The final result and the fact that the Reds were trailing for a full 14 minutes may have lead some to believe this was an even game, but in reality, Liverpool took an early lead, relaxed a little more than they should have against a side fighting for their lives against relegation, conceded from their first two shots on target, and then poured it on when they had to in order to get the win.
It was less dramatic than it might have seemed at first glance, is the point, and below, we take a closer look at the specifics of it, as well as some winners and losers.
Turning The Screw: It has been apparent when watching their games this year — and the numbers bear it out — that the Reds manage their intensity levels a lot more carefully than has been the case in seasons past. In general, their shots and chances tend to come in clusters, and when leading, they either control possession or manage their opponents with a lower intensity press, down as much as 40% compared to seasons past.
What they have also become quite remarkable at, is turning up the heat when needed. When they look to be in cruise control, or even just appear sloppy, one always feels like they could shift into another gear if the situation demands it.
Against West Ham, after going down 2-1 to their visitors’ second shot on target, Liverpool stepped on the pedal. They hemmed the Hammers into their own area, generated dangerous situation from both open play and set pieces, and produced a shot every two minutes until they were back on top, conceding only a single effort against them in that 25-minute period.
They goals themselves may have appeared haphazard, and even lucky, in the case of Mohamed Salah’s equaliser, but the situations in which they occurred were clearly the result of the Reds simply upping the intensity and pressure until their opponents cracked.
Alisson Becker: With five minutes to go, Liverpool’s number one was scheduled to go in the next category. Having conceded West Ham’s first two shots on target — neither of them particularly spectacular finishes —the Brazilian was not having a good night, and had the Reds not been able to do what they do and mount a comeback, the former Roma man may have become something of a scapegoat in the eyes of some.
Such are the margins in this sport, however, and with an outstanding facial parry to keep out the Hammers’ best chance of the night and keep his side in front, Alisson once again turned himself into the hero.
Łukasz Fabiański: Although he made four saves on the night, some of them quite impressive-looking, Monday night will not go down as one of Fabiański’s best. The 34-year old could only get the softest of hands on Georginio Wijnaldum’s opener, made a dreadful error in conceding Salah’s well-worked but poorly finished equaliser, and could not get off his line fast enough to close down Trent Alexander-Arnold before Sadio Mané’s go-ahead goal.
With West Ham mired deep in the relegation race, they’re going to need heroics from their goalkeeper in the upcoming games to avoid the drop, and the former Arsenal man was unable to provide that tonight.
Fun With Numbers
13: The number of single-goal victories the Reds have racked up this season. From 1-0 to 3-2, Liverpool have become masters of doing just enough to secure the win.
18: And secure the win they do. Eighteen in a row, in fact, equaling Manchester City’s win streak from last season. If the Reds can overcome Watford away on Saturday, they will take the record for themselves.
1038: The number of days that have passed since Liverpool last lost at Anfield. In that time, the Reds have played 54 home games, bettered only by Chelsea’s preposterous 86-game record from 2008.
110: The number of points the Reds have collected in their last 38 games, or equivalent of a full season. That is 10 points more than Manchester City managed in their record-breaking 2017/18 season, and eight points more than any 38-game run in league history.
What Happens Next
The Reds travel to London on Saturday to take on 19th placed Watford, completing their three-game run against the bottom three sides in the league. With Manchester City playing in the Carabao Cup final, that gives Liverpool the opportunity to go 25 points clear of their nearest rivals, before they head back to London for their FA Cup fifth round clash with Chelsea next Tuesday.
Time will tell what kind of approach Jürgen Klopp takes with these fixtures, but the smart money is on the German putting out his strongest XI in the league until the title is in hand.