Firmino and Benteke woeful again as Liverpool lose at West Ham
Securing two 1-0 wins over the Christmas period had provided some hope Liverpool might be set for a new year charge up the table, but it looks as though it's back to the drawing board after they were beaten 2-0 at West Ham on Saturday.
Both West Ham goals from crosses will have disappointed Reds boss Jurgen Klopp, but it is the complete lack of any punch at the other end of the field that is the real issue. None of the attacking players are of the required standard, and a meagre tally of just 21 goals from 20 Premier League games this season shows just where the Merseysiders are lacking.
Klopp has repeatedly stated that he doesn't expect to do much transfer business in January, but he might want to rethink that. This kind of performance is becoming frequent.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK Simon Mignolet, 7 -- Had no chance with either goal and made several decent saves to keep the score down, including an outstanding triple stop in the second half. Liverpool's best player on the day.
DF Nathaniel Clyne, 6 -- Exposed on both goals as he was left to deal with much taller players at the back post. Liverpool should not be allowing those situations to develop. Otherwise performed adequately enough but could have contributed more in attacking situations.
DF Dejan Lovren, 7 -- Should perhaps have been more aware of the situations that left Clyne exposed for both goals, but other than that, he competed well and was one of the few players who didn't let himself down.
DF Mamadou Sakho, 6 -- As with Lovren, did his job to a competent level and Liverpool's problems in this game were because of the failings of others, not the central defenders.
DF Alberto Moreno, 6 -- Should have been awarded a free kick in the build up to Michail Antonio's opener, but that doesn't excuse him rolling around feigning injury while the Hammers attacked the space he vacated. Provided a good outlet down the left and managed to put in some dangerous crosses that came to nothing because of the lack of movement, quality and desire to get on the end of them from those in the box, most notably Benteke.
MF Emre Can, 6 -- One of the few who didn't shy away from the physical battle and kept going right until the end. Hit the bar with a good effort just before half-time and almost created a goal for Lucas with a deft flick from a corner kick.
MF Lucas Leiva, 5 -- Stood off and allowed Valencia to cross for the opening goal. Passed the ball efficiently enough and went close to scoring with a header in the second half that was cleared off the line by Mark Noble.
MF Jordon Ibe, 4 -- Started brightly and flashed a shot narrowly wide early on but fizzled out after that and virtually disappeared in the second half.
MF Philippe Coutinho, 3 -- Another frustrating away day from the infuriatingly inconsistent Brazilian. When the 30-yard shots are not finding the top corner, there's very little else on offer from him at the moment. His shooting has become increasingly erratic, and he loses possession far too cheaply at times. Liverpool need him to find his best form quickly because nobody else has the quality to inspire this team.
FW Roberto Firmino, 4 -- Some nice touches here and there and some occasional good linking with teammates, most notably when he laid the ball off for Can to hit the bar, but overall he just isn't contributing anywhere enough for a player of his reputation and £29 million transfer fee. Liverpool's attacking play has been atrocious of late and he's a big part of that.
FW Christian Benteke, 2 -- Simply appalling display from a player who should have been high on confidence after two match-winning goals over Christmas. Completely dominated by James Collins, barely won an aerial duel all game and was wasteful with any chance that came his way. For all the talk of him needing crosses, there seems little point in delivering them when he isn't getting on the end of any good ball that comes in. Did not seem to want to take any responsibility and continually looked to lay the ball off rather than try to force the issue himself.
MF Adam Lallana, 4 -- Brought on to replace Firmono after an hour. Made one good early run and cross, but after that it was a mixture of sloppy passes, overhit corners and pointless twists and turns that merely bought time for West Ham's defenders.
DF Brad Smith, 6 -- Replaced Moreno on the hour mark and did quite well. Used the ball positively, put some good crosses in and competed physically with the powerful Antonio. Could have done better when played through, but his first touch sent him too wide and the chance was gone.
MF Joe Allen, N/R -- Should have scored with a free header in the last minute but didn't. Nobody was surprised by that.
Dave Usher is one of ESPN FC's Liverpool bloggers. Follow him on Twitter: @theliverpoolway.