Brannagan and Stewart shine, but finishing eludes – 5 talking points from Liverpool 0–0 West Ham


An inexperienced Liverpool were held to a 0-0 stalemate against West Ham United in the FA Cup at Anfield, where the result was the only downside of an overall positive afternoon.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, January 30, 2016: Liverpool's xxxx in action against West Ham United during the FA Cup 4th Round match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Jurgen Klopp’s side have to do it all again at Upton Park after being held to a frustrating goalless draw against the experienced Hammers.

Finishing was the only component lacking from a promising display from Klopp’s much-changed and youthful side, with Joao Carlos Teixeira and Christian Benteke both being denied with a couple of efforts each.

It was a positive performance from a makeshift Reds team, and Klopp can certainly be pleased with his side’s showing, even though a replay wasn’t avoided as he had hoped.

Here are five talking points from this cup clash.

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Brannagan and Stewart Shine as Reds Boss Midfield

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, January 30, 2016: Liverpool's Kevin Stewart in action against West Ham United during the FA Cup 4th Round match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Fielded alongside captain Joe Allen, two incoming youngsters shone with brilliant displays in the heart of midfield.

Screening in his holding role, Kevin Stewart impressed with the fierceness of his competing – winning more tackles than anyone, with six – alongside his tidiness in possession, doing both the simple things and dirty work well.

Alongside the ex-Swindon loanee, Cameron Brannagan was even more impressive, turning in a man-of-the-match display.

The teenager’s class was evident as he dictated Liverpool’s play – making two key passes and posting a 91 percent pass accuracy – while his whipped dead-ball deliveries were nice to see with Liverpool lacking a threat from set-pieces this season.

Marshalled by the experienced head of Allen, who was typically composed and tenacious, the fearless trio bossed the physically superior Hammers’ midfield of Alex Song, Cheikhou Kouyate and Pedro Obiang, outfighting and outplaying the visitors.

Stewart and Brannagan both proved they can be trusted on the big stage, and will hope they are given another chance when the Reds look to complete the job at Upton Park.

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Finishing Costs Reds Progression

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, January 30, 2016: Liverpool's Christian Benteke looks dejected after missing a chance against West Ham United during the FA Cup 4th Round match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Only composure and ruthlessness in front of goal cost Liverpool a place in the fifth round after a largely dominant display against Bilic’s men.

The Reds’ best chances fell to Teixeira, who was denied twice by Darren Randolph – but he should have struck with much more conviction and precision – while Allen blazed his big moment over after Benteke saw his header cleared off the line.

Soon after, two weak efforts in quick succession were easily kept out.

The Belgian should have done much better with the second of those, but his slack finishing once again summed up another poor display in attack, where he failed to provide any remote threat, or contribute positively to Liverpool’s play—outshone by those playing in support of him.

After showing signs of rediscovering their ruthlessness in front of goal, it was an evening of the same old.


Reds Rise to Physical Battle

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LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, January 30, 2016: Liverpool's Brad Smith in action against West Ham United during the FA Cup 4th Round match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The Reds were out-battled with ease in their 2-0 Premier League capitulation against the Hammers at the turn of the year – but there was no repeat at Anfield, with Klopp’s youngsters rising to the challenge.

Stewart and Brannagan set the tone from the off with the pair busy and aggressive in their off-ball work in midfield – where they made 10 tackles between them – while Brad Smith was aggressive and front-footed in his defending, which saw him impress down the left side.

While Liverpool were dominated aerially at Upton Park four weeks ago, Dejan Lovren and Steven Caulker ensured it didn’t happen for a second time – though the absence of Andy Carroll the visitors helped that.

Elsewhere, even though offensive productivity was lacking from both, neither Teixeira or Jordon Ibe shirked the dirty work.

Up against an experienced and physical West Ham side – in midfield especially – it was pleasing to see the Reds stand up to the battle after rolling over against Bilic’s men just weeks ago.


Jordon Ibe’s Struggle Continues

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 13, 2015: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp talks to Jordon Ibe after the Premier League match against West Bromwich Albion at Anfield. (Pic by James Maloney/Propaganda)

After a blazing start to life under Klopp, Ibe’s form has dipped considerably, and it continued with another disappointing display.

One of Liverpool’s senior players on the night – despite his tender years – the Reds needed Ibe to carry the fight going forward and take responsibility to make the difference, and while he must be praised for his determination to do so, his production and quality was again lacking.

The teenager was certainly not helped by the immobile Benteke and also having Teixeira struggling on the periphery of the action for large parts, but he didn’t produce enough despite some rare moments of promise.

His pacy dribbles led to little and his use of the ball was poor, often hindering the pace of building attacks.

It’s easy to forget that Ibe is still so young and he undoubtedly has huge potential, but for someone of his experience despite his young age, he must start showing more.


Unwanted Replay Added to Congested Fixture Schedule

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, January 30, 2016: Liverpool's angry manager Jürgen Klopp during dismal goal-less draw against West Ham United during the FA Cup 4th Round match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Klopp revealed his desperation to avoid a replay with the fixture schedule already hectic for the Reds, but the two sides will have to do it all again in east London.

