While Wednesday night’s 1-0 victory over West Ham wasn’t a perfect performance for Jürgen Klopp’s Reds, not on the level of their weekend victory over Manchester City or last week’s demotion of Rangers, it was another solid outing and perhaps more importantly for a side that has had a difficult start to their 2022-23 season it ended with three points.
Join us, then, as we dig into a few of the storylines that Liverpool will be dealing with and the fans will be talking about in the aftermath.
Look, I know you all want to talk about Darwin Nuñez going fast and shooting hard, but nobody deserves more plaudits following last night’s match than goalkeeper Alisson. He’s been the Reds’ player of the season to date, and it hasn’t been particularly close. And again on Wednesday, he was their best. He was probably the best player on the pitch.
Largely thanks to their penalty—which it feels like it should be pointed out was deserved such has been the diabolical state of Premier League officiating this season—West Ham ended the match with more expected goals than the Reds, edging the hosts 2.49 (with 0.76 xG coming from that penalty and 1.73 xG the rest of the way) to 2.24 as per Understat. Any game that sees your opponents create that much in attack and walk away with nothing, the goalkeeper is the hero, full stop.
Meanwhile at the other end of the pitch, Darwin was showing why Liverpool spent £70M on the Uruguayan striker. Because holy shit did you see Darwin Nuñez go fast and shoot hard? His spectacular headed goal was the margin in the game but he could easily have had two more via a pair of thunderous left-footed efforts that had me—and I imagine a lot of others—double checking he is, in fact, right footed. Or that’s what everyone says. On the evidence of Wednesday, everyone might be lying.
As for the go fast side of things, he only went and set a new standard for the Premier League, clocking a top speed of 38km/h and bettering the previous high of 37.8km/h set by Kyle Walker in 2020. The fastest a human being has ever been recorded running is Usain Bolt, who briefly cleared 44km/h in his world record setting 100M dash in 2009.
So sure, it’s probably fair to say that Darwin isn’t quite the finished product, but if Liverpool had signed him as a finished product rather than an exceptional but still somewhat raw 23-year-old he would have cost a lot more than £70M. The rest will come with time, and until it does, we’ll be sitting here in awe of his pace and power—and the chaos he can sow.
It feels harsh to single out Gomez, but after putting in his best performance since before Covid against Man City over the weekend, the centre half struggled at times against West Ham and his decision to jump knee-first through the back of an attacker heading away from goal in the penalty area was just a preposterously bad idea. He owes Alisson a case or three of his favourite libation for saving the ensuing penalty and allowing his decision to end up a footnote rather than the main talking point.
Dissecting the Narrative
If Liverpool’s performance in their previous game against City had felt like the Reds at this group’s vintage, high-flying best, Liverpool dialling back the press here and nursing a 1-0 lead over the finish line in a close game where they were the better side from open play felt like something of a throwback in its own right.
West Ham may have had their chances—and the xG edge taking the penalty into account—but with Alisson’s stop from the spot a recorded fact by the time the second half kicked off, the Reds properly managed the game state. It wasn’t always comfortable to watch as a fan given how the 2022-23 season has started, but it was the sort of performance they’ve relied on in the past on route to 90+ point seasons and the sort of performance they’ll need again regularly if they’re to claw their way back up to where they want to be.
Even at their best under Jürgen Klopp, Liverpool has never just been one consistent thing week in and week out, and taken as a whole, the past eight days—7-1 demolition of Rangers, fiery performance against City, and game management against West Ham—really does add up to something of a complete picture of what we know this Liverpool side can do.
What Happens Next
While the past eight days might well be a good summation of this Liverpool side at their best, it’s still just eight days. Their place in the table looks a little healthier, seventh with a game in hand on two of the sides they’re chasing rather than languishing in the bottom half. And the mood is certainly better. But it’s just eight days, and they’re still just seventh—seven points behind City and a full 11 back of Arsenal, both of whom have played as many games.
In short, there’s a lot more work to do, and they’ll need to get right back to it and earn another three points against Nottingham Forest on Saturday in order to keep it going.