Callum Molyneaux has a look at how Liverpool’s win over West Ham sets them up ahead of the final game of the season against Middlesbrough.
Sunday’s victory over West Ham was one of the most important league games Liverpool have had for years, and there were more nerves than excitement from fans before the game. What was there to worry about? Four goals, a clean sheet and a convincing win away from home!
It was arguably one of our best performances of the season, certainly in recent months. Everything about Liverpool’s game was back from earlier on in the season. The high tempo, the pressing, counter-attacking football. We even managed to keep a clean sheet, which means it’s three clean sheets in a row, the first time for Jürgen Klopp at Liverpool.
There was a change in formation, going to a 4-4-2 diamond as opposed to the 4-3-3 we have used for most of the season.
It meant that Divock Origi and Daniel Sturridge were up front, with the latter operating from the right-hand side, and it worked! The former Man City forward was brilliant. He hasn’t got the pace he had from a few seasons ago, but his finishing hasn’t changed, as well as the timing of his runs. This was seen for his goal, with a through ball from Coutinho which split the West Ham back three apart.
The diamond in midfield meant that Emre Can was playing the holding role, similar to the role Steven Gerrard played when we played a diamond under Rodgers. The one surprising difference was that Coutinho wasn’t playing behind the strikers, but instead played a deeper ‘8’ role. It worked to great effect, as Coutinho was outstanding.
The top of the diamond was Lallana, who put in another fantastic, hard-working shift. The slight change meant that Lallana could go and press the West Ham back three, with the likes of Coutinho and Wijnaldum backing up Lallana in pressing the West Ham midfield.
Going back to Phillipe Coutinho, for me, that was his best performance of the season. He dictated the pace of the game, and his role suited him and Liverpool perfectly. He played in a similar position in the 2013/14 season when we finished second.
Since then, he has improved vastly, and now is one of, if not the most important player in our team. Klopp mentioned in the week that this could be a role that Coutinho will play in the future, indicating that Liverpool are trying to sign a left winger.
Personally, I think that Coutinho is more suited to the central midfield role. He can dictate games playing in that position. On the wing, he has less of an effect on the team and the game.
On Sunday, you could see how much the role suited him. However, I was surprised by the tactics deployed, as sometimes he was dropping so deep he was playing alongside Can, with Wijnaldum pushing further forward than Coutinho.
I was surprised by how well Liverpool actually played under immense pressure. Results over the weekend meant that a win was needed, and in the end, it was never in doubt.
In recent games, Liverpool have been sluggish in games, without scoring many goals or creating many chances, but West Ham presented a chance to change that. It was the sharpest we had been in months, probably since the win against Everton.
It means that the top four remains in our hands, meaning a win against Middlesbrough next Sunday and our target from the start of the season is achieved!