Another week, another 2-1 victory for Liverpool. This time they beat David Moyes’ West Ham United. Liverpool’s players and manager, Jurgen Klopp, talk a lot about how they take the season one game at a time. You know, the classic sports mantra and stuff that’s probably just said for the cameras. I’m sure on some level they mean it, but the 90 minutes against West Ham had everything to do about what’s on the horizon as it did about securing the three points. Endurance is the key to the season and, with missing seven first team players due to injury, Liverpool endured West Ham. And that’s what matters most.
The common conclusion people reached during today’s match was that Liverpool weren’t at their best. You just need to see how West Ham were able to score to be of that opinion. While people focus on Joe Gomez’s poor clearance, there’s about five or six different actions before that goof that could’ve done better. Klopp’s Liverpool accepts this reality of not being their best. They may actually be the best team in the world with accepting reality but not bending to it. They pushed and pulled and endured and fought and made sure that they went top of the table.
It probably doesn’t need to be said, but none of us are at our best. That seems to be the central thesis of 2020. None of this is normal and everything is awful and is going to be awful for some time. The backdrop of this game is an empty Anfield, which used to be the host of a symphony of supporters but now is just a cavernous shell of its former self. It’s got to be a jarring experience to actually play on that pitch. I don’t really have a point I’m trying to make here, other than we expect normal things of Liverpool during the most abnormal of circumstances. It’s understable they can’t be at their best, but it needs to be applauded that they continue to deliver.
With all of that on the forefront of our minds, let’s dig deeper into how Liverpool defeated West Ham United.
Winners and Losers
It’s got to be weird to be Nat Phillips this week and just, you know, in general. The manager does a press conference and basically says that the club had planned on transferring Phillips away during the summer transfer window. When everything’s normal, Phillips is probably the 7th choice central defender at Liverpool. He’s not even registered for every competition the team plays in. All of this is true and on October 31st, 2020 he’s starting for the Premier League Champions against West Ham.
His performance was fine. It was not spectacular but it didn’t need to be with the situation Liverpool finds themselves in. With that said I’d really love to read some news this week about how Joel Matip is fit and ready to play next week against Manchester City.
Super Subs: Diogo Jota and Xherdan Shaqiri
So, I was sitting there as the game clock hit about 68:00 and realized nothing had happened in the second half. Just the way David Moyes probably wanted it to go. He’s a self declared football genius, you know. Anyways, I couldn’t remember anything that had happened and began contemplating the meaning of life. As I fantasized about what I wanted to be when I grow up, the clock hit 70:00 and two men changed my life—oh, and the match too, I suppose.
Shaqiri and Jota provided the spark that Liverpool needed in the second half. They made everyone better and they combined for the winner. They continue to be in top form and are giving the manager good problems to have about attacking options.
Mané wasn’t very good today but he’s also very good. There’s always chatter about when a player isn’t playing well that maybe they’re overthinking their performance. Sadio is incapable of doing that, I think. I would’ve probably subbed him off because his first touch was awful all match, but then the second goal doesn’t happen without his ridiculous ability. There’s a reason he’s wearing #10 for Liverpool and there’s a reason why I’m blogging on my couch.
VAR, Refereeing, and the State of Humanity
[insert tirade about life not being fair, include bits about how VAR always screws Liverpool, etc. etc.]
Anyways, it was the right call.
With tonight’s defeat, Moyes has been to Anfield 16 times while managing four different teams. He’s now lost 12 of those matches. In a world where everything is changing all of the time, I love and appreciate his consistency. What a man. I hope he manages in the Premier League forever.
What Happens Next?
As I said at the top this win over West Ham was more about what’s coming up than anything else. Their toughest Champions League group game is on Tuesday, away to Atalanta (Who also won their match today 2-1). They might have a few injured players coming back for that one, but will still have a puzzle to solve at centerback. Should they get through that match with a draw or a win, qualification for the knockout stages of the Champions League is all but secured.
And then. The big one next Sunday. It’s Manchester City at the Etihad. The main rivals for the title. In 8 days we could be in a position where Liverpool are in the driver’s seat to repeat as champions. This week in the world could potentially be years worth of history. But just for a moment, allow yourself to feel what it’s like to beat Manchester City. After that, get ready to endure. Because it certainly won’t be easy.
Up the forever enduring Reds.