The good, the bad & why have the Reds clicked again? – Debating West Ham 1-3 Liverpool

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There were plenty of positives in Liverpool’s 3-1 victory over West Ham on Sunday, with the Reds clicking back into gear over the last two games.

The Premier League champions came up against a Hammers team with six wins in a row in all competitions, but they completely outplayed their opponents.

After a tight first half, Mohamed Salah‘s sublime finish put Liverpool ahead, before he finished off a stunning team move in style.

Gini Wijnaldum put the icing on the cake at the London Stadium, having been teed-up by Roberto Firmino, before Craig Dawson netted a late consolation.

The victory sees Liverpool jump into third place in the table, just four points adrift of leaders Man City, who have played one game fewer.

Here, This Is Anfield’s Henry Jackson (@HenryJackson87) is joined by fellow Liverpool fans Rory Greenfield (@RoryGreenfield) and Jason Roberts (@MrJaseRoberts) to discuss a crucial win for the Reds and explain why their fortunes have changed for the better.

 

The good…

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, January 31, 2021: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates with team-mate captain Jordan Henderson (L) after scoring the second goal during the FA Premier League match between West Ham United FC and Liverpool FC at the London Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

RORY: What a difference a week makes. Two wins, six goals and Liverpool supporters can once again breathe a sigh of relief.

After an extremely difficult spell, the Reds are officially back.

I don’t think they had it all their own way against a well-organised West Ham side, but once the reinvigorated Mo Salah scored that trademark solo effort and finished a devastating counter, the win never looked in doubt.

Gini Wijnaldum also finished his goal beautifully and the Reds once more showed signs that they well and truly have their mojo back.

JASON: Where do I start? Would be quicker and easier to just say everything!

Obviously the goals that we scored were sensational – especially Salah’s second – but as much as that it was the nature of the victory that pleased me most.

Playing against an in-form, physical team, and considering how many disjointed performances we have seen this season, I was genuinely concerned before the game.

Given the crisis that we are experiencing with our defenders (or lack of them), plus the added blow of Sadio Mane missing out through injury, I was expecting it to be a hard slog. But to my pleasant surprise, we completely dominated them.

It was an efficient, controlled display. The lads were patient, kept applying pressure and then didn’t let up as the game went on. As the West Ham players began to tire, we moved up through the gears and punished them.

Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (centre) and team-mates celebrate their first goal during the Premier League match at the London Stadium, London. Picture date: Sunday January 31, 2021. Clive Rose/PA Wire/PA Images

Jordan Henderson and Nat Phillips were efficient at the back, our full-backs were dangerous, the midfield were excellent, especially Thiago, who is really flourishing in a more advanced role in midfield, as Rory correctly pointed out.

Salah is looking back to his exceptional best, too.

HENRY: Positives, positives and more positives.

I was really worried about the game, especially when I saw the starting lineup, but Liverpool were imperious, particularly in the second half.

As Jason alluded to, Salah’s second goal was the highlight for me – it’s the Reds’ Goal of the Season so far, edging out Roberto Firmino‘s at Crystal Palace.

Henderson and Phillips were superb at the back, especially considering they’re the least likely centre-back pairing in Liverpool’s history, and Salah was unplayable after the break. Everyone else was good, too.

Taking into account West Ham‘s form, and a weak-looking XI for the Reds, this was one of best results of the season, in my opinion.

I LOVED that celebration between James Milner and Jurgen Klopp, too. Unreal team spirit.

 

The bad…

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, January 31, 2021: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp during the FA Premier League match between West Ham United FC and Liverpool FC at the London Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

RORY: It feels harsh to call out individual players, but Divock Origi looks more and more out of place in this side with each minute played.

A particularly dour first 45 minutes left me calling for him to be replaced at the break – I doubt I was alone.

A couple of sharper moments in the second half showed what he can offer a side that plays to his strengths, but it feels only a matter of time before he departs the club.

The Hammers grabbing an undeserved consolation goal was frustrating, robbing Liverpool a hard-earned clean sheet, which was particularly cruel on the excellent Phillips and Henderson.

JASON: This is difficult, because after such an impressive display it is hard to find many negatives.

