LONDON — Three factors from the Olympic Stadium as Liverpool wrapped up a cushty Four-1 win at West Ham…
1. Liverpool stroll to victory
Usually in a sport like this, you sense that the underdog’s greatest likelihood of springing a shock is by relying upon counter-attacks and set-pieces. West Ham boast neither the technical high quality nor the best system to genuinely outplay Liverpool in midfield however in these two conditions, virtually exterior the general tactical battle, they may have induced issues.
Sadly, for Slaven Bilic’s aspect, that wasn’t the case; as a substitute, West Ham conceded twice in three first-half minutes from a counter-attack and a set-piece, basically discovering themselves defeated after half an hour. It would solely worsen from there because the guests rounded out snug Four-1 victors.
You might even say each of Liverpool’s first-half targets have been set-pieces: one from a West Ham nook, the opposite from Liverpool nook. The opener got here when Joel Matip cleared Manuel Lanzini’s out-swinging nook and the ball broke completely for the devastating counter-attacking duo of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah to launch a sudden breakaway. Salah’s contact took the ball previous Edmilson Fernandes, the duo raced downfield two-on-one, with lone Hammers defender Aaron Cresswell dealing with the sort of state of affairs he’ll have nightmares about for days. Mane delayed the cross lengthy sufficient for Salah to comb it previous Joe Hart.
If the primary was stunning, the second was scrappy. Salah’s scruffy low nook hit the hapless Mark Noble, forcing Hart into a good save, and Matip could not miss with the rebound.
It’s not the primary time West Ham have conceded a counter-attacking aim within the aftermath of their very own attacking set-piece, nor the primary time they’ve defended set-pieces poorly. Bilic will likely be vastly annoyed: West Ham weren’t overly troubled in open play however dead-ball conditions put them 2-Zero down by the break.
Though Lanzini briefly made cut up Liverpool’s benefit in half with a well-taken end from shut vary, badured finishes from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and one other from Salah accomplished a dispiriting afternoon for Bilic and the Hammers.
2. Salah thrives in attacking midfield
Jurgen Klopp has typically deployed a Four-Three-Three system at Liverpool because the begin of final season however on Saturday he tweaked his formation, fielding Four-2-Three-1 and handed a unique position to Salah, his aspect’s greatest performer to date this marketing campaign.
Whereas one would have anticipated Oxlade-Chamberlain to begin within the central midfield position he supposedly desires to play alongside Emre Can and Georginio Wijnaldum, as a substitute he was deployed in a extra customary right-sided midfield position. Mane performed to the left and Roberto Firmino led the road, which resulted in Salah enjoying as quantity 10, theoretically bridging the hole between midfield and badault.
“Theoretically” is the important thing phrase as a result of in actuality, Salah performed extra like a second centre-forward and in possession, Liverpool appeared extra like a Four-2-Four, albeit with Mane and Oxlade-Chamberlain each frequently drifting infield. It was a barely disjointed system and whereas Salah is an amazing counter-attacking quantity 10 — his performances for Fiorentina in that position have been genuinely sensational — it stays to be seen whether or not he has the intelligence to fluctuate his place, drop into midfield and badist Liverpool to play the kind of pbading triangle that unlocked Maribor in midweek for Can’s glorious aim.
Salah stayed reasonably too excessive up the pitch, with he and Firmino enjoying into the fingers of West Ham’s three-man defence. What Liverpool absolutely required was somebody who might drop off, create three-against-two conditions in midfield to bypbad Noble and Pedro Obiang. That’s probably not in Salah’s nature however each Firmino and Mane made extra important darts into these zones.
This seemed set to be the sport’s key tactical battle: might Salah badist Liverpool break down a deep defence? Two early targets from set-pieces, although, meant Liverpool did not have to show themselves harmful in open play.
Three. Careless West Ham might spell the top for Bilic
There have been events when West Ham have been genuinely dreadful below Bilic. This was not certainly one of them although the Hammers have been simply dreadfully flat, wanting attacking spark or interaction between their attackers.
The hosts did, admittedly, hit the publish at Zero-Zero: a deflected cross ran via to Andre Ayew within the inside-right channel and his dink over Simon Mignolet struck the skin of the goalkeeper’s close to publish. But apart from that considerably lucky likelihood, there was in any other case nothing to shout about right here.
Javier Hernandez is a superb penalty field operator however did not even get the prospect to function within the penalty field. Lanzini floated round on the periphery, compelled to spend too lengthy on the left reasonably than within the centre the place he can solely play when West Ham have possession. Noble once more seemed wanting Premier League high quality in a show that featured a hopeless dive, a mistake for Liverpool’s second aim and extra operating or pointing than orchestrating.
Bilic a minimum of has a ready-made plan B. At half-time, Andy Carroll was thrown on for Fernandes in a Four-Four-2 and straight from the kick-off, West Ham launched the ball in direction of him. Carroll was blocked off, complained to the referee and that was about it. The house aspect demonstrated that they had realized from their first-half errors when Winston Reid prevented a carbon copy of Liverpool’s opener by cynically hacking down Mane on the break within the opening interval of the second half, the final word “taking one for the team” problem.
Yet the extra direct method acquired West Ham again into the sport… for one full minute. A deep cross from the best discovered Lanzini, who brilliantly shrugged off Joe Gomez, introduced the ball down on his chest and lifted the ball into the online off the far publish, a genuinely glorious end boasting each energy and ability.
The bubbles have been nonetheless streaming throughout the London Stadium when Liverpool instantly restored their two-goal lead. Oxlade-Chamberlain’s aim, Liverpool’s second rebound of the day after Hart had saved his preliminary shot, deflated the house badist and lots of headed for the exits when, 15 minutes from time, Salah slammed in his second of the day with a superb left-footed half-volley into the far nook. At least it meant the full-time boos have been much less apparent than the half-time boos however one senses that with the worldwide break looming, it could possibly be curtains for Bilic.
Michael Cox is the editor of zonalmarking.web and a contributor to ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @Zonal_Marking.