West Ham 1-3 Liverpool
London Stadium, Premier League
31 January, 2021
Goals: Salah 57′ 68′, Wijnaldum 84′; Dawson 87′
A change in shape for Liverpool at the London Stadium, with Klopp reverting to a diamond midfield which he has used at times in the past.
In general terms it worked well: the full-backs got high, the midfield dominated the game and territory, the front two linked at times. It could have been better, too, with an extra runner from midfield.
For the names starting outside what might be termed the best XI, Xherdan Shaqiri played a brilliant ball for the second goal and had a few moments of great link play, but was a little too on the periphery to be an out-and-out success as a No. 10.
James Milner was brilliant for the first half with his work rate, closing down and offering a runner from deep, but his biggest contribution was to be subbed for Curtis Jones, who immediately set up the opener – to much hilarity from Milly and Klopp, who had exchanged a word or two about the substitution just prior.
As for Gini, he played at the base of midfield again and was very, very good. Defensively sound, on the ball progressive – and even scored late on.
Another Origi outing
The Belgian elephant in the room, or in the line-up, was obviously Origi. His strike rate going into the match wasn’t exactly stellar, with two goals in all competitions over the last 13 months – which given his frequent status as sub, is only around 1100 minutes.
So ignore annoyance or excitement at seeing him in the line-up, ignore the goals he has scored or the chances he has missed.
Objectively, how did he fare here?
In the channels, he wasn’t exactly a constant mover in the first half, which should have been a vital part of the job in a two-man front line. But that improved after the break – presumably after a Klopp word or two.
For shooting and chance-creation, Origi opted for hammering it twice, both into the side-netting, and a toe-poke wide at the near post from closer range. These were…fine, if not great, but essentially the only option he had as his movement is reactive rather than proactive, going to where the pass ends up rather than showing the passer where he wants it.
Work rate and tracking back was decent enough, and while he did miss a couple of early chances to link with Salah, he also teed up our No. 11 with one ball across the box.
All in all, this was probably Origi’s best performance of the season. Given Minamino played far better against Palace and has barely been seen since, it simply serves up more questions than answers about why the Belgian has returned to some sort of prominence of late and what we expect to get from him in games.
Nat at the back
Nat Phillips was rewarded for a good second-half performance against Spurs with a start and 90 minutes here.
All things considered, he was very good: won aerials, covered runners in behind, passed out well and had a good old battle with the man-mountain that is Michail Antonio.
This was another reliable Nat showing, nothing flashy but everything as it needed to be.
Of course, we need a defender and Phillips will have new competition soon by the looks of things – Preston’s Ben Davies appears to be on the way.
After Firmino and Mane both netted against Spurs, it was only fair that Mo got in on the act, right?
Our Egyptian King was brilliant here, not hugely involved with no space in the final third in the first half but clinical after the break, fashioning one chance himself and then showing great technical ability with the second.
It has been a while since the Reds have been a counter-attacking threat off another team’s corner, so it was brilliant to see this old method of scoring rear its head once more.
After a goalless run not long ago, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Salah has been the one to really help end it: two against United, one ruled out at Spurs and another brace here to extend his lead at the top of the scoring charts.
Is it too early to start looking up the table again?
This win, plus Leicester‘s loss, puts the Reds back into third. United have dropped five points in a week where the Reds have won six, so the tables are very much turned there, too.
And it’s four points up to top spot, where City reside after an eight-game win streak in the league.
There’s no room for understating the importance of our next home game, on Wednesday night, against Brighton: it must be a win and it must be convincing.
After that, the challengers come to town next Sunday, and we’ll find out a lot about whether we’re back in the title hunt, or likely to concede our crown.