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LFC END OF SEASON SALE

Learning for next season? – 5 talking points from West Ham 1-2 Liverpool

Liverpool had to come from behind to beat West Ham as the Reds moved sixth in the Premier League with a third straight win.

West Ham United 1-2 Liverpool

Premier League, London Stadium
Tuesday 26 April 2023

Goals: Paqueta 12′; Gakpo 17′, Matip 67′


Minimal changes, but maximum bench impact

LONDON, ENGLAND - Wednesday, April 26, 2023: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp reacts during the FA Premier League match between West Ham United FC and Liverpool FC at the London Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The boss has kept the line-up largely the same over the past few weeks, perhaps preferring to stick with a not-losing formula over reintegrating those who might otherwise be considered starters.

While not in principle a terrible idea, we were witnessing a few players who do not usually either get the chance or fare well when starting multiple matches in a row.

Curtis Jones barely played for five months but now has five league starts in a row; Jordan Henderson‘s multi-game endurance has been a factor for some time and Diogo Jota is still recovering his full level after a long-term injury.

However, of more note was the boss making earlier subs and the right ones – Thiago and Luis Diaz replacing the ineffective Henderson and Jota before the hour mark.

The bench certainly looks deeper now and immediately after Thiago‘s entrance, the Reds looked a more controlled team on the ball, more creative in the final third.

Klopp was particularly animated on the touchline and extremely vocal, it almost seems as though this end to the season is being used as tactical preparation for next season.


Captain’s involvements

LONDON, ENGLAND - Wednesday, April 26, 2023: Liverpool's captain Jordan Henderson looks dejected as West Ham United score the opening goal during the FA Premier League match between West Ham United FC and Liverpool FC at the London Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

At least two at Man City, and that would be kind; Martinelli’s against Arsenal; Gibbs-White’s last time out against Forest and, tonight; Lucas Paqueta’s opener.

What they all have in common is fairly routine: a lack of defensive tracking, speed to get back or ability to make a telling challenge from our No.14, Jordan Henderson.

That’s just in the last 25 days, too – and this trend goes back far, far longer. And we’re not referencing the many which didn’t go in either, such as when Virgil van Dijk had to tip away a low cross which Henderson couldn’t stop from Benrahma on the counter.

The captain simply isn’t having any consistently positive impact defensively, isn’t able to keep pace with transitions and doesn’t have the individual physicality to stop opponents one on one.

The captain was first off before the hour mark and whatever Klopp might say after the game about minutes and management, performance no doubt played a part here.


Set piece prowess

LONDON, ENGLAND - Wednesday, April 26, 2023: Liverpool's Joël Matip scores 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)

Once upon a time, Kopites jokingly referred to themselves as Penaltypool, revelling in the fume of rivals who complained that fouling Liverpool players was resulting in, well, fouls being given. Mostly in the box.

We don’t get too many of those these days and have been missing them anyway, but our set-piece prowess has very much returned.

Forest were essentially felled through them at the weekend and tonight Joel Matip thundered in a fantastic header off a corner.

The more of those we can add in the final weeks of the season, the more chance we have of rising a few extra places and maybe just keeping our top four hopes alive – though that’s firmly out of our hands for now.


Trent’s role here to stay

LONDON, ENGLAND - Wednesday, April 26, 2023: Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold shoots during the FA Premier League match between West Ham United FC and Liverpool FC at the London Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It was Joel Matip replacing Ibou Konate which was perhaps the surprise off the pre-match, given Joe Gomez can cover the full-back area better in this system.

But without either of the speedier pair who are comfortable in the channel on the pitch, Trent Alexander-Arnold still played his more central role in possession – clearly, it’s here to stay.

In terms of the No66, he was excellent on the ball and aggressive defensively in those more forward areas, but still some work is needed from he and others in who fills the right-back area on transitions.

Matip, meanwhile, fared well in physical battles with Antonio for the most part although the forward did escape for chances off set plays.


Onto Spurs after breaking the curse

LONDON, ENGLAND - Wednesday, April 26, 2023: Liverpool's Joël Matip (2nd from R) celebrates with team-mates 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)

The last time we’ll wear the less-than-popular “dizzying” weird white kit, we finally break the curse of the season and win in it for the first time.

Now if we can wear the immense green one on the final day at Southampton to clinch a top-four finish, all will be right with the world.

Anyway, it’s five without defeat now, three wins in a row and the gap closed to a few teams above us.

We’ve moved above one, too: Tottenham – who we just happen to face next time out.

There’s no excuses left at home and wins are the only thing allowed, so keep the run going, keep the points accumulating and we’ll see what magic might yet happen.

Three home games in eight days next. Three wins there and who knows how this season may end.