By Nathan Brennan – @NathanBrennan___
Liverpool got their Premier League season off to a perfect start after hammering West Ham United in a Sadio Mané-inspired 4-0 drubbing at Anfield.
Coming into the opening game of the season there was probably the most hope and expectation seen in decades amongst Liverpool fans, and neutral football fans in general, for the Anfield outfit to perform and mount a proper title challenge this season.
Against West Ham, who have hired the experienced Manuel Pellegrini and made several smart acquisitions in the transfer market, it was never going to be easy it seemed before the match.
Here are some of the main talking points from the Reds’ opening day fixture at Anfield.
After going from being the messiah of Anfield to being overshadowed by Mohamed Salah, many are wondering if the Senegalese can take back his title of Liverpool’s main man this season.
Whether he does or not is of little consequence as, either way, he looks set to enjoy a third-successive fantastic season with the Reds, evident today from the two goals he scored (although his second was clearly offside, but we don’t care!)
Sadio looked stupidly dangerous today and if he can perform to even half the levels we know he can then we’re in for another belter of a season from our new No.10.
Finally, some adequate backup
The line-up coming into the game was one to be excited about as Trent Alexander-Arnold was available to start, Joe Gomez won his race to be fit and, despite Fabinho missing out on the starting eleven, Naby Keita’s inclusion alongside the fabulous three of Salah, Firmino and Mané was definitely enough to get fans feeling excited and optimistic.
But with all the focus being on the starting eleven, my personal focus came in the form of the bench that included Loris Karius, Nathaniel Clyne, Fabinho, Jordan Henderson, Daniel Sturridge, Adam Lallana and Xherdan Shaqiri.
It was probably the strongest bench I have ever witnessed during my time supporting the club, which is a credit to Klopp to have built a squad with so many options and means we have cover if we were to pick up any injuries this season to our main men.
Solid start for Alisson while Keita is king
After waiting a long, long time for the club to go all-out on a world-class goalkeeper, we finally got the chance to see one in action between our sticks today as Alisson Becker made his debut for the club.
The Brazilian didn’t have much to do given the high amount of control Liverpool had upon the game for the 90 minutes, but what he did have to do he did well and with little fuss.
His distribution could only ever be faulted when he was forced onto his left foot, and there was one lapse in concentration in the second half where he cheaply gave the ball away to the Hammers, but other than that it was a solid debut for Alisson and with a clean-sheet to boot.
Elsewhere, Naby Keita made his debut in midfield after a year waiting for his arrival as fans (albeit without Fabinho alongside him), and boy did he shine.
He looks every bit as good as we’ve heard and his silky dribbling, work-rate and passing was what majorly stood out-on his first competitive game in a red shirt – great stuff from the Guinean.
Having scored forty-four goals in fifty-two games last season in all competitions, Mo Salah is definitely coming into this season with a lot of pressure on his shoulders to prove that he isn’t just a “one season wonder”, but personally we all know if he doesn’t get above thirty goals this season rival fans will be on his back.
In my personal opinion anything above twenty goals would be a good return for the Egyptian this season and would definitely crush the idea of him being a ‘one season wonder’ – with his goal today, number 45 for the Reds, he has certainly started off the season on the right foot.
Every time I write an article I am aware that it is just 90% me bragging how I got ‘Robertson’ on the home shirt the week he signed last season and have a similarly-printed one on it’s way this term in the post.
Basically, I just felt the need to highlight the fact Robertson cost £8m and got an assist today. Love him.
Timed to perfection
I thought overall the first-half performance was one of the best I’ve seen and that second goal just before the break effectively killed the game as it sent West Ham to rock bottom mentally to concede when so close to going into half-time with a respectable 1-0 scoreline.
Had we not got that second goal I think today’s game could have been a different story as West Ham would have came out in the second-half with a lot more belief that they could get back into the game.
Not all problems are negative
After a classic, bustling Bobby Firmino performance and a Daniel Sturridge goal with his first touch off the bench, it is getting more and more difficult to decide who should be starting next week but of course this is always a good issue for Jurgen Klopp to have.
I would personally stick with the hard-working Brazilian, but if Sturridge keeps taking his chances then it will only be a matter of time until good ol’ Danny gets back upfront as the main man – provided he stays fit (ha!)
I thought the first-half was an excellent show from the lads, and the way the game panned out it was a complete performance for the entire match as we managed the game to perfection.
Scoring four and keeping a clean sheet on the opening day is something that we could not ask much more of as fans and this start will definitely help build our expectations and ambitions as a team for what we should be striving for this season.
Allez, Allez, Allez!