5 talking points from Liverpool’s comfortable West Ham win

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Brendan Rodgers’ Reds continued their impressive resurgence in their challenge for Champions League qualification on Saturday as they brushed aside Sam Allardyce’s men. Ben Twelves picks a mixture of discussion points from the 2-0 victory. 

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, January 31, 2015: Liverpool's celebrates scoring the first goal against West Ham United during the Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

An enjoyable afternoon at Anfield saw Liverpool run out comfortable winners over West Ham thanks to cool finishes from Raheem Sterling and the returning Daniel Sturridge, resulting in Rodgers’ side leapfrogging the Hammers in the Premier League table.

Sterling – occupying Sturridge’s natural position prior to the injury-free returnee entering – kept his composure to slot the Reds ahead after being set in on goal by Philippe Coutinho’s delightful dink, and Liverpool took firm control of the game before doubling their lead after 80 minutes.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, January 31, 2015: Liverpool's celebrates scoring the first goal against West Ham United during the Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Sturridge delighted the majority of the Anfield crowd as he made an immediate impact on his long overdue comeback to the side, and the England striker picked up from where he left off as he controlled excellently from Coutinho’s pass before slotting inside the near post with his weaker foot to hand Liverpool all three points.

It was another positive display from Rodgers’ men as they continue their task of clawing back the ground in the race for a top four spot, and here are the discussion topics from the game.

(All stats via Squawka & Whoscored)

 

Defensive Improvement Continues

Everyone knew what to expect of West Ham despite the common but wayward belief of a new approach this season, and the Reds defence stood up to the inevitable physical and aerial challenge well.

Football - FA Premier League - Liverpool FC v West Ham United FC

The away side attempted to unsettle Rodgers’ team and ask questions of the solid back three as they searched for Andy Carroll in the final third, but credit must go to Emre Can, Martin Skrtel and Mamadou Sakho – who produced a superb performance completing 100% of his passes and tackles – with all meeting force with force.

The assured threesome and Simon Mignolet, who impressed once again, dealt with what was thrown by Allardyce’s side comfortably – with the defenders racking up 32 clearances between them – and their concentration assured of no nervy moments as Liverpool went in search of winning the game up the other end – something Man of the Match Sakho contributed to, as his incisive forward pass to Alberto Moreno set the attack for the first goal up and running.

If Liverpool are to keep up pressure on the teams above, more complete defensive performances of this kind will be required.

 

Perfect return for Daniel Sturridge

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, January 31, 2015: Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge scores the second goal against West Ham United during the Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

On an afternoon of many positives, the biggest undoubtedly came with the return and goal for the 25-year-old in his first action since Liverpool’s 3-0 away win against Tottenham in August.

Sturridge made an instant impact making up for lost time after 153 days out as he notched the second goal of the afternoon in front of the adoring home crowd, and while it was the dream scenario with the England man registering on the score-sheet just 11 minutes after coming, there were also exciting signs of what the future could bring.

Liverpool’s first choice striker was delighted to be reunited with his teammates, and the feeling was clearly mutual as the fast, exciting attacking play stepped up another gear and clicked into place with Sturridge’s presence providing a remarkable boost to players and fans alike.

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It’s great to have the goal machine back and his return really could fire the Reds into genuine top four contention over the coming weeks.

 

Brazilian Magician continues brilliant form

If anyone has benefited from Rodgers’ successful formation switch, it’s Philippe Coutinho who produced another masterful performance at a sunny Anfield.

The 22-year-old was central to everything impressive about Liverpool’s attacking play – epitomised as he claimed the assists for both of the goals – which included reigniting his lethal partnership with Sturridge within minutes of having the chance.

The Brazilian rightly received praise from the Liverpool boss post-match for his “phenomenal” passes that set-up the goals – the first of which was a perfectly weighted reversed clip through to Sterling – and Coutinho has found the consistency over 90 minutes in recent months that has evaded him since his arrival in January 2013, now making him such an important figure in the team.

The £8million bargain is a joy to watch on his day and thankfully he’s had a number of them over the last two months – a key reason behind Liverpool’s upturn in form.

 

Adam Lallana’s struggles a negative for the Reds

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, January 31, 2015: Liverpool's Adam Lallana in action against West Ham United during the Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The only downside to an almost-perfect display was the performance of Liverpool’s summer signing who endured a poor afternoon continuing his disappointing form of recent weeks.

Lallana turned in an uninspiring display, contributing next to nothing to the Liverpool attack – including firing three shots all off-target – being brushed off the ball and dispossessed on four occasions – the most of any Liverpool player – and the former Southampton man dawdled in possession too often, frustratingly slowing down the tempo of the pacey Reds attack too many times.

The England man was completely off the pace – one clever ball across the face of goal aside – and was carried through the match by the brilliant work of Coutinho, Sterling and Sturridge, and since producing his best performance in a red shirt in the 4-1 thrashing of Swansea a month ago, Lallana has somewhat disappointingly failed to build on the promise shown that night.

Rodgers faces a tricky situation over how to spark the £22million signing into life, but the 26-year-old is certainly not giving the Liverpool boss a reason to pick him consistently.

 

Brendan returns to the Rodgers of old

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, January 20, 2015: Liverpool's manager Brendan Rodgers before the Football League Cup Semi-Final 1st Leg match against Chelsea at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The poor first half of the season coincided with some questionable features of Rodgers’ management, but the boss looks to have learnt from the bad patch and returned to the manager of the previous two seasons.

Sticking with constant under-performers, picking players on reputation and underusing those worthy of more game time, as earlier this campaign saw, seems to have become a thing of the past for the Northern Irishman, who has done the complete opposite over recent months and has reaped the rewards with the sparking of a much needed revival.

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Previous first choice starters such as Dejan Lovren and Mario Balotelli have rightly been cast aside tasked with the challenge of forcing their way back in, with Glen Johnson having to make do with a place on the bench and Steven Gerrard being managed more carefully, and players such as Sakho, Can and Lucas Leiva continue to deservedly be first choice selections in the team for their consistently impressive performances.

The meritocracy system, after a period away, looks to have made a welcome return along with the real Liverpool manager.

Liverpool have the small matter of the Merseyside derby at Goodison Park next weekend, but first Rodgers’ side must overcome Bolton in the FA Cup on Wednesday night, with a winnable tie against Crystal Palace in the fifth round up for grabs.

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