Liverpool further secured a firm grip on their top-4 chances by resoundingly beating West Ham 4-0 at the London stadium in a game where Klopp’s change in system proved a difference against sloppy opponents.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp made two changes to the lineup that put up a fading performance against Southampton, Sturridge and Lallana coming in for Brazilian duo Firmino and Lucas. As the lineup came, there was an expectant air of thought that a diamond midfield may be deployed by the German manager bearing in mind what he told pre-match about Coutinho’s position being at 8 is the best for the player.
Well, everything was correct about it, Liverpool did start the game with a diamond midfield and two strikers split apart with Lallana just behind them. Coutinho partnered Wijnaldum in that No.8 role and Emre Can played as a deep-lying midfielder.
As shown in the above image, Liverpool with diamond midfield 4-4-2 formation and West Ham with three at back 3-4-2-1 formation. The good thing from the visitors’ point of view was the system they played was against a team playing with an extra centre-back. Having a diamond midfield ensured that Liverpool always had midfield domination over West Ham.
Likes of Coutinho, Can and Wijnaldum forming a midfield three with Lallana floating behind the strikers meant it was tough going for Fernandes and Nordtveit in the middle for West Ham. Lanzini and Ayew were forced to track back and help out the team in defensive areas which left Calleri isolated.
The selection of Sturridge proved a game-changer from Klopp as the striker was perfect playing against back 3 with a support striker Origi. The good thing about the striker is his ability to play on the shoulder of the last line. For most parts of the game, he was operating from the right-hand side cutting inside which means Collins had to be careful with his runs and also ensure they push up for offsides.
There was one such occasion when Collins pushed up to mark Lallana but due to lack of communication, the other side centre-back Fonte stayed back playing Sturridge on-side when a through ball was played by Coutinho.
As shown in the above image, how a miscommunication in a back three can lead to a goal if the opposition striker loves to play on the last line. Sturridge gambled on Coutinho finding him with that pass and Fonte playing him on-side. Both phases of that play went in his favour and once he was 1 v 1 with the keeper, there was only one outcome.
Coutinho was involved in the opening goal and the Brazilian kept his involvement throughout the game with 2 goals to his name. Playing in a central position on the left side of midfield, he starred with some lovely passes in spaces and provided much-needed creativity which was lacking from the past few weeks.
Many felt he was wasted down that left flank and it was correct, the Brazilian ran up and down failing to make things happen due to his positioning, in midfield he doesn’t need to move forward every time, he can pick a pass or assist a goal from the centre which means he won’t leave his position all the time and allow opposition to counter-attack.
His stats were just staggering and the amount of control he put into that performance was something to behold. He took passes from deep midfield and drove past the first line of West Ham to open them up, with runners like Lallana and Sturridge in the ranks, it became easy for the Brazilian with telepathic understanding and quality coming to the fore.
Klopp rightly hailed the win as perfect. A clean sheet in a difficult place in addition to four goals his team scored, couldn’t have asked for anything better in a game where Liverpool had to win to keep their top-4 chances in their hands.
It is a dilemma for the manager whether he keeps starting Sturridge simply because the striker was breath-taking today but his past injuries have just been too much to be trusted upon. Klopp needs to solve this issue or find a perfect replacement if he lets him go this coming summer.