Despite Liverpool maintaining their ridiculous run of consistency, a team as dominant and unrivalled as the Reds will have their standards questioned more regularly than others.
This was noticeable last night in Liverpool’s 3-2 victory against West Ham at Anfield as the Reds equalled the English top-flight record of 18 successive wins, set by Manchester City from August to December 2017.
Instead, the narrative of the match fixated on the Reds’ glaring struggles on their way to Jurgen Klopp’s 26th victory of the season. Liverpool are still in February and already they have amassed the same total of points as Sir Alex Ferguson’s treble-winning Manchester United team in 1999 – the Reds are in another category of their own.
However, there were holes in Liverpool’s performance as the post-winter-break blues seemingly continued at the home of the English champions-elect as Klopp’s 34-month unbeaten Anfield league run was temporarily on the verge of collapse once substitute Pablo Fornals swept West Ham into the lead nine minutes after the break.
Perhaps the most glaringly apparent element to the Reds’ latest showcase of resistance was the noticeable absence of their irreplaceable captain Jordan Henderson. Liverpool’s struggles weren’t necessarily epitomised by their lack of intricate passing, effective finishing nor creativity but instead a lack of leadership in midfield.
True, Henderson has all these qualities in abundance and also true that Liverpool can find alternative elements to inject quality into the midfield triumvirate but one gaping hole in the performance was that imposing general in the middle of the park.
The 29-year-old skipper maintains the Reds’ unwavering and unfaltering high standards. Henderson is a true leader in the vital moments continually driving the tempo and setting the example from which his team-mates follow.
However, Liverpool failed to maintain their usual irresistible standards after Georginio Wijnaldum headed the Reds into an early lead. Instead, Klopp’s team faltered into a rare sloppiness and a lack of cutting edge that invited the visitors back into the match.
Henderson – who joined the Reds from Sunderland for £20m [BBC Sport] in 2011- wouldn’t have allowed Liverpool to drop their standards and his absence against the Hammers was gargantuan.
The England international has become more than the club-captain but the standard-bearer for the rest of the team. Week-in-week-out Henderson has consistently maintained a relentless performance level that has seen him shortlisted as the favourite for the PFA Player of the Year award.
If Liverpool are going to cope without their exceptional skipper for the next three weeks then the leadership qualities of the rest of the team will need to come to the fore.