The return of Mane and Salah’s ‘Goal’den touch – 5 talking points from West Ham 1-4 Liverpool

Liverpool put a relegation-threatened West Ham to the sword as Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane shone in a convincing 4-1 away victory on Saturday.


West Ham 1–4 Liverpool

Premier League, London Stadium
November 4, 2017

Goals: Lanzini 55′; Salah 21′, 76′, Matip 24’, Oxlade-Chamberlain 56′


Fluid Formation

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, November 4, 2017: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp before the FA Premier League match between West Ham United FC and Liverpool FC at the London Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

West Ham couldn’t live with the fluidity of the movement shown by Liverpool in the first half.

When detailed by Slaven Bilic to stay with their man, it can’t have been easy for any West Ham player to follow his instructions as Liverpool rotated from minute to minute.

Expecting a 4-3-3 it was evident within the opening moments that Liverpool were adopting a 4-4-2; however, as Klopp has mentioned on several occasions, players’ starting points are purely that.

Just prior to Salah’s opening goal Liverpool had lined up as 4-2-3-1 in possession and 3-4-3 without the ball; alternating to a 2-4-4 once Joel Matip had grabbed the second.

In short, for the opening 45 minutes Liverpool confused their opposition—something that Klopp’s ‘peak Dortmund’ were famous for.

 

Midfield Changes

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, November 4, 2017: Liverpool's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates scoring the third goal during the FA Premier League match between West Ham United FC and Liverpool FC at the London Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Picking up an ankle injury midweek it did look as if Georginio Wijnaldum would take no part on Saturday.

However, speaking to BT Sport, Klopp explained that the Dutchman had a good night and the swelling had “disappeared” by the time the players convened this morning.

Jordan Henderson had the opposite—declared unfit just prior to kickoff, it was Emre Can who found himself thrust into the holding role.

The German has been under much scrutiny of late regarding his contract situation—but he showed he can be relied upon despite the uncertainty of his future.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also found himself as part of the starting lineup, and the ex-Arsenal man had a fine game on his first Premier League start under Klopp, capping his day off with a well-taken goal.

 

The Return of Mane

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, November 4, 2017: Liverpool's Sadio Mane celebrates after his side's fourth goal during the FA Premier League match between West Ham United FC and Liverpool FC at the London Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day was the announcement 60 minutes before kickoff that Mane would once again be featuring for the Reds.

The Senegalese attacker had been out since the start of October with a pulled hamstring, and was not expected to make a return to the Liverpool lineup so quickly.

His presence was felt almost instantly as Liverpool looked more threatening with him in the side, the speed he offers giving Klopp’s attack an extra boost.

This speed was on full display on the 23rd minute as Liverpool broke from a West Ham corner and Salah was on hand to open the scoring.

Mane was instrumental, receiving the ball deep inside the Liverpool half he drove 70 yards at frightening pace before finally sliding the ball to his Egyptian strike partner to punish the Hammers’ sloppy defending.

 

Salah’s ‘Goal’den Touch

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, November 4, 2017: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates scoring the first goal during the FA Premier League match between West Ham United FC and Liverpool FC at the London Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

“I had the confidence to come to England again, I am not surprised,” said Salah when he was asked post-match if he could have imagined his start to life in a red shirt would go so well.

Deservedly named Man of the Match by BT Sport, the Egyptian was only inches away from a hat-trick, but as it was his goals bookended a professional display by the Reds.

With 12 goals in 17 games, Salah has certainly settled into life at Liverpool; factor in his four assists and his contribution to Klopp’s side cannot be underestimated.

Performing at the highest level for both club and country, Salah is as important to Liverpool as his counterpart Mane.

 

Defensive Frailties

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, November 4, 2017: Liverpool's Joe Gomez and West Ham United's Manuel Lanzini during the FA Premier League match between West Ham United FC and Liverpool FC at the London Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

From a comfortable position, sitting at 2-0 up, it was Joe Gomez who inexplicably allowed Manuel Lanzini to outmuscle him from a lofted Andre Ayew cross.

The young defender was turned inside out by the Argentine as he popped the ball past Simon Mignolet.

Thankfully, West Ham were just as poor at the back and it only took 57 seconds for Oxlade-Chamberlain to restore the two-goal cushion, and the Reds went on to win easily.

What is worrying is that the Liverpool defensive unit lived life on the high wire for periods of the second half.

In a display polar opposite to that shown in the first 45 minutes, the nerves returned and the high ball into Andy Carroll and the following knockdown worried the pairing of Matip and Ragnar Klavan considerably.

Had Liverpool been up against an opponent with more confidence, or better ability, a two-goal cushion would have again looked to be slimmer margin than it should be.

With the international break delaying the visit of Southampton to Anfield, there will be efforts made no doubt within the backroom staff to address the frailties shown.

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