Perfect Start for Ambitious Reds
Liverpool fans knew a good start would be crucial to pushing on this season, and the players delivered on a dream first day of the campaign.
Mo Salah inevitably opened the scoring after a combative opening passage. Sadio Mane made it 2-0 just before the half-time whistle, and then doubled his tally in the second-half from a blatantly offside position. Daniel Sturridge wrapped up the rout with a goal from his first touch after coming off the bench.
West Ham put up a good fight though and the score doesn’t reflect how much more organised they were than in the past; however, ultimately they were outclassed in all aspects of the game.
Alisson – 6.5:
Alisson was hardly involved on his debut, but he wouldn’t have minded only having to make two saves.
His ability with his feet was on show for the fans to see; however, he did under-hit one lobbed pass to Andy Robertson, thankfully the resulting chance led to nothing.
Trent Alexander-Arnold – 6.5:
Young Trent was a surprise inclusion in the starting line-up, and a shaky start had many wondering if Jurgen Klopp had thrown the lad back into the mix too early.
Despite over-hitting a few crosses, Trent grew into the game and showed good vision. His defending was largely faultless and he was the main cause of West Ham’s star man Felipe Anderson being hooked off after 62 minutes. TAA also almost scored a spectacular free kick but was denied by a wonderful save by Łukasz Fabiański.
Virgil van Dijk – 7.5:
No one questions the world record fee that Liverpool spent to buy the Dutchman now. In every game his calm, composed, commanding defending is present.
VVD did an excellent job of organsing those around him, maintaining their concentration levels, and even chipping into the attack by bringing the ball out from the back in the absence of Fabinho.
Joe Gomez – 7:
This was always going to be one of only a few chances the young man would be guaranteed to show his qualities at centre-back before Dejan Lovren’s return, and he took his chance brilliantly.
One lapse in concentration against Marko Arnautovic almost cost the team, but this hiccup aside, he looked more than capable of developing into a long-term partner for VVD.
Andy Robertson – 7.5:
Robbo carried on his fine pre-season form by laying on yet another assist, this time to Salah for the opener.
The Scot caused the opposistion headaches for the full 90 minutes. His potency when overlapping also allowed Sadio Mane the freedom to move into a more central position, where he was able to score twice.
Gini Wijnaldum – 8:
Gini took over from Fabinho at the base of midfield for the game, and made things difficult for the Brazilian to return next week.
His use of the ball was exceptional and he was certainly in the top three performers on the day. The only thing missing was a goal as he sprayed a couple of half-chances wide.
James Milner – 8 (Man of the Match):
Milner didn’t put a foot wrong all afternoon and was a constant thorn in the side of the Hammers.
Any doubts over Milner’s role for the season need to be reassessed, as the experienced Yorkshireman is showing no signs of slowing down yet.
Naby Keita – 8:
Keita almost never looks flustered, regardless of how many players are trying to close him down. 9 times out of 10, he glides past them and picks out the right option.
The Guinean gave the home fans mere glimpses of his potential and yet still produced a mesmerising debut.
Mo Salah – 6:
Despite scoring the crucial first goal, Salah was a step off the pace for most of the game and probably should’ve been substituted instead of Mane.
His passes were consistently coming half a second too late, but like Trent, this is merely a sign of rust which will undoubtedly be shaken off sooner rather than later.
Sadio Mane – 8:
Mane displayed his underrated finishing with both of his goals, despite the fact that his second was clearly offside.
His unpredictable movement was what hurt West Ham the most though, and this combined with the developing form of those around him could see this season as Mane’s best yet.
Bobby Firmino – 7:
Bobby is another who is yet to find top gear, but that was to be expected after such a grueling season followed by a long campaign with Brazil.
Regardless of this fact, he still worked hard for the team and created numerous chances for them.
Jordan Henderson – 6.5 (on for Firmino – 69′):
Hendo managed the game well when he came on, but it’s questionable what his role will be this season given the strength of Liverpool’s midfield.
Xherdan Shaqiri – N/A (on for Mane – 81′):
Unfortunately, Shaq was brought on too late to make an impact.
Daniel Sturridge – 10 (on for Keita – 89′):
Studge scored an uplifting goal after only being on the pitch for a few seconds. The return of his famous celebration brought broad smiles to the faces of all Reds.
Unused Subs: Loris Karius, Nathaniel Clyne, Fabinho and Adam Lallana
Jurgen Klopp – 8:
Klopp managed to bring out exactly the type of performance that he would’ve been looking for from his players.
His half-time talk saw the Reds come out even hungrier for the closing 45 minutes, although he should’ve looked to bring on Shaq with 30 minutes remaning, rather than Hendo.
Good Signs for the Future
Keita was the most notable debutant on the day, but even though we didn’t get to see the best of Shaq, Alisson or Fabinho, what was on show was phenomenal.
Once the front three are back to their best, Keita will be able to unlock their goal-scoring potential to an even higher degree than last season. Fabinho’s return will only aid this process as his stability will allow Keita to be more adventurous.
Shaq will undoubtedly be introduced into this equation as well at some point, which is a mouth-watering proposition given his pre-season form. Likewise, Alisson will be able to launch counter-attacks with his immense ability with his feet against teams who don’t defend as deep as West Ham.
A Need to Stay Grounded
Despite this optimism, it’s important to recognise that Liverpool are still several steps away from getting back to their best form of last season.
It could take weeks, if not months, for this process to complete, so in the mean time it’s crucial that we don’t get too far ahead of ourselves and just take things one game at a time.
Manchester City look to have not lost a step in their time-off, so the quicker everyone can settle back in, the better.
Big Test at Selhurst Park
Crystal Palace looked extremely impressive as they defeated Fulham, despite the Cottagers being fancied to shake the league up on their return to top flight.
They sorted out their defensive frailties from the first half to produce a convincing 2-0 win where aerial dominance, and lighting fast counters reigned supreme.
A proper analysis of their threat will be done in the preview of next week’s game, but don’t be fooled, Palace are no pushovers.
You’ll Never Walk Alone
Red Or Dead – Liverpool FC Football Blog – on 14/08/2018