West Ham have struggled against Liverpool in recent times, the only positive result recently was a 1-1 draw at the London Stadium last year.
Since that game Liverpool have won everything available while West Ham have battled relegation. To get an understanding of the Reds we spoke to David Astill, Analyst and Writer at Total Football Analysis to get the lowdown.
What are Liverpool’s aims this season?
DA: Liverpool’s aims this season are simple; retain the Premier League title. That will not be easy, with other teams making plenty of signings, but Liverpool have added what they need. Ultimately, they needed cover for Andy Robertson at left-back, and Kostas Tsimikas is a good player to have in that position.
We needed another midfielder, and Thiago Alcantara is just what we needed, and he will add quality in the “box-to-box” element of our game. We also needed extra cover in the forward lines, and Diogo Jota is a player I’ve watched since he was on loan at Wolves in the Championship, and he has really impressed and shown he has an eye for goal.
Therefore, their aims of retaining the title has become a little mor doable, because of the signings they have made. As far as the Champions League goes, I think it would be nice, but Klopp will want to retain the Premier League a little more, because they would be the first to do it, and that would make it more special, I think.
West Ham have shared a few players throughout the years, who is your favourite player to play for both clubs?
DA: I always enjoyed watching Yossi Benayoun play. He was the type of player who you could always rely on to score goals in important games, and to be in the right areas at the right time, and he had the quality to play for Liverpool, which was important.
We have seen quite a few players come into Liverpool who have struggled, but Benayoun seemed to rarely have a bad game for Liverpool.
What do you think should be West Ham’s aims this season?
DA: I think, although it sounds really low for West Ham, they should aim to secure survival as quickly as possible. Given that they have been involved in relegation battles in the last few seasons, if they can finish 15th and secure survival with three or four games to go, I think that will give them a lot of confidence that they can compete in this league.
Then they can build on that and look to bring in players to help them break into the top 10 as a next target in the seasons ahead.
There is always controversy around the club at the moment. What do you make of the Hammers off the pitch?
DA: Off the pitch, West Ham fans are right to be worried and angry. They have seen a lot of good players go, and some poor signings being made. One recent signing that comes to mind is Carlos Sanchez, who I don’t actually remember playing more than one game if any, which tells you a lot.
This season, they sold Grady Diangana, which obviously wasn’t popular, and you can see why when you consider how well he did in the Championship last season for West Brom, and what he could have done at West Ham this season.
I think the board will be saved by the earlier investments in Jarrod Bowen, who is a player I really like, Andriy Yarmolenko and Sebastien Haller, who had a difficult first season but seems to have found his feet at last, but the fans are right to have concerns, and those concerns will be proven to be correct if the team find themselves in another relegation battle this season.
What are Liverpool’s weakness and how can West Ham exploit them?
DA: It’s hard to find a weakness in Liverpool’s team, because everyone knows they are so good. However, I would have liked them to have signed another centre-back this season. Dejan Lovren has left for Zenit St. Petersburg on a permanent deal, and Joel Matip and Joe Gomez have both struggled with injuries in the early stages of this season, hence Fabinho filling in at the back, and whilst he has done well there, we need him in the midfield really, especially with Thiago now self-isolating after testing positive for coronavirus. This is perhaps one area that West Ham could target.
The other is that Liverpool’s full-backs always get forward and support the attack, which in some teams leaves holes at the back, and allows opposing wingers to exploit the space behind the defence.
Now, I’m not saying this is the same with Liverpool, but if the wingers were to stay high up the pitch, it might mean that Alexander-Arnold and Robertson can’t come as far forward as they usually can, so that would deplete Liverpool of some of their usual crosses. It’s a possibility but this is one way that West Ham can perhaps stop Liverpool.
What players at West Ham are you most Worried about facing?
DA: I am always worried by facing Michail Antonio – he is one of West Ham’s best players and easily their biggest goal threat, especially since he started playing in the central striker role.
I also worry about facing Jarrod Bowen, because he is the very definition of a goal machine. I watched him a lot at Hull, and he honestly can score a goal from just about anywhere on the pitch, which makes him a very dangerous opponent.
What do you think about the Haller and Antonio debacle, who should start?
DA: As I mentioned above, Haller has started the season in relatively good form, but Antonio has shown himself to be the perfect number nine, so I would definitely say him.
What are the weaknesses in the Irons line-up in your opinion?
DA: The main weakness I think is a lack of quality in the overall squad. You have the first team who can do a job, but then you look around the team and wonder which players will come on and make an impact.
That is what I think could trip West Ham up this season, and this comes down to recruitment. Diangana would have been a perfect player to come off the bench and make an impact, but he has been sold. Pablo Fornals, Jack Wilshere and Felipe Anderson have all failed to shine over the last season or so, and that’s what I mean about players coming on and not being able to change the game if West Ham are losing.
West Ham gave Liverpool a scare last season at Anfield, do you think Liverpool have learned and will be better?
DA: I think with the signings they have made, Liverpool have strengthened and will be ready for West Ham. There’s no doubting that it will be a tough game, but I think Jurgen Klopp will have some tricks up his sleeves, as he usually does.
Last season, no-one expected them to go on their long run without losing, so you can see how Klopp learns from previous results and makes adjustments each season to his tactics.
DA: I would think that Liverpool will win the game, especially as it is at Anfield. I will go for 3-0, with Salah, Firmino and Diogo Jota all scoring. West Ham will give it a go and cause them problems, but I think Liverpool will have too much for them.