What use is it to have a Van Dijk – who was back to his best self today, and individually prevented the Hammers from hammering in a couple more – when the team otherwise can’t play defense? It looks like some teams in the premier league have figured out how to exploit Liverpool’s wingback extreme forward play. Yet, even as they clearly tried to go after Trent’s side, the lethal holes today weren’t there as much as they were on Robbo’s. Sure, West Ham spent a lot of time on the left wing to try and take advantage of Liverpool’s future captain’s absence due to his attacking duties, but leaving Alisson’s bizarre own goal from the corner aside – which looked like a clear foul to me – they didn’t manufacture anything particularly good from there. It was at the other side where the real danger kept coming. Around the 70th minute, after another crucial tackle giving away a corner, the look on Van Dijk’s face and his sad shake of the head told the whole story. He was constantly exposed.
Even so, West Ham scored two of their goals from corners, a department where they have no equal.
Even more so, the Reds should have still won this game. Which brings us to Mane.
Yes, he is scoring again, but even in this supposedly decent form, his wastefulness is costing the team again and again. He had two clear goal opportunities today, and should have scored both; not to score either of them was nigh unforgivable in this kind of game. The first one would have likely led to a completely different scoreline, too. Add to that Mane’s lack of effective cover for Robbo, something that Salah was doing very well on the right flank for Trent, and it’s all a team like West Ham needs to make happy. Mane and Robbo are also not combining as well as they used to in attack, further putting pressure on Liverpool’s left.
It may be time to give Tsimikas a few more opportunities.
This is not to take from the home side, who are playing perhaps the best football the club has ever seen. Their third place in the league table is well-earned and well-deserved. David Moyes notched his first ever victory over Klopp, but perhaps more importantly from the Hammers’ perspective, it didn’t come as a shock. This was always going to be a difficult outing, and it proved to be too much for the Reds today. Chief architect for the Hammers was Pablo Fornals, who gets my man-of-the-match nod. He played his socks off, running between the boxes like a man possessed, and took his goal reasonably well. On a different day, Alisson might have saved it, as we have seen him do many times, but West Ham are in a moment where things just fall their way and so it went in.
Trent did score a set piece on West Ham, a first this season for any team, and did so in brilliant fashion. Origi’s goal was excellent too, reminiscent of his goal against Spurs in the Champions League final a couple of years back. In the end though, there is this: Liverpool were better, more threatening overall and got plenty more opportunities on goal. The Merseysiders should have won, and would have against many lesser teams. Against West Ham in its current form, it wasn’t enough.
Still, we can feel encouraged; when the drop in form happened last time after a big win – that famous 7-0 against Palace – it felt completely different. The Reds are still creating, still threatening massively, and still scoring. Losing is never pleasant, but it is better when it is to a worthy opponent.
Today’s opponent most certainly was.