Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers admits a lack of consistency is damaging chances of progress at the club.
Four days after dispatching Fulham 4-0, the Reds lost 3-1 against Stoke at the Britannia Stadium – one of their bogey grounds – in a performance lacking in fight and application.
Prior to the victory over the Cottagers, Rodgers’ side had suffered a surprise loss at home to Aston Villa and the Northern Irishman accepted the up and down nature of their results was hindering their attempts to move up the Barclays Premier League table.
“Consistency is the biggest thing for the group,” he said.
“We were terrific at the weekend but you have to be able to put some runs of games together – if not you will make two or three steps forward and then take one or two back.
“Maybe that has been the nature of the group over the last couple of years.
“We are looking to improve that and there is an awful lot of work to do.”
Rodgers blamed the concession of soft goals for the defeat, which extended their winless run at the Britannia to five matches.
Steven Gerrard had put them ahead from a penalty awarded after just 32 seconds but Jon Walters scored twice either side of a Kenwyne Jones header as the Potters ran out worthy winners.
“We are 1-0 up at a difficult place to score goals and we wanted to gain the initiative from that,” he added.
“But the nature of the goals we conceded was very soft and if you do that it is always going to be uphill in terms of getting a result.
“The first one is unfortunate as Martin Skrtel slips and Walters finished well, but the other two goals… we have to be better than that.
“It was too soft: a corner that sneaks in at the near post and then from a throw-in.
“You have to be better in those moments, especially against Stoke because you know that is a big part of their strength.
“It is not all about football. You have to earn the right to play, particularly coming here.
“I have no doubt about the characters we have but it was too easy.”
Stoke boss Tony Pulis said the way his side responded to their early setback reflected the confidence and character within the team as a whole.
“It was a great result and performance,” he said.
“I thought the response after going a goal behind after just 30 seconds was absolutely fantastic and epitomises what the group are about at the moment.
“We’ve played games where we’ve created more chances and finished 0-0 so we have been creating the chances but not been taking them.
“We have tremendous respect for Liverpool and we are very proud to host a game against such a great club and when you beat them it gives you great delight, it is always special.”
Walters’ second, controlling a flick-on from Jones on his chest and volleying past Jose Reina, was the pick of the goals and took him level with Ricardo Gardner as the club’s all-time leading Premier League scorer with 18.
“It was a great finish and I am very pleased for Walts,” Pulis added.
“His commitment to the group is fabulous and he is a good player as well.”