, Hamann, Gerrard (Alonso, 65), Kewell (Baros, 67); Garcia (Traoré, 73); Cissé. Substitutes not used: Luzi (gk), Diao.
West Bromwich Albion (4-4-2): Hoult; Scimeca, Purse, Albrechtsen, Robinson; Haas (Gera 65), Koumas, Clement, Greening; Horsfield (Earnshaw 52), Kanu. Substitutes not used: Kuszczak (gk), Dobie, Contra.
Referee: S Dunn (Gloucestershire).
Man of the match: Garcia.
Attendance: 42,947.Reuse content