SPORT: West Ham United 1 v Liverpool FC 4 – Review
Now that the dust has settled on Week 11 of Premier League action, we’re starting to get a sense of how the teams are shaping up, and how the table might look come May. To that end, Liverpool were back in action this Saturday against West Ham United, facing the East London outfit in their daunting new stadium.
Despite a less than stellar away record so far this season, the Reds ran riot at the London Stadium, producing an emphatic victory which bore all the hallmarks of Jürgen Klopp’s world-renowned “gegenpressing” system. From swift counter-attacking play to short, precise passing, the away fans were treated to a seriously standout performance, while the home faithful will be glad to see the back of the Liverpool team bus. To really do the game justice, we’re going to give an in-depth review, highlighting the pros and cons of the performance and what this says about the rest of the season!
Super Salah Shines
Mohamed Salah produced another tantalizing performance this weekend, scoring two excellent goals and receiving the Man of the Match award. The first of his brace – which came directly from a West Ham corner – was a masterclass in counter-attacking football. Mane, Salah, and Oxlade-Chamberlain raced forward, three on one, after a decent defensive clearance, leaving Joe Hart practically stranded in the West Ham goal and giving Salah the opportunity to slot the ball away calmly.
If his first goal was simple, then the second was sublime. Taking advantage of a West Ham defence lacking confidence, Salah peeled away from Kouyate, waited for the floated pass, and rifled a low shot past Joe Hart, who once again was left powerless to do anything. Since arriving at Anfield for £34.3 million in the summer, Salah has proven to be a formidable player. His awareness, skill, and frightening pace have made him the bane of centre-backs up and down the table, and he doesn’t look like stopping anytime soon. If Liverpool really want to push for a top four finish, then keeping Salah fit and free-scoring needs to be a top priority, as he’s quickly becoming something of a talismanic figure at the club.
The Return of Mane
Another player who lit up the London Stadium was the returning Sadio Mane. Having overcome a hamstring injury which has seen him side-lined since early October, Mane started the game and quickly made his mark on proceedings. There’s no denying that when he hasn’t been available this season, Liverpool have missed the Senegalese’s attacking flair and lightning-fast feet – and when paired with Mo Salah, they’re too much to handle.
Mane led the counter-attack that produced the opening goal, coolly skipping over a West Ham defender as he tried to bring the Liverpool forward down before sliding a pass through to Salah. After that early warning, every time Mane touched the ball the West Ham defence either backed off or crowded him out, clearly nominating him as the main threat in the Liverpool attack. Obviously they weren’t being cautious enough, as Mane created a little bit of space in the centre of the park before lifting a killer ball over several West Ham defenders for Salah to bag his second.
While he may have not got on the scoresheet himself, Mane’s impact on his return was clear to see. Not only did he transition the play beautifully from defence to attack, he showed no signs of ring rustiness and wasn’t afraid to run at defenders, creating pockets of space throughout the final third. With him back in the starting XI alongside the likes of Salah and Firmino – and the soon to return Coutinho – Liverpool are looking like a force to be reckoned with.
Oxlade-Chamberlain Asserts Himself
One man who will feel vindicated after this weekend’s performance is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The young Liverpool midfielder netted his first Premier League goal for the club, having made the summer switch from Arsenal in search of more first team opportunities. He worked well within the Liverpool setup, helping to bring the ball forward frequently, and joining the attacks down the left-hand side. His goal, albeit from a rebound, was taken well, with the Ox making space for himself before firing through Joe Hart and into the top of the net.
Overall his performance was a welcome sight for many Liverpool fans. His pace and power will be needed throughout the rest of the season, and now that he’s adding goals to his game, Klopp will be much more inclined to start the new addition.
Is Defence Still an Issue?
One of the big questions coming into this game was whether Liverpool could put their defensive frailties behind them. While this is something we (accurately) highlighted in our Liverpool v Tottenham preview, it seems that they have tightened up at the back. West Ham may be flirting with the bottom of the table but there’s no denying they have serious attacking quality – with players like Hernandez, Lanzini, and Ayew to name a few. While they did sneak a well-taken goal through Lanzini – with Joe Gomez showing his relative immaturity at right-back – they never looked like scoring again.
The defensive display was much improved after the hammering at Wembley, a welcome sign for Liverpool fans who were becoming concerned about the amount of goals being conceded. However, it’s important to remember that they were playing a team that’s low on confidence, so don’t go putting your money on them keeping clean sheets just yet. But if you are feeling lucky, you can find the best odds on Liverpool’s next game from some of the top UK bookmakers.
Coming off the back of this victory, the Liverpool faithful will be hoping that it really kick-starts the remainder of the season. After some stuttering displays filled with defensive errors, wins like this need to become the norm, especially against opposition in the bottom-half of the league table. And with Merseyside’s other big club struggling to find a manager, the Reds will be hoping that they can assert their footballing dominance over the city once again. We all know that football is unpredictable at the best of times, but this display is an encouraging sign that Klopp’s boys could do something special in the 2017/18 season.