One of the most dynamic offences in the League this season has been the Liverpool front three of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, and Mohammad Salah. West Ham will have to disrupt this attack in order to get any result from the Merseyside, but how can they do this? One of two options would likely be how Moyes organizes his team – clog the middle and counter attack while giving up possession, or hold onto the ball and try to break down their defence.
Ideally West Ham would perform the best of both plans – keep a strong defensive form, forcing the attack to the outside, and once they retrieve the ball have a front three of Arnautovic, Chicharito, and Lanzini to hold up the attack with support from Zabaleta and Antonio on the wings. I just don’t think its likely they do both.
Realistically, West Ham will clench their cheeks and try to repel the Liverpool attack. What bodes well from this plan is that the Liverpool defence is notoriously weak, even with the addition of Virgil van Dijk, and their keeper situation is worse than ours. Often beaten too easily, the Reds’ backline is usually unorganized or confused, leading to counterattacking success, or fruitful set pieces.
Liverpool is coming off of a 5-0 assault of FC Porto in Champions League. Predictably the aforementioned front three of Mane, Firmino, and Salah scored all of Liverpool’s goals, with Mane getting a hat trick. This doesn’t bode well for West Ham, but to be fair to the Hammers they have done well at stymying the top dogs since Moyes has taken over.
The close loss to Manchester City, draw against Arsenal, win over Chelsea, and draw with Tottenham are all examples of how West Ham can succeed. The need to be disciplined in defence, and limit mistakes anywhere on the pitch. With such speed up front Liverpool can take a muffed opposition corner kick and turn it into a blazing odd man counter attack with the ball ending up in your net.
Outside of defending with discipline West Ham will need to take the chances they are given. Some early pressure on either Simon Mignolet or Loris Karius in net could see a soft goal sneak by, flipping the script of the game. Arnautovic will get his wingman back this weekend as well with Lanzini rejoining the squad after a hamstring injury, a welcomed sight to all West Ham fans.
Lanzini’s return means that he will likely be nestled in behind the striker duo of Arnautovic and Chicharito. Joao Mario had been filling this void, but Lanzini is the man who pulls the offensive strings and will regain his position without hesitation. Mario will likely slot in beside Mark Noble in midfield with Kouyate moved to the bench.
Arthur Masuaku’s spitting suspension, compacted with the return of Winston Reid to the match-day squad will see either Aaron Cresswell or James Collins out at centreback, and either Cresswell or Antonio in the left-wingback position. Moyes certainly has some decision to make on the squad, but the return of first team players is hardly anything to complain about.
So how will it play out for West Ham? Likely the clenched cheeks of an organized, out of possession, disciplined, counterattacking option for Moyes’ men. The key to success for West Ham will be not breaking down early, and winning the first battle of not conceding an early goal. Liverpool snowballed their momentum from an early goal against Porto and it could not be stopped. In order to stop the snowball from growing is to make sure it never gets started. It’ll be tough, but West Ham knows how to do it, and can do it.
Come On You Irons!