Wednesday 7 December 2016

This Liverpool team will struggle to make top four - Five talking points as Klopp's men flop

Ben Bloom

Published 02/01/2016 | 16:47

Michail Antonio (R) of West Ham United heads the ball past Simon Mignolet (L) of Liverpool to score his team's first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between West Ham United and Liverpool
Michail Antonio (R) of West Ham United heads the ball past Simon Mignolet (L) of Liverpool to score his team's first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between West Ham United and Liverpool

West Ham vs Liverpool, Premier League - Liverpool are going to struggle to make the top four, while West Ham continue to impress.

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They don't score and concede too many - this Liverpool team will struggle for top four

For three or four minutes the Liverpool players stood on the Upton Park turf waiting for the opposition to emerge for the second half. Presumably Jurgen Klopp had kept things short and sweet at the break before banishing them from the changing room with a few choice words.

The German's team-talk seemed to work for all of nine minutes before Andy Carroll doubled West Ham's lead. The sorry episode pretty much summed up the lack of fight and lack of bite from Klopp's side.

The visitors were completely outplayed in almost every department today. Second to everything at the back, they had little any sense of cutting edge going forward and the less said about Benteke, the better (although we will say more a bit later). Of teams in the top half of the table only Stoke have scored fewer and only Leicester (the league's top scorers) conceded more. The Champions League is a long way off.

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But West Ham continue to impress

In an interview with Jason Burt this week, West Ham manager Slaven Bilic talked about his ambition for West Ham to become a top-six club. "I will give my everything to try and achieve that but basically you can’t become a top six club unless you have done it for three, four, five years," he said. Bilic has certainly made a strong start.

This win stretched West Ham's unbeaten run to seven matches and (ahead of the 3pm fixtures) moved them up to fifth in the Premier League table. Whether they stay there is another question but it was the manner of the victory that will most please ther manager.

Content to let Liverpool keep possession, West Ham's players showed the type of determination required to frustrate their opponents with an almighty defensive effort.

Their first goal came from what should have been a foul committed by Michail Antonio but the fact that he had tracked Alberto Moreno all the way towards his own goal was indicative of the attitude Bilic has created among his players. Special mention to James Collins: solid and utterly unspectacular in a brilliant way.

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Benteke lacks awareness, movement and more

it wasn't as bad as his last-minute miss against Leicester on Boxing Day. Very few misses are ever going to compare to that atrocity. But there was a fairly innocuous moment 25 minutes into the match at Upton Park that pretty much summed up all the frustrations felt by Liverpool fans towards the Belgian this season.

Played in behind the defence by Firmino, Benteke thought he had all the time in the world to amble towards goal. He didn't. James Collins was rapidly tracking back behind him and capitalised on a second touch that was both clumsy and lazy to intercept.

Given a sight of goal and with only Adrian to beat it was precisely the type of chance that someone like Sergio Aguero, Jamie Vardy or Harry Kane would bust a gut to convert. Instead Benteke barely realised it was even available.

 

West Ham have unearthed a gem in Lanzini

Only last week Hammers co-chairman David Sullivan confirmed the club have until April to make Manuel Lanzini's loan move from Al Jazira Club permanent, insisting that the Argentine "could be as good as any player in the world". Do not wait a day longer. Sign him up Dave.

Already a fan favourite after some impressive performances in the first half of the season, Lanzini has that rare thing: the ability to produce a piece of magic from nowhere.

He scored a stunner in the defeat against Tottenham in November and almost bettered that today with a thunderous drive from range that smashed into Simon Mignolet's upright. Yes, he may have defensive deficiencies but that doesn't harm Lionel Messi much does it? (NB. Lanzini isn't as good as Messi) The Hammers will be hoping the injury that forced him off prematurely is not a serious one.

 

Klopp may have to rethink his transfer plans

The Liverpool manager has made it clear that he does not particularly want a busy January transfer window. Instead he wants to allow the existing the players time to prove themselves and impress him.

They did little of that today but it was a look at the bench that will perhaps worry him most in the long-term.

While injuries are in part a mitigating factor, Klopp had no one to replace the misfiring Benteke who started poorly and slowly got worse. Indeed the sum total of his attacking options among the substitutes consisted of Adam Lallana, Joe Allen and teenager Cameron Brannagan.

If you were looking for a side with strength in depth, it was far more in evidence with West Ham who left the likes of Alexandre Song and Nikica Jelavic unused, while Dimitri Payet made his return from injury. If the money is there, use is Jurgen.

 

Telegraph.co.uk

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