Despite their superb recent form—including a 6-1 demolition of Southampton in the Capital One Cup—Jurgen Klopp’s Anfield heavyweights were humbled 2-0 at the hands of struggling Newcastle at the weekend, in a result which went against the form guide.
Indeed, the German coach’s side were expected to trounce the troubled Magpies after Steve McClaren’s side were dissected 5-1 at the hands of Crystal Palace the week before.
Writing in his column for the Liverpool Echo, Rush has placed much of the blame for the loss at the feet of Firmino, who the ex-Welsh forward believes showed a lack of character against the Magpies.
“Roberto Firmino is playing as if something is wrong, mentally and physically. He’s been absolutely redundant the last two games after such a great display at Man City,” Rush began.
“It can’t just be the fact his mate Coutinho has been missing. Firmino was the missing link and things improved when Adam Lallana, who played well, came on. It was like chalk and cheese.
“The Brazilian also pulled out of a challenge that was 55-45 in his favour. Liverpool fans won’t accept that. I’ve been going for 50 years and I know it’s unacceptable.
“If the ball is there to be won you win it. He’s going to have to learn to get stuck in.”
Firmino has impressed in fits and starts so far this season, starring when Liverpool are on the up in the high-profile contests, but fading when the chips are down and the Reds need to eke out a result.
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In contrast to his half-hearted display against Newcastle, the attacking midfielder—who arrived from Hoffenheim during the summer—was devastating in the 4-1 appearance away at Manchester City, and contributed assists in away victories over Chelsea and Rubin Kazan.
The surprise defeat to Newcastle leaves Liverpool on the outside in the race for a Champions League place; Manchester United hold fourth spot on 29 points, while Klopp’s Reds have slipped further behind and are in eighth place on 23 points.