An Expected Result
In the scheme of things the outcome of this match doesn’t really change anything as far as West Ham’s battle for survival is concerned. I doubt that anyone working out their predictions and permutations for the remainder of the system, from the team of analysts with a supercomputer to man with a pencil and the back of a fag packet, expected West Ham to take anything out of yesterday’s game. If there was disappointment it was the size of the defeat and it’s resultant hit on goal difference, which at -15 is now worse that two of the teams below us. Mark Noble claimed that the scoreline was harsh on West Ham but it could easily have been worse if Liverpool had been more clinical. At what point a routine defeat turns into a thumping is debatable but the Hammers were well and truly beaten by a talented and in-form Liverpool side. The Merseysiders were allowed to dictate the game and took full advantage and although the West Ham players put in a decent amount of effort the impression was that there little belief to go alongside it.
The Strangest Selection
The team selection surprised me. I had doubted that we would see Joao Mario and Manuel Lanzini on the pitch at the same time and yet David Moyes was happy to give the combination a try. The result was a narrow formation that lacked width without solving the usual inability to provide an outlet for besieged defenders or to keep the ball once in possession. I thought Mario was poor throughout and although he was not alone in that it was his most ineffective game since coming to England. Starting with one of Mario and Lanzini along with Michail Antonio would have made more sense and, for a brief period after his introduction, the presence of Antonio appeared to unsettle Liverpool’s defence. This wasn’t a game where West Ham lacked effort but effort alone is not enough at this level. Players giving 100% should be a given and what West Ham need are skillful players giving everything; not players who make up for lack of techniques with effort. An honourable exception to the lack of quality on show in claret and blue yesterday was Marko Arnaoutovic who once again demonstrated what an exceptional player he can be.
Dad’s Army Defenders
When the referee called Mark Noble over following the yellow card shown to James Collins I imagined the conversation going: Referee – “what’s his name?”; Nobes – “don’t tell him Ginge”. With the introduction of Patrice Evra into the Hammers rearguard we now have a defence worthy of the veterans league. Looking at all of the outfield players with mainly defensive responsibilities (i.e. everyone except Mario, Lanzini and Arnie) they are characterised by an overall lack of pace throughout. Once again the central midfield pairing of Noble and Cheikhou Kouyate failed to get even close to impressing and allowed Liverpool to attack the backline with impunity. Evra and Pablo Zabaleta might have shown admirable commitment but with the best will in the world they are never going to be able to bomb forward to provide width in support of their forwards. What a contrast to Alexander-Arnold and Robertson for the Reds.
Assists For The Opposition Goals
Despite Liverpool’s dominance the Hammers once again contributed to their own downfall in the goals conceded. The opener by Can was just the type of goal I had not expected to concede; a simple header from a corner. It did appear to me that Adrian was badly impeded but this seems one of those rules that is now considered optional by referees. The second goal was the killer coming so soon after half-time and some blame must go first to Kouyate for a series of powder puff challenges and then to Aaron Cresswell for not getting close enough to Salah. The third was a result of Mario giving possession away cheaply and compounded by Adrian’s poorly judged rush from the area (but please no recall for Joe Hart) and by the fourth the players were just hoping for the game to end as quickly as possible. Giving a team like Liverpool so much of the ball was always going to be a huge risk. The weakness in central midfield, a lack of belief in being able to keep the ball and players bunching rather than spreading play all served to surrender the initiative to the opposition. Conceding was only a matter of time.
The Table Doesn’t Lie
West Ham slip to 13th position just three points (four if you count goal difference) out of the relegation places. Assuming that Palace do not beat Tottenham today by two goals or more the standings will be unchanged before the crunch game next weekend away at Swansea. At least Swansea also experienced their own thumping yesterday meaning that both teams will need to demonstrate ‘bouncebackability’. With the bottom of the table so compressed and so many teams in relegation danger there are few yet in a position to start thinking about the summer holidays. Leicester had the look of going through the motions about them yesterday and maybe Burnley and Everton do as well. Some consolation in that these are three teams we have yet to play.