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Premier League | Gameweek 35
Apr 27, 2024 at 12.30pm UK
London Stadium

West Ham
2 - 2

Bowen (43'), Antonio (77')
FT(HT: 1-0)
Robertson (48'), Areola (65' og.)
Endo (30'), Mac Allister (90+5')

Liverpool made to pay for wastefulness again as title hopes end at West Ham United

:Headline: Liverpool made to pay for wastefulness again as title hopes end at West Ham United:
Sports Mole looks at how Liverpool's familiar weaknesses haunted them again in a 2-2 draw with West Ham, and what they can do to prevent the Jurgen Klopp era ending with a whimper.
Sports Mole

Rather than a glorious send-off for one of their greatest-ever managers, the story of Jurgen Klopp's final season as Liverpool boss is fast turning into what might have been.

A campaign with silverware should never be taken for granted and we should mention early on that most other clubs would be ecstatic with the season Liverpool have had, winning the EFL Cup, challenging for the Premier League title and reaching the later rounds of the FA Cup and Europa League.

However, the prospect of winning an unprecedented four trophies very quickly dwindled to just the one they already had in their possession, with a heartbreaking exit from the FA Cup at the hands of bitter rivals Manchester United being followed by a shock but conclusive loss to Atalanta BC in Europe.

The collapse has extended to the Premier League title race too, with defeats to Crystal Palace at Anfield and Everton in the Merseyside derby at Goodison Park leaving their hopes of keeping pace with the relentless Arsenal and Manchester City in tatters.

That was before their trip to the London Stadium on Saturday lunchtime, when Michail Antonio's late equaliser appears to have hammered the final nail into the coffin of their title dreams.

Liverpool now trail Man City by one point despite playing two games more, and Arsenal by two points despite having played one game more, meaning that it would require a hugely unlikely set of results for both of those teams to restore any hope for the Reds.

Liverpool hurt by familiar weakness in West Ham draw

The need for both Arsenal and Man City to drop points on more than one occasion is only half the story; Liverpool themselves would need to win the remainder of their matches to be in a position to take advantage if the others do slip up.

Right now, that looks incredibly unlikely, with Klopp's side looking like a shadow of their former selves in recent weeks, particularly in front of goal.

Regular viewers of the Reds will tell you that them missing chances is nothing new; they have always scored a lot of goals, but that is usually because they create a lot of chances rather than their forwards being particularly prolific.

Even Mohamed Salah, with all his legendary goalscoring feats for Liverpool, misses far more chances that you would expect of a world-class forward.

That was the story again at the London Stadium, where Liverpool were much-improved in the second half and created enough goalscoring opportunities to have put the game to bed long before Antonio rose unmarked inside the area to level the scores.

The Reds' profligacy has become an even greater issue in recent weeks, though, with patience now running thin when it comes to Darwin Nunez in particular.

Today's match was by no means the most egregious example of their wastefulness, but even their two goals had an element of luck about them - Andrew Robertson scuffing his finish for their equaliser before Cody Gakpo's strike hit three West Ham players before crossing the line for an own goal, rather harshly attributed to Alphonse Areola.

In a must-win match, a top team simply have to make more of having 28 shots on goal and creating plenty of chances - almost all of which came in a largely dominant second half.

Liverpool have never been a particularly sound team defensively under Klopp - the opposition will almost always get at least one big chance per game - but that has largely been accepted as a by-product of the enthralling action going in the other direction, a compromise perhaps personified by Trent Alexander-Arnold.

However, during this recent crisis of confidence in attack, the defensive aspect has also dropped off drastically - it is now only one clean sheet in their last 12 games across all competitions, and that was in the second leg of a Europa League tie when Atalanta did not have to take any risks going forward.

After being bullied aerially in the midweek Merseyside derby defeat, Liverpool were once again found lacking from a set piece for West Ham's opener as the diminutive Jarrod Bowen climbed highest, and Antonio shook off Jarell Quansah far too easily to be left unmarked for their second too.

That increased defensive vulnerability - coupled with a period of painstaking profligacy in front of goal - has been the recipe for Liverpool's demise in the latter stages of the season.

Jurgen Klopp era set to end with a whimper?

The disappointment of seeing three trophies slip through their grasp in the space of little over a month is palpable amongst Liverpool fans, but if anything the prospect of seeing such a great era in the club's history end with such a whimper is even more painful.

Klopp announced his intention to step down back in January, citing fatigue, and initially it looked as though his players would rally to give him a perfect send-off, despite the squad being crippled by injuries at times.

However, they too now seem to have run out of steam in the closing weeks of an energy-sapping campaign, putting in a string of tepid performances recently - a list the first half against West Ham joined.

There was significant improvement after the interval - to the extent that you wondered whether Klopp had told the players to do it for him even if their title hopes looked slim - but everything does not seem quite right as the German's tenure comes towards its end.

Klopp was seemingly involved in an argument with Mohamed Salah - benched against West Ham - before the Egyptian entered the field, which was a rare sign of cracks between the manager and his players.

That bond had for so long been one of Klopp's greatest strengths, but the toll of the season now looks to be getting to the whole Liverpool squad.

What now for Liverpool?

The appointment of Arne Slot looks imminent, and focus will naturally now begin to turn to the new era and where Liverpool go in the future.

However, Klopp was keen to stress in the buildup to Saturday's match that his side's place in the top four is not yet certain, giving his side something tangible to fight for between now and the end of the season.

Liverpool have tough matches against the two sides fighting for that Champions League spot next up - Aston Villa and then Tottenham Hotspur - and on current form there is no guarantee that they will get anything from either match.

A final-day meeting with Wolverhampton Wanderers will then be Klopp's final game in charge, but defeats in the two prior to that would undoubtedly sully the atmosphere for Klopp's grand farewell.

It should also be noted that Liverpool were not expected by many to launch such a title challenge this season, and most fans would have bitten your hand off to be two points off top with three games of their season to go if it was offered to them at the start of the campaign.

However, the manner of the late collapse has left the final weeks of Klopp's boisterous, enthusiastic and charismatic tenure feeling like the opposite of the excitement his teams have come to embody over the past nine years.

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Premier League Table
CManchester CityMan City38287396346291
4Aston Villa382081076611568
5Tottenham HotspurSpurs382061274611366
7Newcastle UnitedNewcastle381861485622360
8Manchester UnitedMan Utd38186145758-160
9West Ham UnitedWest Ham381410146074-1452
10Crystal Palace381310155758-149
11Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton381212145562-748
14Wolverhampton WanderersWolves38137185065-1546
17Nottingham ForestNott'm Forest3899204967-1832
RLuton TownLuton3868245285-3326
RSheffield UnitedSheff Utd38372835104-6916
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