LIVERPOOL 0-3 WEST HAM UNITED
Goalscorers West Ham: 3′ Manuel Lanzini, 29′ Mark Noble, 90’+2 Diafra Sakho
Liverpool suffered their first loss of the season against a compact and stubborn West Ham side, and conceded their first goals of the campaign. The result was a surprise as both teams were on the back of contrasting performances; Liverpool putting up a tactical masterclass at the Emirates Stadium against Arsenal while West Ham were woeful in thier home defeat to newly-promoted Bournemouth last weekend.
Liverpool: Simon Mignolet, Nathaniel Clyne, Martin Skrtel, Dejan Lovren, Joe Gomez, Lucas Leiva, James Milner, Emre Can, Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino, Christian Benteke.
West Ham: Darren Randolph, Aaron Cresswell, James Tomkins, Angelo Ogbonna, Winston Reid, Pedro Obiang, Cheikhou Kouyate, Mark Noble, Manuel Lanzini, Dmitri Payet, Diafra Sakho.
Home team Liverpool were set up in their template 4-2-3-1 shape, with Milner and Can assuming responsibility to alternate between pressing up and sitting back depending on the orientations of the ball. While Gomez continued in his unfamiliar left-back role, having impressed in the first three games. Firmino made his Anfield bow, tucking into the right half space.
West Ham’s early goal put them in a defensive-looking shape throughout 90 minutes, and they had a block midfield in place in a 4-5-1 formation. Their two wide midfielders, Lanzini and Payet, tucked in with their three-man central midfield with Noble often doing the pressing with Obiang sitting ahead of the rear guard and Kouyate slightly advanced in the right half space.
West Ham’s Formation Morph After The Early Goal
The Hammers scored from their first attacking move as they capitalised on a basic defensive error from Skrtel. And from that moment onward, the visiting team shut up shop and sat back in a vertically compact defensive block which involved their two advanced wide midfielders, Lanzini and Payet, helping out their supporting full-backs.
West Ham closed down central space for Liverpool’s midfielders to play passes into the ‘hole’ area, and kept very little space between their two defensive lines to prevent the likes of Coutinho and Firmino dictate play around their ‘hole’ area. This forced the Reds to take wider avenues, and chances created from crossing situations were largely wasteful.
This was primarily due to the lack of support for Benteke up front, who was isolated inside the West Ham box by their two centre-backs, Ogbonna and Reid. Space in the central areas was at a premium, and hindered Liverpool’s free-flowing game going forwards.
Liverpool’s Ineffective Wide Play
Liverpool’s lack of a workable plan B was exposed as they failed to open up the Hammers’ defence. They were forced wide by their opponents, having been afforded little central passing avenues, and failed to take advantage from wide attacking plays. The 23 percent cross completion indicates their shortcomings in wide oriented attacks.
Most of Liverpool’s final third passes into the West Ham 18-yard area were from the wide areas, and most of them went astray. 67 percent of their shots came from outside the box, which pointed to the Reds’ lack of penetration into the West Ham box and the Hammers’ disciplined rear guard.
Liverpool’s System Changes
Brendan Rodgers made quite a few in-game changes in a bid to claw Liverpool back into the game. Can was replaced by left-back Alberto Moreno in the second half which allowed the Reds to change into a three-man defence, while Clyne and Moreno pushed up as the wing-backs. This switch was understandable since Liverpool were finding difficulties in penetrating the overloaded central zones.
The formation morph was a failed experiment mainly because of Coutinho’s red card in the 52nd minute, which further curbed Benteke’s support up front. The striker fed on scraps all afternoon, and as Liverpool tried to put numbers around Benteke, Coutinho’s red card made them take them two steps back.
Another change was effected when Danny Ings came on for Firmino at the hour mark and Liverpool changed to a 3-4-2 shape with added support for Benteke. Ings dropped into the areas in front of the West Ham defence as they forced forward to take their numerical advantage, but Liverpool’s lack of conviction in passing meant it was an afternoon to forget.
Liverpool v West Ham: Reactions
Liverpool manager Rodgers lamented the mistakes that led to the first two goals, and their overall lack of quality in the attacking third. The Reds managed just a single shot on target in the game.
“The first goal is a cheap goal and that gave them a motivation and fight. The second was a mistake, which can happen.
“We started brightly and then had Coutinho sent off. We didn’t defend moments well at all. We need to be much better than that.
“That opportunity to work the goalkeeper didn’t happen. We are disappointed but we’ll reflect on it and come back and look to win our next game,” said Rodgers.
While West Ham manager Slaven Bilic hailed the performance of his side, and talked up the players, who he feels worked to the plan perfectly. He even defended the Hammers’ defensive shift for almost the entirety of the game, calling it “great defending” off the ball.
“We played good, we started well. We were well organised, and had a plan.
“The players worked to the plan perfectly. Their movement, concentration and possession was top level.
“We parked the bus but we didn’t put the handbrake on. It was simply great defending when we didn’t have the ball,” said Bilic.