The good, the bad and rest required? – Debating West Ham 0-2 Liverpool

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Liverpool finally drew level with their challengers in terms of games played, but a 2-0 win at West Ham saw them pull further away on 19 points clear.

Due to their involvement at the Club World Cup, the Reds’ trip to the London Stadium was postponed until Wednesday night, which was initially seen as an advantage for Man City.

But ‘catchup’ became ‘cushion’ long ago, and as Liverpool at long last equalled the rest of the Premier League in playing their 24th game, they extended their lead at the top of the table further.

Mohamed Salah scored the opener from the spot before laying on another for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, on the way to a comfortable 2-0 victory in east London.

Here, Jack Lusby (@jacklusby_) was joined by This Is Anfield’s Karl Matchett (@karlmatchett) and Sam Cox (@samueljessecox) to discuss the good and the bad from this latest victory.

 

The good…

LONDON, ENGLAND - Wednesday, January 29, 2020: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp embraces Mohamed Salah after the FA Premier League match between West Ham United FC and Liverpool FC at the London Stadium. Liverpool won 2-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

KARL: The controlled measure of the performance.

We heard so often at the start of this month that January has been tough under Klopp’s reign and so on, and while nobody presumed we’d fall off a cliff, the odd lacklustre draw wouldn’t have been overly unexpected.

But we just keep making every match look so easy.

Everything is at our tempo, everything is in third gear at most; we pick our moments so well to up the tempo before reverting to measured, metronomic control.

Big props to Ox for another very productive performance in terms of winning back the ball and being energetic and aggressive, plus a well-taken goal which should do him good.

The three subs were the exact ones I wanted to see come on and a win away to Moyes is always a bonus.

Finally, I don’t ever remember a goalkeeper-and-centre-backs triangle at Liverpool which I love watching as much as this trio.

None of Ali, Joey or Big Virg have a major weakness and each are completely unflappable. Every game they play together is a complete pleasure.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp (right) congratulates goalkeeper Alisson after the final whistle (Steven Paston/EMPICS Sport)

SAM: As Klopp might say: Mr Alisson.

Although this was a game in which Liverpool largely dominated, again, they did concede several very dangerous shots on target.

However, launching across his goal-line and entering the horizontal plane superman-like, the long black-sleeved Alisson denied memorable efforts by Robert Snodgrass and Declan Rice to deny certain goals.

His influence is insane.

But then again, so is having 70 points in January.

JACK: It was a largely routine performance and I found myself struggling to nominate one Man of the Match, such was the quality of the team display.

West Ham effectively set out to limit the damage from kickoff, and it showed.

There have been few less inspiring approaches from opposing sides this season, and I doubt many of their fans can be happy with Moyes as manager.

If I were to pick two standouts it would be Alisson, as Sam explained, and Salah who, after criticism of his outlook at Molineux the previous week, was hugely influential in a creative sense.

Also, as Karl put it, the timing of Ox’s goal was crucial, after a run of ‘meh’ form as a starter. Hopefully he kicks on from there.

 

The bad…

LONDON, ENGLAND - Wednesday, January 29, 2020: Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold (L) and West Ham United's Arthur Masuaku during the FA Premier League match between West Ham United FC and Liverpool FC at the London Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

KARL: The first-half tempo wasn’t great, but it’s the movement in attack which was the big problem—that was missing, and Ox alluded after the game to the patterns of play not being put in place by the players.

Origi wasn’t overly impressive with a big chance in the lineup, we could have scored another one or two goals if we’d have really gone for it and Fabinho still looks like the kid who gets picked last for the lunchtime kickabout at school because he doesn’t actually play football.

More game time needed there to find his rhythm.

Nothing major to worry about though, or cause for any lingering concern.

SAM: In some ways, Liverpool were lucky with the timing of the penalty, they had created next to no clear-cut chances up until that point as Moyes’ Hammers stymied the Reds.

The penalty itself, though, was stonewall.

I saw a few people outside the club questioning the decision—I think the only real question was what colour the card should have been.

The Reds were due a penalty, but they will know they can’t rely on them.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Wednesday, January 29, 2020: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp applauds Curtis Jones during the FA Premier League match between West Ham United FC and Liverpool FC at the London Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

JACK: It could and should have been a more convincing result; Liverpool could have scored four or five.

That seemed down to the Reds taking their foot off the gas at 2-0 up, and though this could be energy conservation, it did allow West Ham a sight at goal on a number of occasions.

At times the possession play was sloppy, and perhaps overconfident, most notably Henderson’s pass back to Alisson which invited pressure, and obviously the passage of play that led to Trent somehow hitting his own post.

I’d agree with Karl, too, that Origi barely took his chance in consecutive starts—time for Minamino’s first league start on Saturday.

 

And whose tired legs will benefit most from the winter break?

LONDON, ENGLAND - Wednesday, January 29, 2020: Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum during the FA Premier League match between West Ham United FC and Liverpool FC at the London Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

KARL: Bobby, Mo, the full-backs and Gini. They all have to get through so much work every game, lots of it off the ball and unacknowledged.

Of course there’s one more game to get through first so most have to play anyway, but I think it would be good if at least one or two changes were made for Saints, even with the upcoming break.

I think Jones should start on the left, he deserves that outing, and maybe we can reintegrate either Fab or Nab into the centre for an hour.

Mostly though, you’d just like to imagine it’s the mental recharge which will have the biggest impact, with the lads coming back thinking ‘right, let’s give it everything again’ and smack our Champions League challengers into oblivion.

SAM: This Liverpool team is literally a machine and not many look worse for wear.

However, as Karl said, I think both full-backs could use a break as their workloads are enormous.

Trent has been quieter the last couple of games and in a rare move Klopp brought him off early, suggesting he is feeling the games.

One other player who has looked noticeably leggy towards the end of the 90 minutes in recent weeks is Gini.

With Keita, Fabinho and Milner all being struck down with injury for some time, Gini has carried a heavy load. He played well on Wednesday night but I think the break will do him a world of good.

The winter break will not only freshen Gini up but, to agree with Karl again, with Keita and Fabinho returning the midfield should be back firing on all cylinders for the home stretch.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Wednesday, January 29, 2020: Liverpool's captain Jordan Henderson celebrates after the FA Premier League match between West Ham United FC and Liverpool FC at the London Stadium. Liverpool won 2-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

JACK: I’d agree with Karl and Sam on the obvious choices in terms of Trent, Robbo and Gini, and it could be argued that, were it not for the upcoming FA Cup replay, Neco Williams should be given a league start in Trent’s place.

But I would also suggest Henderson—a previously injury-prone player who has avoided long layoffs in the past two seasons—could benefit the most from the winter break both physically and mentally.

He has been exceptional of late, and on Wednesday night played three different roles, effectively covering for the absence of both Milner and Lallana, and facilitating the slow reintroduction of Fabinho.

It is no doubt a major responsibility as captain of the world, European and soon-to-be Premier League champions, and Hendo will savour an opportunity to re-energise.

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