Talking Points: Liverpool 4 West Ham 0

Liverpool kicked off their 2018/19 Premier League campaign in style with a thoroughly convincing 4-0 victory over West Ham at Anfield. Goals either side of half-time from Sadio Mane were book-ended by strikes from Mo Salah and Daniel Sturridge as Jürgen Klopp’s men moved top of the league. 

Naby Keita leads midfield in setting up platform for win…

There has been much excitement about Liverpool’s new recruits this summer, and perhaps none more so than new midfielder Naby Keita. Fans that had seen him play before knew all about his high energy, technical dribbling and creativity, and all of the Guinean’s attributes were on display in his Liverpool debut. Keita’s run from midfield and eye for a pass gave Andy Robertson the chance to cross for Salah for the opening goal, and the midfielder even slotted in at left-wing towards the end of game highlighting his versatility – not that we will be seeing him there often. James Milner and Gini Wijnaldum were alongside Keita in the Reds’ midfield three, and the pair were equally impressive as they constantly interchanged and gave their side complete control of possession, and hence a platform for dominance in the match. Milner’s tireless workmate was epitomised at the end of the first-half when he chased a ball that many players would have given up on – his chase reaping reward as Mane turned his pull-back home. Wijnaldum looks at home as a deep-lying playmaker, but his ability further forward highlights just how multi-talented Klopp’s midfielders are.

Front three pick up from where they left off..

Salah, Mane and Roberto Firmino formed arguably the best front three in World football last season, with goals and assists aplenty. The trio wasted no time in getting back to business as they were all heavily involved in the win over the Hammers. While it was a straightforward finish for Salah to score his first of the season, his ability to get into dangerous goalscoring positions is as evident as ever. It was two great finishes from Mane to claim his brace as he continued his great record in opening games of seasons, while Firmino assisted Mane’s second and pressed effectively as usual. With the added creativity in midfield, there is no reason why the trio shouldn’t be aiming to score just as many goals this season, and they certainly should be creating plenty of chances for each other to find the net. It was actually little surprise how well they played on Sunday, given how sharp they looked in pre-season, and supporters will be hopeful of the trio destroying more opposition defences this season.

Reds take leaf out of Man City’s book in attack…

The way Liverpool’s first two goals came about, especially the first, is how Man City have been scoring goals for years, and it is important that Klopp’s side utilise the method as it will be extremely helpful against teams that park the bus and leave space in behind. The addition of Keita helps this even more, as central midfielders that can pass well are key to starting these type of attacks off. Simply, midfielders play passes in behind opposition fullbacks or between the gap between the fullback and centre-back which fullbacks or wingers run onto, before pulling the ball for attackers or arriving midfielders in the penalty area for tap-ins. Liverpool possess the creative midfielders, overlapping fullbacks and positionally-smart attackers required to score these types of goals, and you only need to look at the trophies Man City have won to realise how effective these type of attacks can be.

Strength in depth evident…

Games where Liverpool were resting players aside, the bench we saw against West Ham must have been the strongest the Reds have had in recent memory. Outfield options of Clyne, Fabinho, Henderson, Lallana, Shaqiri and Sturridge, with the likes of Lovren, Matip, Klavan and Moreno also in contention, is exactly the level of squad depth Klopp needs at his disposal. Sturridge coming off the bench to score with his first touch highlighted just what a strong bench can offer a manager, and the selection headaches that Klopp will face over the season only bode well. Last season opposition sides knew that the Reds didn’t possess the options to change a game from the bench, but West Ham, having failed to deal with Mane, Salah and Firmino, then had to contend with Shaqiri, Sturridge and an energetic Henderson. The improved squad depth will make a huge difference this season.

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