West Ham vs Liverpool: We are nowhere near as good as last season, says Brendan Rodgers

Manager points to Champions League as cause of Liverpool’s fallen standard

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The Independent Football

Brendan Rodgers was as blunt as his team were bland: Liverpool, he said, were “nowhere near” the standard they set last season.

A 3-1 defeat at West Ham United on Saturday leaves them with three defeats from the opening five Premier League games and, though the sale of Luis Suarez is the most obvious difference on the pitch, some of the concerns go beyond that.

It is not just that Liverpool are missing the Uruguayan’s brilliance up front; they are also missing the fluency and rampant attacking that characterised their surge to a second-place finish last season. There has been a marked drop-off in overall performance and they need to rediscover lost verve.

That was most conspicuous in the second half on Saturday when Liverpool created hardly anything up front. The goalscorer, Raheem Sterling, was the only attacker anywhere close to last season’s best – and until the team start winning doubts will persist about the quality of the new signings.

 

Rickie Lambert and Adam Lallana started on the bench, and there were not many players on the field to give West Ham real cause to worry.

The parallels with Tottenham Hotspur’s expenditure following the sale of Gareth Bale have already been raised, and there remains the question whether Liverpool should have used more of the Suarez money to go for one £40m player rather than a collection of cheaper options.

Rodgers offered another explanation for their slump, citing the extra demands of competing in the Champions League.

“It’s a tiring competition, one that’s mentally draining, but we’ve earned the right to be in the competition and we have to also do well in the Premier League,” the manager said. “You’ve got a lot less time working with the team. If you play on the Saturday, you’ve got Sunday, Monday for recovering, you’ve got the Tuesday game, and then the players who play are recovering Wednesday, Thursday. So you’re doing your first tactical preparation on the Friday, and then you’re travelling straight down to the game. But you can’t complain about it, we’re glad to be here, this is what we have to get used to. We just want and expect to be better.”

Sam Allardyce said he had specifically directed his West Ham side to take advantage of the visitors’ fatigue. It was all the more pointed because his side did to Liverpool what Liverpool have recently done to so many: they caught them by surprise from kick-off, scoring the key goals crushingly early. Winston Reid and Diafra Sakho both struck within the first seven minutes.

“We did a high press [based] on the fact it’s the first time Liverpool have been in the Champions League for [five] years and that’s such a big game for Liverpool to be back there, the atmosphere at Anfield,” Allardyce said.

“It’s not only physically, but emotionally [draining] and I think most of the team that played in that game played here. We thought they would want to control the tempo and get it quite slow to begin with and feel their way into the game. [Their tiredness] was part of the game plan, in that Liverpool will always try to play out from the back.”

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