After a nervy few opening minutes, Liverpool began to assert themselves on the match and took an early lead from a Mohamed Salah penalty. Despite controlling much of the play during the rest of the first half, the Hammers snuck a goal back just before the half. As we have seen time and time again this season, Liverpool ratcheted up the pressure in the second half and scored two more goals for their third 3-1 win in a row.
Below, we take a look at some winners and losers on the night, and attempt to disentangle narrative from fact.
Ho-hum, another match and another tally on the score sheet for Mo. His penalty goal makes it 12 Premier League matches in a row that he has made it on the score sheet, and puts him three behind his previous Premier League record of 15. Salah now has three goals and four assists through the opening six matches.
Mohamed Salah is the first player in Premier League history to score or assist in 12 consecutive games TWICE.— Squawka (@Squawka) September 24, 2023
◉ 15 games - August to December 2021
◉ 12 games - April 2023 to present
A living legend. pic.twitter.com/PTvWsSqGfG
Outside of the goal itself, Mo was absolutely electric all match long. He should have had an assist had Darwin Núñez not fluffed his lines (more on that later), and Mo was a terror on the dribble all match long.
Coming into the match, West Ham had used their squad height and physicality to be dominant in the air, especially on set pieces. Liverpool’s defensive unit stepped up to the challenge and absolutely bossed it in the air. Virgil van Dijk led all players with 11 aerial challenges won per Whoscored.com. A couple of those were in the attacking end, and he assisted Diogo Jota with a nodded ball from a corner kick back to the far post.
Joel Matip won 4 aerial challenges, and absolutely bossed Michael Antonio. Despite his lanky frame, Matip won the physical battle with the imposing Antonio both in the air an on the ground. Matip finished the match with 5 clearances and 2 interceptions along with a tackle.
The oft maligned Joe Gomez continued his run of good performances, winning 2 aerial duals to go along with 3 tackles and 2 interceptions. He was also active progressing the ball and getting into the attack with 2 dribbles and providing 1 key pass along with going 3 of 5 on long passes.
It wasn’t always perfect, and Alexis Mac Allister still doesn’t look the most comfortable in a holding role (and needs to clean up some turnover issues). Still, Liverpool’s midfield bossed the match with the Hammers. Curtis Jones completed 39-41 (96%) passes, Mac Allister completed 83 of 87 (95%), and Dominik Szoboszlai completed 81 of 87 (93%) for a very efficient game on the ball. It wasn’t just little sideways or backwards passes either as the three combined to complete 8 of 12 long passes and generate 6 key passes. One of those key passes from Alexis Mac Allister was finished by Darwin Núñez for Liverpool’s second goal.
The pressing and defensive effort was just as good as Curtis Jones led the team with 4 tackles, with Mac Allister and Szoboszlai tacking on another 3. After a year of basically not having a midfield presence last season, it’s heartening to see this trio begin to stamp their authority on matches in a big way.
Bangerz Only Núñez
The Agent of Chaos, Himbo number 9, Darwizzy. Whatever you want to call him Darwin proved yet again he has a penchant for the spectacular. Just minutes after eschewing a spectacular chance set up by Mo Salah, Darwin tracked a clipped ball over his shoulder and hit a first-time finish on the volley for his third goal of the season. With 3 goals and 1 assist in 221 minutes this season, Darwin is averaging a goal involvement every 55 minutes so far. Not too shabby!
For the third match in a row, and for the fourth time in seven matches, Liverpool ended the match as 3-1 winners. The Reds have only kept one clean sheet this season, but they are certainly starting to pile up the goals offensively.
The West Ham striker made it known before that match that he felt his side were going to finish above Liverpool this season. There is certainly still a long way to go, but the Jamaican did little to help his side’s cause as they stumbled to a loss to their supposed rivals. Antonio put in a paltry performance, and was absolutely pocketed by Liverpool’s defense.
Michail Antonio vs Liverpool...— MB (@MrBoywunder) September 24, 2023
1 shot off target
1 big chance missed
0/1 accurate crosses
Dispossessed 3 times
0 aerial duels won
4/10 ground duels won
Defo finishing above us with that performance pic.twitter.com/rCXkip8336
With Trent Alexander-Arnold still missing, the biggest tactical question was whether Joe Gomez would tuck inside as an inverted fullback in possession, or if Liverpool would play as a more traditional 4-3-3. The answer was...yes. At times, Gomez did tuck inside. He even had a sequence where he received the ball facing his own goal, rolled away from a press and beat another player on the dribble.
More frequently, however, and especially in the second half, we saw Gomez stay further out right and Dominik Szoboszlai tucked inside as a double pivot with Alexis Mac Allister. With West Ham playing a low block for much of the match, the two were able to squeeze up and recover the ball before the Hammers could break. They both were able to generate chances in the attack from their slightly deeper role, with both providing delicately chipped passes over the defense that were sent into the back of the net. Unfortunately for Dominik Szoboszlai, his perfect pass was tucked in by the barely offside Curtis Jones. Alexis Mac Allister’s chip was finished with aplomb by Darwin Núñez to give Liverpool a 2-1 lead.
What Happens Next
Liverpool enter the chaos of the EFL Cup in the third round on Wednesday, hosting Leicester City. The Foxes currently are top of the table in the Championship as they look to make a quick return back to the Premier League. Look for Liverpool to run out a much-changed side against Leicester City ahead of an important fixture away to Spurs next Saturday.