“Healthy for the Premier League if Liverpool win the title” – The view from West Ham

2 February 2019

West Ham host Liverpool in another vital Premier League clash on Monday, but confidence isn’t high among Hammers supporters.


The Reds dropped valuable points in midweek, drawing 1-1 at home to Leicester and failing to go seven points ahead of Man City.

A big response is required at the London Stadium on Monday night, but it won’t be easy against a West Ham side capable of hurting the top sides.

The Hammers are experiencing an up-and-down season under Manuel Pellegrini, but there is quality in their ranks that makes them contenders to finish seventh.

With the match looming, we spoke to Kris Gonzo (@GONZObignose) from the always entertaining Hammers Chat to get his perspective on both teams’ seasons and the much-anticipated meeting.


West Ham are 12th in the Premier League – how happy are you with the season so far?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, August 12, 2018: Liverpool's goalkeeper Alisson Becker during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and West Ham United FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Not particularly.

I start each season by saying that there is little difference between 16th and eighth in the Premier League. We’re never going to win it and we’re too good to go down so the glory and ambition has to come in the cups.

The capitulation and team tinkering against Wimbledon will, therefore, be remembered for a long time.

Resting Lukasz Fabianski, Pablo Zabaleta and Declan Rice, who are leaders, and then having Pedro Obiang, Andy Carroll, Arthur Masuaku and Angelo Ogbonna in the team was tantamount to football suicide.

 

Is Manuel Pellegrini still the man to take the Hammers forward?

West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini (David Davies/PA Wire/PA Images)

Yes. Despite the cup debacle he is the first proper football manager West Ham have had in a long time.

It is quite telling that all of our worst players are those brought in by previous managers. Manuel Pellegrini needs a couple of years to make the team his own and when he does we will attack opposition teams.

For too long we have played to survive, but with everyone fit we make teams worry about our attacking players.

A fit and firing quartet of Felipe Anderson, Manuel Lanzini, Samir Nasri and Marko Arnautovic would trouble most defences.

 

Which three players have stood out most for West Ham this season?

West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini (centre) with Felipe Anderson (left) and Jack Wilshere Adam Davy/PA Wire/PA Images)

Fabian Balbuena has been sensational. He is injured at present but he is a fantastic reader of the game and looks like a £30 million defender rather than the £4 million we paid Corinthians.

Rice is an outstanding player who will have a fantastic career.

He has mature beyond his years and his tackling and interceptions are better than most players in the Premier League. He also has leadership qualities.

Anderson is our record signing at £40 million and following a shaky start he has started to show his quality.

Purchasing an expensive Brazilian from Serie A is not a very West Ham thing to do, but he is probably the one player who would not look out of place in a top four team.

Annoyingly, he can often look isolated when other creative players are not in the team, due to many not being on his wavelength.

 

Any who have been particularly poor?

Masuaku, Obiang and Carroll are just not suited to Pellegrini’s style of play.

The loss of Balbuena has meant that Ogbonna has returned to our defence and he has struggled.

 

And what about Liverpool’s campaign? How impressed have you been?

WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - Friday, December 21, 2018: Liverpool's goal-scorer Virgil van Dijk celebrates with team-mates Andy Robertson (R) and goalkeeper Alisson Becker (L) after beating Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-0 during the FA Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers FC and Liverpool FC at Molineux Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

I’ve been very impressed, particularly as Jurgen Klopp lost his trusted lieutenant, Zeljko Buvac, at the end of last season.

Of course, the front three get most of the attention but the most important thing has to be the new defensive solidity.

Clearly, Virgil van Dijk has been a massive influence but the whole unit of him, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomez and Andy Robertson has been impressive.

 

Are they going to win the title?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, January 19, 2019: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp celebrates after the 4-3 victory over Crystal Palace during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Crystal Palace FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

I think so, although they missed a trick against Leicester.

Gomez and Alexander Arnold may well play a huge part in the proceedings when they return and it’s time for Naby Keita to step up.

He looked fantastic when we played in the reverse fixture but doesn’t seem to have pushed on.

I do think it’s healthy for the Premier League if Liverpool win the title – it would mean the last four years have yielded four different winners and that is good for the domestic game.

I also like the fact that the team seems to have been built organically rather than with oil wealth.

 

Anyone you fear for the Reds on Monday, in particular?

BRIGHTON AND HOVE, ENGLAND - Saturday, January 12, 2019: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates scoring the winning goal from a penalty kick during the FA Premier League match between Brighton & Hove Albion FC and Liverpool FC at the American Express Community Stadium. Liverpool won 1-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It’s hard to just pick one danger man – you have so many good players.

If Mohamed Salah gets a run at Masuaku or Ogbonna we are in serious trouble, though.

 

Looking ahead to the game, where do you see the key battles taking place?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, January 19, 2019: Liverpool's Andy Robertson during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Crystal Palace FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Robertson vs. Zabaleta could be key, as well as the battles on the left-hand side of our defence, as discussed above.

If Liverpool play Jordan Henderson at right-back again then Anderson will think it is Christmas, but it won’t matter if Arnautovic and Nasri are missing, as expected.

 

Hit us with a prediction for the game…

With Aaron Cresswell, Jack Wilshere, Andrii Yarmolenko, Fabianski, Balbuena, Nasri, Arnautovic, Lanzini possibly all injured, we can’t compete I’m afraid to say.

West Ham 0-3 Liverpool.

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