Liverpool now face eight games in the space of a month, starting with Tuesday’s trip to Leicester and ending with Man City’s arrival at Anfield at the beginning of March, which also includes the recommencing of the Europa League—a competition that has already provided a tough juggling act.

Added to the nine games already played since 2016, Liverpool will have played every 3.5 days since the new year, that all coming after the traditionally busy December and festive fixtures, too.

Klopp will be hopeful injury absentees return to provide him with more of a squad to utilise over the coming weeks, while bolstering his squad before the transfer deadline may also prove more tempting.

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  1. I thought Caulker was a welcome addition in the defense and Steward absolutely bossed that game. Ibe and Benteke need to look at themselves in the mirror with Ojo, Markovic, Ings and Origi waiting in the wings next season.

  2. Does Lyon want to trade Lacazette (30 million Euros?) for Benteke (32.5 million pounds)? Benteke speaks pretty good Belgian French, and would fit into Lyon perfectly.

      • At least that has publicly admitted making a bid. Just like it’s weird that Shaqiri ended up at Stoke when everyone seems to think highly of him.

        • Rodgers wanted him rather than Markovic, according to James Pearce, but Bayern was miffed that we took Emre Can through the back door.

          • … but Bayern was miffed that we took Emre Can through the back door.

            Sounds rather hinky!! Haha!

      • What other top club is desperate for a striker? We’re the only ones. Even teams lower than us like Chelski and Everton have better fit strikers than us. He’ll receive plenty of offers in the summer and we’ll miss out on another top player

    • I was gonna say the same thing about teixeira.. N I could have also been much harsher on ibe. I like Teixeira n Brannagan in the mid… look somewhat like two coutinho at times. I loved the hustle that was displayed by the boys except we didn’t really threaten going up front.. I wonder when the strikers are coming back… I’d like to see ojo given a go next time instead of benteke.. seen enough of him already

    • We should give the younglings more chance. Teixeira, Branagan, and Steward will become our kane, alli, and coquelin.

    • Spot on, I thought Texeira had a great game. One is going from bad to worse, need someone else to come in and create chances

  3. Thought it was a fantastic display from the lads with a lot of youngsters in the team. We played more-or-less the exact same West Ham side with a full strength squad and were beaten twice. Looking good for the future.

      • Of course. I mean, without Benteke’s 6 league goals in 12 starts, we’d be near relegation, but you are definitely right!

        • I’d wager any other striker in our squad would’ve scored either same or even more goals in the same period.
          6 in 12 isn’t overly impressive and someone like Inc’s would definitely do better.

  4. Ibe needs to look up to offload the ball quicker rather than just running aimlessly into contact… He’s a one trick pony.

  5. Klopp is absolutely right to play the younger members of the squad and put his faith in them Our midfield’s future looks bright with Brannagan and Stewart, who looks to me like a perfect replacement for Lucas in the making; I like what Klopp pointed out that 5 weeks ago Stewart wasn’t getting much playing time at Swindon and now he’s putting in a good display against West Ham. Smith and Teixeira look great too. Rossiter could be in the mix and Ojo could end up leapfrogging Ibe if Ibe doesn’t start producing the goods more consistently.

    All of the youngsters’ performances show the affect Klopp has on his players as this team would probably have been mullered if out previous manager was in charge (if they were picked, that is)

  6. Lack of productivity in the final third once again, make a bid for Lacazette as he suits our style of play. Might not be having as good a season as last but Klopp is known for taking decent talent and turning it into world class talent.

  7. Steward, Smith, Branagan, and Texiera all have a future in our club if they keep their heads down and continue working hard.

  8. 6. Great team effort. That’s right, TEAM effort. We might not have won or even been much of a threat but everyone put a shift in to help each other. Great to see.

    7. Despite that, there were some rather casual touches. Allen in particular (as the senior and captained player) should have done better. Often misplacing a pass or selling one short and making his teammate come to the ball. But he wasn’t alone. Our work rate would have been significantly reduced with better accuracy.

    8. J.Tex seemed lightweight and was often muscled off the ball, although he usually had 2 defenders on him. I disagree he was on the periphery though. He just looked it because there was little creativity around him. As mentioned bentekke really doesn’t move much and when he does it’s not off the shoulder into box, it’s out wide leaving no one in the middle.

    9. Smith and branagans crossing distribution was really decent but we didn’t utilise it enough. If this is the best link up system for christian then we need to do it a lot more per match. Still, really good to see those boys send dangerous balls in!

    10. Let’s play these boys again and again, a couple of changes (Sinclair for bentekke) and I think we would have won that. West Ham put a strong team and we matched them. That’s a real positive. I think we can use these guys for the Europa as well as the replay. Really encouraging!

  9. Same line up for me at Upton Park save Ojo and Sinclair on for Ibe and Benteke…………impressed with Stewart and Brannigan, agreed.

