West Ham took away Liverpool plan and exposed a weakness in Reds


West Ham took away Liverpool plan and exposed a weakness in Reds

West Ham United took away the Liverpool game plan on Sunday in their 3-2 win. The Reds looked exposed.

Liverpool played terribly against West Ham United. They went down early and while they controlled the first half, they failed to create much.

Still, they went into half-time at 1-1. Everything fell to pieces in that second half, however.

Liverpool created two chances for Sadio Mane but little else. The defensive issues were apparent but really, the Reds only created a couple of opportunities here. It’s hard to win a game like that.

That’s largely because West Ham did a very good job of shutting Liverpool’s plan down. In doing so, they exposed a weakness in this side.

West Ham shut down Liverpool plan

Roberto Firmino couldn’t play here after picking up a hamstring injury against Atletico Madrid. That came at a real cost for Liverpool, too, as they couldn’t play through the middle.

We didn’t think that would be a huge problem as West Ham are good at stopping that anyway. Declan Rice & Tomas Soucek are a wonderful defensive shield, while – as we thought – Pablo Fornals played centrally and pressed relentlessly.

Thus Liverpool leaned into a different gameplan. It’s one that worked wonderfully well against Atletico Madrid, relying on a right-sided triangle to create things.

Trent Alexander-Arnold, Jordan Henderson and Mohamed Salah interchange, share the ball, and create space for one another. At its best, it’s brilliant.

And Liverpool tried it. Henderson saw more of the ball than anyone (104 touches) and Alexander-Arnold the second-most (94). The real problem, though, was that West Ham shuffled players over the stop Salah.

Rice, Fornals, Said Benrahma and even Soucek all drifted across to help Aaron Cresswell. That stopped Liverpool from having any real space down that flank.

Thus the Reds turned to their left. Mane, for instance, played 41 passes in this game – the most of any game this season. He’s had games this season with as low as 20 and against Manchester City, he only attempted 12.

Photo by Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

That’s because Mane has played a bit different this season. He’s been there to finish chances, rather than create.

But he struggled against West Ham. In fact, both Mane and Andy Robertson had poor games on that flank, failing to make up for the extra room they had.

Robertson did create one chance for Mane – that he should have scored – but it was your lot. Everything else did come from the congested right-hand side.

And that’s a weakness in Liverpool. Their right-sided triangle works brilliantly but West Ham gambled on shutting it down. The extra space out left didn’t cause them any trouble as players failed to step up.

If Liverpool are to win anything this season, they need that left-hand side contributing to a high level. Otherwise, this will happen again.

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