For the third time in the span of a week, Liverpool were underwhelming against an opponent many viewed as "lesser," and for the second time in that same time period, they dropped three points. That's nine points from 15 dropped in the Premier League, and it very well could have been two more to open their Champions League campaign were it not for the industry of Javier Manquillo and the calmness of Steven Gerrard late in injury time.
It's a week that completely takes the rug out from underneath the promise of the season's first three matches; a narrow win over what's proven to be an excellent Southampton team was generally viewed as more than good enough, the loss at Manchester City saw Brendan Rodgers' side dominate for the first forty minutes before a string of defensive errors led to a 3-1 defeat, and the win at Spurs was as close as we've seen to the heights of last season.
Unfortunately it remains that way over three weeks later, and Rodgers is now faced with questions about whether or not his squad can cope with the demands of domestic and European competition after another disappointing display. And for the most part, he didn't pull any punches in his post-match comments, noting a number of areas in which Liverpool weren't good enough in the loss at Upton Park:
"We have a lot of work to do and today was very disappointing in terms of performance. They had better intensity than us. Our performance level wasn't anywhere near what I would expect. We made too many long passes; normally our passing is shorter, crisper and faster in the game. Today we didn't show enough composure on the ball.
"But, first and foremost, I thought the intensity of our game wasn't quite at the level. But that's something that we will look at. I'm very fortunate that I've got an honest group of players that know that sort of level isn't what we expect. We will, over the course of the season, get better and better."
The failures on Saturday evening were at least partially due to tired legs and a lack of depth due to injury; the absences of Joe Allen and Daniel Sturridge have been felt most keenly, but missing Emre Can was a factor as well. With limited options Rodgers stuck to what he knew in the midfield, meaning another 90 minutes for Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson, both of whom were visibly fatigued in the first half, and largely the same cohorts in attack and defense that have failed to mesh since the international break ended.
In the end, Rodgers doesn't need to say much more than he did about tonight, or the last week of football we've seen from Liverpool. It's not up to standard, and it needs to get better. Middlesbrough on Tuesday night will offer an opportunity to rest a number of those who faded so badly today, but Everton's visit next Saturday will be another significant test for Rodgers and company before returning to the Champions League four days later.