Liverpool continued their staunch defence of their Premier League title with a battling victory over the David Moyes’ West Ham side on Saturday evening.
Considering the number of injuries that have struck Klopp’s side in recent weeks, the performance proved even more impressive with several players delivering major displays even when they have been on the periphery recently.
Many fans will have been rightly concerned with the prospect of an in-form West Ham coming to Anfield, against a Reds side who are suffering causalities at an alarming rate. However, the side that subsequently took the field showed that they were well more than capable of putting in a solid performance.
After the midweek victory in Europe, Klopp returned to his tried and trusted starting line-up, with two changes from the side that started the Premier League victory over Sheffield United. Diogo Jota dropped to the bench for young Curtis Jones, whilst Fabinho’s hamstring injury has ruled him out until after the international break, with Nathaniel Phillips coming in to make his Premier League debut.
Here are my winners and losers from the game:
Nathaniel PhillipsEmbed from Getty Images
What a Premier League debut. With all the speculation around who would partner Joe Gomez at the heart of defence, many fans, including myself, gravitated towards Rhys Williams due to his recent impressive displays. However, Klopp chose to rest the youngster for the Champions League fixture in midweek, selecting the inexperienced 23-year-old for this high-pressured fixture.
After the first 15 minutes it was clear that the former Stuttgart loanee was nervous, misplacing a couple of passes and being caught out of position. It was not until the West Ham goal we saw Phillips at his best. From the moment that goal went in it was like a lightbulb came on and he just relaxed and started again.
From the restart he won every header, every contested tackle, not wanting anyone to doubt why he had been given this opportunity in the Liverpool team. Sébastien Haller really struggled to enforce his authority on the Englishman, instead suffering the complete opposite as he was tossed and thrown off the ball. Moments before the Frenchman was taken off, Phillips won another header against him with replays showing that the striker was dejected and had given up in his fight.
Even when Andriy Yarmolenko replaced Haller, he also suffered the same fate, making zero impact on the game in the closing moments as Phillips continued to dominate. The Englishman capped off his impressive performance with a clutch header from a corner in injury time to cement his man of the match award.
The hug that Klopp gave the centre half at the final whistle summed up how every Liverpool fan felt about his performance. It was so pleasing to see another academy graduate impress on a big stage and contribute to taking the Reds back to the top of the Premier League table.
If Matip fails to return from his injury in time for the trip to the Etihad, Phillips will have a monstrous challenge ahead of him in a week’s time. Fingers crossed he can follow up this performance with an even better one if called upon.
Diogo JotaEmbed from Getty Images
The impact the Portuguese star has made since his introduction at Anfield can only be described as incredible. His 20-minute cameo further shows how quickly he has integrated himself into the Liverpool side, whilst becoming imperative to any success they may have.
His introduction saw the intensity of the forward’s interplay increase tenfold with the ball moved quickly and decisively. His link up play in particular with Shaqiri was excellent, with the Swiss international also impressing with several eye-catching passes and deliveries into the strike force.
Within five minutes of being on the pitch, the former Wolves man had the ball in the back of the net. It was brilliant, surgical build up play from the Reds that saw Fabiański parry Sadio Mané’s effort into the path of the 23-year-old before finishing into the empty net. Unfortunately for Liverpool, the effort was ruled out for a foul on the Polish ‘keeper, even though Angelo Ogbonna had fouled Mané in the build-up.
With VAR intervening in another game for Klopp’s side, Jota took it upon himself to push the team forward towards victory. With five minutes left the former Wolves man left his telling contribution. The ball had found its way to Shaqiri on the edge of the West Ham box, where he proceeded to thread a precise pass through the legs of the advancing Fabián Balbuena, into the path of onrushing Jota who dispatched it clinically into the back of the Hammers’ net.
His overall performance was electrifying, fully deserving his goal. His consistency is something that has stood out, with fans now calling for him to be a regular starter in the front line. With a tough couple of games coming up, Jota will need to continue his fine goal-scoring run for Liverpool for the team’s success to carry on.
Roberto FirminoEmbed from Getty Images
It was another underwhelming performance from the Brazilian who continues to stutter at the start of this season. Many had hoped his goal last week against Sheffield United would kick-start his season and see him return to the form of previous years. Unfortunately, his performance against West Ham was as lacklustre as we have seen from him so far this campaign.
He looked very lethargic, ambling around the pitch and struggling to control the ball in the tight avenues he found himself within. His passing was also off with several erratic attempts proving problematic when trying to build a move. His saving grace was his hold up play which was very good, but was not used enough during his 70-minute display.
With his lack of goal contributions last season, he clearly made up for it in the work rate, build up play and defensive stability that he provided. However, this year he has supplied little of that with only one goal in his first seven games, a clear indicator to his dip in form. With the calls for Jota to start continuing to grow, it might be time for Firmino to take a couple of games out to regain his focus and go again for the rest of the season.
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