There’s an obvious way Liverpool can beat West Ham United on Saturday but it means Trent Alexander-Arnold must play at Anfield.
West Ham United are playing well. They smashed Wolves 4-0, Leicester City 3-0, came from 3-0 down to draw with Tottenham Hotspur and split the points with Manchester City.
Next up – the champions. But looking at these impressive results, Liverpool have a fairly obvious way to beat West Ham. As long as they play one star in particular.
West Ham’s creativity comes from an unusual left-hand side. They typically play a back five, with two left-backs. Aaron Cresswell tucks inside Arthur Masuaku, with Pablo Fornals in front of them and Declan Rice on the left of the centre-midfield pairing.
The Cresswell, Masuaku, Rice trio play the bulk of West Ham’s passes. In three of the four games we mentioned, this trio completed the most passes for West Ham. In the fourth, Fornals joined them.
They play the key passes, too. Of the 12 key passes v Wolves, nine of them came from the four players mentioned. Eight of the 13 against Leicester, too, and three of the five against City.
Cresswell is third in the Premier League for assists, Fornals sixth. This is how West Ham play and it’s what you’ve got the stop.
West Ham played one other game in among this bunch – away at Everton. They lost it 4-1. Importantly, they changed formation, playing 4-2-3-1. But there was another obvious difference to the other teams.
Whereas West Ham’s previous opponents attacked them all over the pitch, the bulk of Everton’s came down their right. Or West Ham’s left.
James Rodriguez and Allan, both on that side, accounted for eight of their 12 created chances. West Ham still attacked down that side but, clearly, were caught out themselves.
And that’s why Trent Alexander-Arnold simply must face West Ham. He’s the most creative player in the Liverpool team and in great form. Given Mohamed Salah would play down that side, too, after missing the midweek game, the Reds are set up to exploit the opponents.
Alexander-Arnold could likely use a rest, of course, as he’s played a lot. But it can’t come on Saturday. It’s just too good an opportunity for him to win the game himself.
He should get plenty of space to create chances himself, or his presence will stifle West Ham as they won’t push forward. Alexander-Arnold is, surely, the key player.