With Sadio Mane injured, Jurgen Klopp was forced into a patchwork attacking line to match the makeshift center back pairing. Liverpool struggled to create clear cut chances in the first half, but came out firing on all cylinders in the second half, scoring three goals on the way to a comfortable win against a West Ham team that was nipping at Liverpool’s heels.
Join us as we try and separate narrative from reality of the match up and how it all went down in the end.
Salah had a goal harshly chalked off in the previous game against Spurs, but more than made up for it today. The Egyptian scored two wonderful goals in the second half. The first was a trademark left-footed curler to the far post from inside the box after creating just a sliver of space. The second capped off a sensational counterattack, with Salah taking a delicate first touch with his right foot from a great lofted ball from Shaqiri before flipping the ball just over the sliding keeper with the outside of his left boot. Besides the goals, Salah’s movement was much improved as well. He was making his trademark outside-in diagonal runs to receive the ball in the box, and was found several times by Jordan Henderson. In a season where Salah is considered to be well off his usual form, he is leading the Golden Boot race (15 scored) by three over Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min.
The Henderson-Phillips Partnership
Jordan Henderson and Nathaniel Phillips became the 12th central defense partnership to start for Jurgen Klopp this season. The two players looked completely in sync from the get go, doing a fantastic job to keep Michail Antonio quiet all game. Phillips was a monster in the air, winning four headers, often over top of Antonio. Nat also played within himself, making sure not to lunge in on tackles, but instead used his body to push players to the help.
Jordan Henderson, for his part, was always available to slide over and help Phillips deal with the dangerous Antonio. Hendo also showed off his passing range from the back, dropping several sumptuous balls on the head or feet of Mohamed Salah.
The diminutive Swiss dynamo performed well playing mostly in the hole. He created the most shooting opportunities on the day with 3 key passes, including the fantastic assist to Salah for the second goal. Shaqiri also showed great energy in the press.
Liverpool’s midfield was quite solid today. Thiago was the ultimate two way player. He led the team in passes with 102, including 2 key passes and 4 long passes completed. His vision opened up opportunities from what looked like positions where Liverpool would just have to recycle possession. He also led the team with 5 tackles and 2 interceptions.
Thiago for Liverpool vs. West Ham:— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 31, 2021
◉ Most touches (119)
◉ Most passes (102)
◉ Most final third entries (15)
◉ Most duels won (8)
◉ Most tackles made (5)
A big influence. pic.twitter.com/zigAiLYa32
Georgino Wijnldum was his usual efficient self playing in the holding role. Gini also managed to get a rare away goal to cap off an impressive passing sequence to ice the game.
Ageless Wonder James Milner started his third game in a weeks time, and brought constant energy. Milner popped up in advanced positions, especially early in the game, to put West Ham under pressure. Milner, of course, never shirked his defensive duties no matter how far forward he was, and steamed back several times to help snuff out counterattacks.
Curtis Jones, while only on the field for about 30 minutes, provided an instant impact off of the bench. He provided the assist for the opening goal, sliding a pass over to Salah after making a driving run from deep. Jones was very involved for the rest of his time on the field, and completed 97% of his passes.
Well, yes, obviously Liverpool won the game. The Reds also had just about every result go the way they needed this weekend. Liverpool leapfrogged Leicester City for third place in the table, and now sit just a point behind Manchester United after the Red Devils managed just a point against Arsenal. Manchester City were the only other top team to win this weekend (Spurs are losing 1-0 at the time of this writing), and remain four points ahead of Liverpool with a game in hand.
The forward just seemed to be well off the pace with everyone else for the most part. There were several times where he was in a position to make an aggressive run to the front post, but instead just hung deep in the box, effectively taking himself out of the play and killing the attack.
Dissecting The Narrative
“James Milner shouted at Hendo ‘you better be careful, because if you keep playing like this, you’ll be centre-back for the rest of your career,’” said Jurgen Klopp in his post-match presser. I love this team so much.
What Happens Next
It’s yet another quick turnaround for Liverpool as the fixture congestion crush continues. The Reds will host Brighton on Wednesday in a potential trap game ahead of a massive clash against Manchester City next Sunday.