Liverpool look dominant against West Ham: 3 things we learned

Jurgen Klopp’s side may have a new look this season, but Liverpool still looked as dynamic as ever against an overmatched West Ham team.

Liverpool made a lot of noise in the summer transfer window, spending a lot of money in hopes of improving a team that played well last season, but ultimately underachieved in the eyes of many with a fourth-place league finish. Manager Jurgen Klopp likened them to Rocky Balboa earlier in the week, and Liverpool certainly looked like heavyweight contenders today.

They were able to rely on a prolific attack to comfortably beat West Ham, beginning the new campaign with those all-important three points. Here are three things we learned.

Salah is probably going to score all of the goals, again

The star of the 2017-18 season picked up right where he left off against West Ham, and it only took him 19 minutes to do it. Mohamed Salah scored after a great bit of build up from his teammates, namely the debuting Naby Keita. Liverpool were deadly on the counter-attack last season, and it seems that aspect of their game will continue to be strong this year.

Sadio Mane is already one of the more creative players in the game, and placing a midfielder like Keita behind him will only accentuate that creativity. As he showed with Liverpool’s early goal, Keita has the ability to initiate chances by carrying the ball into deeper areas and then picking out teammates making runs into scoring areas. For this particular goal, Liverpool’s first of the day, Keita continued his run just outside the box, then laid the ball off to wing-back Andrew Robertson. Robertson found Salah with an inch-perfect cross right in front of goal,

Salah had multiple chances in the game, and the vast majority of them came in high percentage areas. He had four shots in the game, and three were on target. Liverpool were dominant today, putting four past West Ham. The sheer amount of attention that teams are forced to pay to Salah as he advances up the pitch will lead to easy chances for his teammates. Today, his ability to open up the game led to two goals for Sadio Mane.

Salah scored 32 goals in the Premier League last season, leading the competition. He’s off to a swimming start with one goal today, and if his teammates continue to contribute to the build up and attack, he could lead the league once again.

West Ham will struggle against prolific teams

The Hammers looked lost in defense at times today, and that’s a troubling sign for Manuel Pellegrini’s side. Along with relegated Stoke, West Ham had the worst defensive record in the league last season. Judging by their performance today, that trend could very well continue. West Ham had a very tough time coping with the amount of attacking options that Liverpool brought forward, namely the likes of Mane and Salah.

On Mane’s first goal, which came right before halftime, the Hammers defenders seemed to completely lose track of him. He took advantage of lackluster marking to score what is undoubtedly one of the easiest goals of his career, tapping the ball in without any resistance. West Ham lacked urgency in defense, failing to mark players and allowing runs that led to chances. If the Hammers want to improve on their disappointing 13th-place finish from a year ago, this cannot continue to happen.

Offensively, West Ham’s efforts were just as lacking. They trailed Liverpool in terms of possession, shots, and shots on target. You can’t score if you don’t have chances, and you can’t have chances if you don’t have the ball. Trailing in all three of those areas usually leads to a forgettable day, and it was exactly that for the Hammers. The game was particularly frustrating for Marko Arnautovic, West Ham’s best option up front. The striker was effectively taken out of the game by the Liverpool defenders, only registering two shots on goal. Neither of those shots were on target.

West Ham play Arsenal, Wolves, Everton, Chelsea and Manchester United over their next five games. Every single one of those teams have players that would relish an opportunity to play against a defense that allowed these kinds of chances and this many goals.

If their form from today continues, it could be a very ugly start to the season for the Hammers.

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Alisson didn’t do much, and that’s a good thing

Liverpool made a splash by signing Brazilian keeper Alisson Becker this offseason. The deal was, at the time, the largest fee ever paid for a goalkeeper. With that fee comes a great deal of responsibility and expectation. Since Liverpool were so clinical in front of the opposition’s goal – and no real danger came in front of their own – Alisson wasn’t given a lot to do.

That’s a stark contrast to how Liverpool opened the 2017-18 season. That campaign began with a 3-3 thriller against Watford that raised questions about Liverpool’s shaky defense to open the season. This year, there will be no such inquiries, as Virgil van Dijk lived up to his billing in defense today. Van Dijk led the Liverpool back line to a clean sheet, giving the Brazilian a stress-free opener.

Alisson will be expected to make up for the misgivings of Loris Karius, who had a very inconsistent season in goal for the Reds last year. His struggles in the Champions League final against Real Madrid are well documented.

Every game won’t be as easy as this one was for him, especially when Liverpool begin to face more stiff competition both in the Premier League and in the Champions League. Still, wins and clean sheets build confidence for a keeper, especially one in a new league. So, even though he only needed to make one save, it was a good (if uneventful) day for the new Liverpool keeper.

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