The stage was set at Anfield for the start of the respective campaigns between Liverpool and West Ham United.
Acknowledging that former Premier League winning manager Pellegrini was at the Hammers’ helm, it looked more of a close game than before, although Klopp’s Liverpool were the favourites. This analysis was due as the Reds showed why to fear the Champions League runners up and why perhaps, they can pull off and mount a title challenge this season. Klopp questioned post-match why Liverpool are considered the only competition to City’s throne, acknowledging the power of other clubs, but was insistent that the start to the Reds’ campaign was “very good”.
“A very good start, for sure.” ????https://t.co/Jp5JafBzkK
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) August 12, 2018
Liverpool’s previous season talisman and current star, Mohamed Salah was the man to put the Reds ahead 1-0 after 19 minutes, scoring a tight footed shot from close range after an assist by left back Andrew Robertson. Liverpool dominated possession and played their usual style of exclusive attacking football, running rampant in the Ham throughout. Sadio Máne scored twice and substitute Daniel Sturridge got the fourth.
Liverpool’s squad was not at full strength, considering the names on the bench and missing on the team sheet. World Cup finalist, Dejan Lovren only returned to Melwood on Monday which ruled him out to stand tall at the back with Virjil van Dijk, but the Dutchman was helped by Joe Gomez who held on to contribute to the clean sheet in the massive win. Trent Alexander-Arnold and James Milner impressed and Milner would have given Gareth Southgate a thought of calling him out of international retirement after his grand performance. Alexander-Arnold’s delivery was excellent all afternoon. Naby Keita impressed thoroughly, winning the ball, getting clever passes in and making assists to the front three. Being the new number 8, he brings magic to the midfield, being an all-round player who has proven to offer so much and making a big difference in winning back the ball and pushing play forward. Jordan Henderson and Xherdan Shaqiri featured off the bench and made the difference in sustaining a clean sheet, and newly bought Alisson Becker, although not too pressed, kept a clean sheet on a Premier League debut.
What is striking about the new look Liverpool side is that Liverpool now have tremendous depth within their squad. Loris Karius still has the backing and support of both the coach and the fans, as seen by Anfield’s welcoming applause and cheer to Karius as he was brought on in Liverpool’s 3-1 pre-season victory over Torino last Tuesday. He will still likely feature in FA Cup and Carabao Cup games, while Alisson will likely retain his top spot place as Liverpool’s favoured goalkeeper within the Premier League and Champions League.
The defense will be solidified by van Dijk and Lovren, with Klopp having a fresh Nathaniel Clyne back from injury to choose from, as well as Alexander-Arnold who was pivotal in Liverpool’s success last season not to mention Andrew Robertson, who all work on the right and left back positions respectively. Joe Gomez and Alberto Moreno have come a long way under Klopp and have proved their worth and potential, thus this should compel starters in the defense to work especially hard to retain their positions.
The midfield is where the control in the ball park is. Captain Jordan Henderson, when ready to return to full capacity after World Cup success in England’s terms is likely to retain his position in the midfield, although this is not certain, given Naby Keita’s proven brilliance both in preseason and in the opening game against West Ham. Fabinho is hopefully the next Xabi Alonso which Liverpool have needed, a man pushing play forward and protecting the defense as well as setting up attacking play. The tall new boy offers this and when recovered from illness and injury, will be set to prove that. Xherdan Shaqiri, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Adam Lallana are all bursting to get their chance and be in the starting 11. The sudden competition for places in the starting eleven will spur each player on and not allow for any opportunity to be content in their respective positions. Daniel Sturridge has shown his enthusiastic play and work on the field and so will look to snap up on any poor performing player, although one wouldn’t expect the notorious front three of Roberto Firmino, Máne and Salah to be in that bracket.
Liverpool now travel to Crystal Palace, who also banked three points against newcomers Fulham at Craven Cottage. The Reds’ second game will be the new season’s first Monday night football fixture. Liverpool then take on Brighton at Anfield five days later before going to the King Power Stadium to play Claudio Puel’s Leicester City. The international break will then come along before Liverpool’s clash against fellow ‘Big 6’ rival Tottenham at their new stadium. With an opening four games including West Ham, Crystal Palace, Brighton and Leicester, if Liverpool intend to seriously challenge then collecting 12/12 points in these kind of games is vital in order to first apply pressure on Manchester City and other giants secondly to gain confidence and momentum in their quest for a better season than last.
The Reds are on the rise!