Mane missing out due to injury is an obvious concern and hopefully it isn’t too serious, but that’s more of a general bad point as opposed to regarding the match itself.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, January 31, 2021: Liverpool's Divock Origi goes down injured during the FA Premier League match between West Ham United FC and Liverpool FC at the London Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Being picky (and feeling slightly harsh saying this), I agree with Rory that Origi didn’t have the best first half.

Him starting the game and Firmino being on the bench was a surprise, and unfortunately the dropoff in quality is noticeable. He doesn’t seem to be on the same wavelength as his teammates a lot of the time.

He used to drive forward with the ball and be a real handful for defenders, but I feel like we’re seeing that less and less from him more recently and it was the same today. That being said, he did try a couple of shots and did improve in the second half.

Their goal was disappointing. I felt that the team as a whole, but more specifically Henderson and Phillips, deserved a clean sheet.

HENRY: Sadly, I have to agree with the lads about Origi – he is the definition of a square peg in a round hole.

He tried his best and actually did some good things, but Liverpool are just always more disjointed when he is the team.

I do feel harsh being too nasty about him, though, because he has been far worse in the past!

 

And why have the Reds clicked again?

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, January 31, 2021: Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum (R) celebrates with team-mate Roberto Firmino after scoring the third goalduring the FA Premier League match between West Ham United FC and Liverpool FC at the London Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

RORY: Thiago, for one. Since the switch with Wijnaldum, who once again excelled in the No.6 role, the Spaniard has been instrumental in restoring balance to a previously disjointed midfield.

Constantly passing, probing and finding space to exploit the oppositions weaknesses, he is a player no team will relish playing against.

Crucially, there is a new-found patience in this side – five goalscorers in the last two games attest to this. They’re not clutching at every half-chance or nearly moment now.

By taking that vital extra touch, waiting one second longer before playing that telling pass and showing patience to pick their spot, the goals have started to flow once more.

Ultimately, in a side managed by Klopp, who will instil belief no matter previous form and results, the goals and victories would always come.

In the weeks ahead, crucial games continue to come thick and fast, but with two victories under their belt and a renewed confidence coursing through this side, I’m actually looking forward to the next match, rather than fearing it.

Long may that continue.

JASON: Again, I agree with Rory in regards to Thiago. He is now playing as more of the No.10 in the team as opposed to being deeper in midfield, which I think has made a massive difference.

With Milner and Wijnaldum doing more of the dirty work in midfield, it has allowed Thiago to flourish and have a lot more influence on the attacked third of the pitch.

He still loves getting stuck in – I love the passion but his tackling leaves a lot to be desired at times – but in being allowed to express his creative side more, the whole team benefits.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, January 31, 2021: Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold (R) and Andy Robertson during the FA Premier League match between West Ham United FC and Liverpool FC at the London Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

This switch has also coincided with Trent Alexander-Arnold returning to form, which may not be a coincidence with the reassurance of having Milner and Gini covering space in behind him when he goes forward.

Trent’s ability when attacking out wide has been so integral to the way we play and the success that we’ve enjoyed in recent years, so having him back on form is bound to make a massive difference.

And then we have Salah. He has looked a shadow of himself up until recently, but in the last couple of games we’re starting to see him more like his usual self.

It looks like he’s acting on instinct again, as opposed to checking back on himself and overthinking things. When he plays like this he makes the exceptional look effortless, which is the mark of a world-class forward.

It’s one thing for defenders to know or be able to anticipate what Mo is going to do, but good luck trying to stop him getting on the scoresheet when he’s on form.

HENRY: I can’t add too much more here – the lads have made my job easy!

The Wijnaldum-Thiago switch has clearly made a massive difference, with both players proving far more influential in different roles.

The form of Trent and Salah has improved enormously, too, partly because of the aforementioned midfield change-up – when you have two of the best in the world in their position going up a gear, it’s going to make a big difference.

I think Liverpool’s general confidence levels have improved as well – that’s what winning games does – and it shows, with their football far more fast and slick, rather than ponderous, as Rory says.

Win against Brighton and avoid defeat against Man City – beating them would be huge – and back-to-back titles is still on!

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