The good, the bad & Keita’s opportunity – Debating Liverpool 3-2 West Ham

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On an eventful Monday evening Liverpool put fans through a rare feeling of going behind at Anfield in the Premier League, only to bounce back thanks to their resilient spirit. 

West Ham were the visitors as the Reds looked to get back to winning ways after the defeat at Atletico Madrid last time out, and the encounter proved more dramatic than many had bargained for.

Gini Wijnaldum‘s header provided the perfect start before Issa Diop and Pablo Fornals struck for the Hammers to leave Liverpool in the rare position of being behind in the Premier League.

Jurgen Klopp‘s side were far from their ruthless best, but a gritty determination and inability to be out for the count saw the scoreboard soon turn in their favour thanks to Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.

The 3-2 win moved the Reds to within 12 points of officially securing the title, where Watford now awaits on Saturday as Klopp’s side move ever closer to the holy grail.

Here, This Is Anfield’s Joanna Durkan (@JoannaDurkan_) is joined by Samuel Cox (@samueljessecox) and Karel (@karl__karlsson) to delve into the highs and lows from the victory and discuss Naby Keita and the midfield trio for Watford.

 

The good…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Monday, February 24, 2020: Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum (C) celebrates with team-mates after scoring the first goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and West Ham United FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 3-2. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Samuel: I was perhaps one of the few who thought Liverpool were playing quite well even at 2-1 down, but their reaction to falling behind was everything we have come to expect from the mentality monsters.

As Klopp and his players acknowledged after the game, the supporters did their job today, getting Anfield rocking.

Outside fans like to criticise Anfield’s atmosphere, but the fans are there when they are needed most and a tight game brought out the best from the home crowd yet again.

The supporters have become as indomitable as Klopp’s team and it is a key ingredient to this red machine which can’t stop rolling.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Monday, February 24, 2020: Liverpool's Sadio Mané celebrates scoring the third goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and West Ham United FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Karel: The winning mentality of this team is incredible.

Liverpool were not at their best, especially in the first half. However, you still knew that they would get the three points in the end, no matter what.

I finally had a chance to go to Anfield for my first game and I absolutely loved it! It was worth coming all the way from the Czech Republic to sing YNWA with the crowd.

The fans went crazy after West Ham‘s second and proved themselves once again. They just pushed the team to another win with their support.

Robbo and TAA were brilliant and what a big save it was from Alisson towards the end! He’s just so confident and calm – key to our success this season.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Monday, February 24, 2020: Liverpool's Andy Robertson takes a corner-kick during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and West Ham United FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Joanna: The full-backs were the stars of the show, for me. In a first half where we looked on the back foot and were reactive to West Ham, both Trent and Robbo constantly provided an outlet and forward impetus.

The former’s assist for Wijnaldum was incredible and it’s staggering to think he is still only 21-years-old.

As Sam pointed to, this team simply does not know when they are down and out. We all characterise a great team by its ability to win when they’re not at their best and we did that again on Monday.

I, like many no doubt, thought it would be a walkover. And as we’re steamrolling our way to the title it proved the type of challenge we need to keep everyone ticking over amid Champions League and FA Cup exploits.

And soak this in: we’ve picked up 110 points from our last 38 games. The bar keeps being raised and it is a privilege to watch it unfold.

 

The bad…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Monday, February 24, 2020: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and West Ham United FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Samuel: Conceding two goals has to be considered ‘bad’ but after the succession of clean sheets the defensive triangle of Gomez, Van Dijk and Alisson have provided, perhaps a couple of goals were due.

Generally, I thought they played well and their confidence on the ball is magnificent, but both goals represent situations to work on.

Having got a hand to Diop’s header, Alisson will likely feel aggrieved not to have saved it.

Karel: I think everyone could feel how much of an important piece of the puzzle Jordan Henderson is and hopefully, he will be back from injury soon.

The Reds really struggled with West Ham‘s counter-attacks yesterday. They had so much space in the midfield to turn around with the ball and lots of time to find a teammate.

And for the remainder of the season, I feel we need to be a lot more clinical with our chances.

Joanna: As I mentioned before, I thought we were quite reactive to West Ham and it felt as though we were second to the ball more often than not – the intensity was not quite there, with the midfield trio doing little to move the game beyond a pedestrian pace.

The first half was also flat from an atmosphere perspective but it did improve at the start of the second half, notably when Ox came on.

Have to agree with Sam on Alisson, arguably could have done better for Diop’s goal but he’s only human after all – the concern is that on corners we looked defensively shaky.

 

…and Keita’s performance was met with mixed reviews, should Liverpool stick or mix it up against Watford?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Monday, February 24, 2020: Liverpool's Naby Keita during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and West Ham United FC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Samuel: Again, somewhat counter to opinions during and immediately after the game, I thought Keita’s performance wasn’t too bad.

In possession, his ability to drive at the defence and interplay with the forwards in tight spaces is unlike anyone else who can play in midfield for Liverpool, except for maybe the man who replaced him: Oxlade-Chamberlain.

However, I do think Keita needs more game time to return to his best and with Henderson out and fixtures coming thick and fast, he should get it, for the long term benefit of the player and the club.

He brings a unique set of tools to this Liverpool squad, but a run of games is required.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Monday, February 24, 2020: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp celebrates with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain after the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and West Ham United FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 3-2. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Karel: I felt Naby wasn’t at his best, he struggled especially on the defensive side.

But I still believe with his skills on the ball and vision in the build-up, he has such an upside to his game.

Staying healthy, he might be a key player in the midfield for upcoming seasons.

I’d start him in Watford as I expect strong defending from the hosts and it would keep Ox (who really improved our game yesterday) as an option if things don’t go right for us.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 29, 2019: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp celebrates with Naby Keita after the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Wolverhampton Wanderers FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 1-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Joanna: We are in a privileged position in the fact that we can afford to test the waters and spread out game time and while he was not at his best, there is certainly a case to give Keita another run-out against Watford.

There’s no doubt we missed Henderson’s drive in the middle and Keita’s lack of energy and urgency did little to help on what was a mixed night for him.

I thought he was positive in possession early doors but waned as time went on, with Klopp and Pep Lijnders visibly demanding more from the touchline.

Ox came on and provided the drive and forward impetus needed and the crowd immediately responded.

But as Sam said, he has been unable to string together any games and would no doubt benefit from more starting appearances, and perhaps a change in systems to a 4-2-3-1 where he thrived in the double pivot for Leipzig.

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