The seventh round of the Premier League saw Liverpool gaining three points against West Ham, now becoming the leaders of the competition. It was an important win but it does not clear the air in any way around the concerns about Liverpool’s latest performances.
Undefeated since the past 63 games player at home, including today’s game, Klopp can definitely be satisfied with the three points gained, however, the doubts around Liverpool’s defence are legitimate and evident. The absences of Fabinho and Oxlade-Chamberlain have impacted negatively on the overall performance of the team. Adding to the fact that van Dijk has been replaced by Phillips, debuting in the Premier League, the lack of leadership and strength in the duels has still yet to be judged.
West Ham instead, who were undefeated in the past four games played in the competition, facing the likes of Manchester City, Tottenham, and Leicester, were able to get the best out of the only shot on target during the first half. The Hammers, however, seemed reluctant, focusing exclusively on defending during the second half.
In this tactical analysis, we will examine the defensive organisation of West Ham and we will understand the tactics implemented by Klopp and his key changes. In this analysis, we will also highlight how the Hammers found the opening goal and what caused it.
Klopp started with his classic 4-3-3. Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Phillips, Gomez, and Robertson were in the backline. Henderson, Jones, and Wijnaldum were in the midfield, with Salah and Mane supporting Firmino as the forward.
Moyes’ team instead went with a defensive strategy with a 5-4-1. Fabianski was the goalkeeper, while Masuaku, Cresswell, Ogbonna, Balbuena, and Coufal were the five on defence. Fornals, Rice, Soucek, and Bowen were the midfielders, leaving only Haller in the attack, instead of the injured Marco Antonio.
West Ham opening goal
Even though the beginning of the game showed how West Ham’s main priority was about defending and limiting the danger, the Hammers were the ones putting themselves ahead in the game. It is interesting to check how the goal was generated in order to assess Liverpool’s weakness. Ogbonna, the Italian centre-back shows great vision, throwing a long pass towards Bowen who found himself some space in the core of the pitch.
The manoeuvre develops quickly, however, Liverpool’s players are quick enough to react to reposition, but we can analyse in detail the mistakes committed by the Reds. Jones got attracted by the overlapping run from Cresswell. He moved his body toward the wide-area, leaving Masuaku time and space to prepare the delivery.
Gomez is the one intercepting the delivery, however, his poor header gave the ball to Fornals’ feet. From the below image, it is also possible to highlight how Fornals found space just behind Henderson who got drawn out, losing his positioning. Fornals attacked the penalty area unleashing a perfect shot which will also remain the only one for this first half for his team.
The Reds got heavily punished for their only mistake during the first half. It is natural to picture or imagine how this could have developed with van Dijk being there leading the defence.
The penalty gift
Liverpool struggled in finding space between lines and failed to unsettle the solid defence prepared by Moyes. The team seemed slow and tired, unable to find the right pass or the right space on the flanks as in the inside channels.
At the end of the first half, Jones found the right pass inside the penalty box for Salah, who controlled the ball turning his back to the net. Masuaku, who was proactive and focused so far, made an unnecessary challenge, gifting the Reds with a penalty kick that was converted by Salah.
The still above shows how compacted the West Ham players were, leaving no space in the central channels.
West Ham’s defensive organisation
Moyes can be satisfied with the effort and focus provided by his team during the entire game. For its entire length, the Hammers kept an aligned defence line of five which often received support by the midfielders. The defensive set-up limited the space between lanes and we can analyse how hard it was for the Reds to find space. Mane found himself between Masuaku and Cresswell. Ogbonna was marking Salah, and Diogo Jota had the hard task of finding space between the lanes.
The defensive effort got busted only at the end of the game when the Reds started increasing their attacks putting more bodies forward. The Hammers can regret not having kept ball possession more in order to save some time and decrease the danger.
The win of the substitutes
If Klopp has headaches in finding the right replacement for van Dijk, he can be at least quite satisfied with the ones that he has offensively. As time went by, Klopp decided to apply a more aggressive tactic bringing more bodies on the edge and inside the penalty box. Shaqiri and Diogo Jota replaced Jones and Firmino respectively and made quite an impact in the less than an hour that they played.
Increasing the number of bodies inside the penalty box made the West Ham defence distracted and not able to prevent the danger.
Diogo Jota found space between the inside channel with his deep run. His movement is awarded by Shaqiri, who delivered a great assist for the Portuguese international who scored the second goal for the Reds.
Klopp has several reasons for being happy after the game, however, he still needs to figure out how to adjust his defence. Back again to lead the Premier and six points out of six in the Champions League are comforting, but the Reds conceded already 15 goals this season, which is almost half of what was conceded by the end of last year.
On the other hand, Moyes can be happy with the overall performance of his team, and we must also consider that the Hammers had a very challenging calendar to start with. With some adjustment, West Ham can definitely fight to stay up this season, or potentially more.