That went exactly how we feared it'd go. And it's exactly how Liverpool did not want to start 2016.
Don't concede an early goal, he said. Be wary of West Ham's counter-attacks and crosses, he said. Be better in attack, he said.
Sigh. Just like August, just like September 2014.
Both Liverpool and West Ham hired different managers during that period. Both squads have undergone fairly substantial changes. I do not understand how the matches continue to feature the same pattern and the same problems, and end with the same result.
Maybe it's all different if the referee makes a different decision in the 9th minute. Moreno, bombing down the left flank, is arguably fouled by Miguel Antonio. Madley plays on; West Ham counter-attack at pace down the flank now left open by Moreno rolling around on the ground; West Ham work out space to cross against Can, Lucas, and Coutinho; the same player who arguably fouled Moreno beats Clyne – who's terrible in the air – to the header. 1-0, before 10 minutes are up.
But maybe it's not all that different. Liverpool again dominated possession but struggled against a packed defense. West Ham continued to have the better chances: Lanzini's swerving curler off the post in the 17th minute, Valencia's slicing a shot when open in the box in the 30th minute, Cresswell's near post effort from a flicked-on long throw saved in the 42nd. The closest Liverpool came to a first-half equalizer was Can from distance off the crossbar in added time.
Liverpool took 11 shots in the first half. Nine came from outside the box. Just one of the 11 shots was on-target: Firmino, pretty much on top of Adrian, quickly and easily smothered. Three were off-target, seven were blocked.
Meet the second half, same as the first half. 10 minutes gone, a West Ham goal: Liverpool fail to clear a routine goal kick, West Ham pick up possession and attack down Liverpool's left, West Ham cross, West Ham score a header over Nat Clyne. With salt rubbed in the wounds by goalscorer's identity. Liverpool's lump of a center forward spends 90 minutes doing nothing of note. Liverpool's ex-lump of a center forward seals the result.
West Ham should have won as emphatically as they did in August, or as they did in September 2014. But Mignolet denied Carroll and Antonio on a 69th minute counter-attack, and denied Kouyate on an 89th minute counter-attack.
Meanwhile, Liverpool's best two chances came from headers. Which, no surprise, Liverpool had Christian Benteke up front. What's that you say? They came from Lucas, on a set play in the 78th minute, cleared off the line, and Joe Allen, wide from Coutinho's open play cross?
Maybe I'm being overly harsh. Maybe we can chalk this one up to Liverpool fatigue and Liverpool's egregious injury list. Give Liverpool just one of Sturridge, Ings, or Origi and I guarantee that Liverpool look a lot better in attack. Give Liverpool an extra 24 hours of rest and maybe Benteke, Firmino, Coutinho – players who have all started three matches this week – have more in the tank. Liverpool are coming off two hard-fought 1-0 wins in the last week. And it's hard to change proceedings with a bench comprised of Bogdan, Toure, Randall, Smith, Brannagan, Allen, and Lallana, and it's no surprise that Liverpool couldn't.
That Liverpool allowed West Ham 18 shots – by far the most that Klopp's Liverpool have conceded, five more than second-most Tottenham in Klopp's first match – seemingly reaffirms that fatigue played a massive part in today's result. Or it speaks to Liverpool's vulnerability to counter-attacks. Or it speaks to having Lucas in a two-man midfield and Liverpool needing to chase a result.
We have seen Liverpool this hapless up front for six weeks, for six months, for 18 months. We have seen Liverpool this vulnerable to crosses – whether open or set play – for six weeks, six months, 18 months. We have seen this result against West Ham before.
Liverpool need to find answers, no matter the situation, quickly. Whether by changing the tactics in attack – better exploiting Benteke's strengths, shifting Coutinho's position, changing the formation; I honestly don't know, and there are no obvious fixes – or by buying in the difficult January transfer window.
Liverpool finished the match with 23 shots. Just two – the aforementioned Firmino "chance" and Lucas cleared off the line – were on-target. That's simply unacceptable, no matter the injury issues, fatigue, unbalanced squad, etc.
And Liverpool very much need to respond in the League Cup just three days from now.