  10. “Finishing was the only component lacking from a promising display from Klopp’s much-changed and youthful side, with Joao Carlos Teixeira and Christian Benteke both being denied with a couple of efforts each.”…. was i watching a different match?? WHEN THE HELL DID BENTEKE TRIED????

  11. Brannagan is a top lad. Wishing him all the best. Henderson, Can & Milner cant guarantee a start if Brannagan keeps putting in these kinda performances. I loved the way him allen and stewart maintained the midfield shape through out the game. Good work team.

  12. Remember when Robinson, Kelly, Wisdom, Pachecho, Suso was the bright future? I do. Get a grip.

    FSG need to invest. Before midnight on Monday.

    • Robinson was never that highly rated, got a few performances in between but no consistency really..and he definitely didn’t attack like Brad Smith does. Kelly was an amazing player, too bad his injury got the better of him. Pacheco wasn’t that highly rated either. In any case, Brannagan deserves a lot of respect for his performance today. Didn’t seem like a one-off to me..kid’s got genuine talent for sure.

      As for FSG needing to invest we all agree on that. It’ll more likely be in the summer however.

    • We saw what happened to Suso, Wisdom, Pacheco and Robinson. Kelly was the only good player consistently but sadly his injuries got the better of him.

      For me Stewart, Brannagan, Ojo and Smith are good enough to fight for their spots. Texi sadly i think will leave cause he can’t get that more chances when Coutinho gets back even though he is good, but who knows. My point is, they are better then the last bunch.

  13. I was watching the game thinking to myself:”it’s funny how the 5ft10 Teixeira can hold up the ball better than Benteke does”.In my book Benteke has so far been worse than Carroll despite the goals he’s scored because he’s not making use of the physical advantage he has on the defenders.He should try to be more intimidating,stick out a leg every now and then,give the occasional shove,that would make the defenders more aware of his presence.
    Besides that Smith impressed me a lot as well,he is more composed on the ball than many first team players,i think he should get in the mix a bit more often than he has been so fare.
    In conclusion a great overall performance given the conditions but shame about the result.
    P.S.Any striker that warrants 33m pounds should score that chance Benteke had from 8-9 yards out or better yet lay it for Teixeira who was free on goal.

  14. Cameron Brannagan for me could become Gerradesque in the not too distant future. He looks like he can pop in decent crosses, set pieces and corners and with more game time I believe that he will be the sort of player that could grab the game by the scruff of the neck as we have been used to seeing Stevie G doing down the years.

    • Please please please don’t put that pressure on the boy. He won’t be the next Gerrard, he should be Brannagan and that’s it.

      • Where did I call him the next Gerrard?

        I merely stated that he looked Gerrardesque at times in last nights game and that he could become that sort of player in the future, especially if he continues as he is.

        • I apologize for sounding like i was attacking you i didn’t mean it. I just meant to say that people like throwing the “Gerrard” name around and that irks me.

          Sorry again if i sounded like that. My bad

  15. I think Benteke was rather better than he had been so far. He won aerials, held the ball up, created, even made those runs h’s often criticized for not making. Finishing failed him this time. A bit unlucky with that flicked header after a corner that got cleared off the line. Having said that, he’s clearly still out of form, and it’s still unbelievable misfortune that the other three natural strikers we have are all out injured. If not Sturridge, I hope at least Origi comes back soon.
    What struck me most was that we actually defended set-pieces well. It looks like Caulker could just be the man for that RCB role. We even looked a threat in set-pieces ourselves. Brannagan was better at taking them than all the first-teamers. Stewart impressed with the way that he made a statement to the WH midfielders within five minutes, that he would not be bullied.

    • He’s awful. What about when he picked up that back pass with no one around pressuring him. Just doesn’t have the mentality or courage.
      He is terrified about west ham before he even comes onto the pitch.

      • Is he terrified because he hasn’t been able to rely on a solid defensive line in front of him? The keeper can only do so much. If your centre backs are indecisive and inconsistent it’s not as if the keeper can force them to behave differently.

  16. Struggling in deciding which was worse…. Aspas famous corner kick against chelsea or enriques latest expertly taken free kick against westham

  17. People were raving about Ibe under Klopp, how he had come of age and was about to launch himself into the first team. Apparently Rodgers’ poor management skills had held him back and Ibe was bound to flourish under the new manager. It turned out to be just another short surge of form from Ibe. He did exactly the same thing under Rodgers after coming back from his loan spell, giving eye catching and MOTM performances for a few weeks before fading towards the end of the season. Yet another example of people jumping the gun on the effect the manager will have on this team. Klopp will need time to work out Jordan Ibe and know how to get the best out of him. It seems it’s an issue of application, not skills. Ibe clearly has the ability to be very effective but doesn’t seem entirely sure how to get involved and in what part of the pitch his skills are best utilised. He and Benteke are both looking a bit lost at times, they are finding it tough to adapt to the subtly different tactics and roles the manager is building.

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