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West Ham 3 Liverpool 1 - "Three thoughts" by Paul Natton

1. We're in trouble. Seriously.


Last season is such old news now, it's been used to wrap chips, chucked in the bin, taken to the tip and rotted down to a pulp. We are a mess all over the pitch: we're struggling to score consistently, look a million miles away from anything approaching defensive cohesion and seem about as fluid as a million year old glacier.


I am genuinely terrified about the wheels coming off this week because Boro will smell blood at an Anfield that will be nervy to say the least and Everton... well, it doesn't bear thinking about, does it? What I would say right now though is that the top four is looking like a very, very tough ask having lost three of our opening five league games and we can forget about cup competitions too with the shambles that's currently taking to the field in Liverpool shirts. As I've said, Boro will be right up for it after watching this and I wouldn't fancy facing Basel in Europe never mind Real Madrid with their frightening array of attacking talent. Can you imagine these clowns up against Bale, James and Ronaldo? *Shudders*


Rodgers has a genuine crisis on his hands now and, as I said the other day, he's got his work cut out to put it right because we've got no time at Melwood to get them drilled properly: it's all just matches and rest days for weeks to come. The only hope is that we can get our best player fit and firing again as soon as possible and hope he can get us out of jail with his goals because looking at this lot, Sterling aside, there's nothing else to build on right now.


2. Add the midfield to the list


There's been so much focus on the paucity of the defence this season that it's gone under the radar how poor we've been in the middle too. We currently seem unable to link defence to attack and Stevie's controlling midfielder role appears to have been badly found out by opponents who press him relentlessly and leave the ball at the incapable feet of Dejan Lovren or Mamadou Sakho. If I see Lovren hit yet another speculative long diagonal ball that falls to opposition feet, I'll puke.


I'm well aware of how tough it is for new players coming to Liverpool but the lad looks unrecognisable to the player I saw bits of last season, never mind the uber-warrior BR has been trying to sell us. And as for Sakho, he's just as bad. The two of them aren't at the point of no return just yet, but they really do both need to have a huge mental shift and realise where they are and what's expected of them because what they're serving up is simply not acceptable from Liverpool centre halves.


But as I was saying before I got side-tracked by the shambles that is our back line, Stevie looks utterly peripheral right now: neither midfield lynchpin nor attacking threat - and that is horrible to see. Furthermore, the usually ever-reliable Jordan Henderson has too much do and also seems a little bit confused to boot. Remember when he first signed and Kenny played him wide right leaving him looking like a little boy lost? He's not quite been like that, but he certainly looks confused as he's asked to keep changing his position and role while Rodgers fire-fights tactically in order to plug the gaps all over the pitch.


With Can and Allen injured, Lucas utterly useless and Coutinho horribly out of form, that leaves us almost as shambollic in the middle as we are at the back - and that is really saying something after the debacle we saw this evening.


3. Rodgers is under real pressure now and he needs to respond


I am a massive fan of our manager: he has instigated a revolution at Liverpool and it almost won us the league from a starting position way back down the grid last season with only one previous campaign under his belt in order to set it up. He is tactically innovative, a brilliant man manager and has a commitment to the twin joys of youth and goals that is beyond rare in modern football. But all that counts for nothing right now because the team he's built (and this is most definitely his team right now; they're his players and his system) is a mess.


Now of course I recognise that there's plenty of mitigation for where we are this evening (injuries, new boys, departed talisman, etc), but the fact of the matter is that we've lost 60% of our league matches so far this season, have problems all over the pitch and the games are coming thick and fast. He quite simply has to prove that he's Liverpool quality by finding a way to win - and if that means compromising his principles a little and playing something a bit more prosaic and pragmatic, so be it because we cannot keep going into games wide open at the back and toothless up front. We'll be in free fall if we do.


This is a time for the players to stand up and be counted, but if they're struggling to get off their knees after these losses and poor performances (because let's not pretend we were impressive on Tuesday night either, never mind last weekend for the Villa horror show) then the manager has to make some tough decisions. By hook or by crook, we have to tighten up at the back because there is no "get out of jail" card flying round in a number seven shirt any more. That said, conceding as weakly and easily as we are right now, we'd struggle to win points even if he was here.


No, for me, this is the time for Brendan Rodgers to show his true quality and start pulling some rabbits out of hats. Relatively speaking, it's easy to look great when no-one expects anything and you can keep catching opponents by surprise. However, when people have had time to adjust to your style and you've almost completely changed your entire first team in one summer, you're going to have your work cut out to turn things around.


So come on Brendan lad: show us what you've got. I think you have the potential to be a true Liverpool great, but potential means nothing. In this club we've always had a saying that sums up your worth: show us yer trophies. Not that I'm expecting us to win anything mind; the implicit point though is that you have to prove your quality every day by delivering results and right now I'd snatch your hand off for a scruffy 1-0 at home against a championship club. I'm not sure if I can hold my breath though.


However: come on you Reds!!!


Paul Natton


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