19 September 2014

Liverpool at West Ham 09.20.14

12:30pm ET, live in the US on NBC

Last four head-to-head:
2-1 Liverpool (a) 04.06.14
4-1 Liverpool (h) 12.07.13
0-0 (h) 04.07.13
3-2 Liverpool (a) 12.09.12

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 2-1 Ludogorets (h); 0-1 Villa (h); 3-0 Tottenham (a)
West Ham: 2-2 Hull (a); 1-3 Southampton (h); 1-1 Sheffield Utd [Utd win 5-4 pens]

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Sterling 2; Gerrard, Moreno, Sturridge 1
West Ham: C Cole, Downing, Noble, D Sakho, Valencia, Zarate 1

Referee: Craig Pawson

Guess at a line-up:
Manquillo Skrtel Lovren Moreno
Henderson Coutinho
Lallana Balotelli Sterling

With Allen, Sturridge, Can, Johnson, and Flanagan still out, there aren't that many potential changes from Tuesday's line-up. And it'll be interesting to see how Liverpool cope with that after playing a difficult midweek Champions League game.

The one player fit again after an absence, Martin Skrtel, seems almost certain to come back into the XI, as he's been a consistent starter when available for about a year now. And it'll probably be at the expense of Sakho, even though Lovren's arguably been worse when the two have been paired together in the last three matches.

The one other possible change is Markovic or Borini for Lallana. If it's the former, Liverpool will stick with the 4-3-3 used to start the last two matches. If it's the latter, it'll allow Liverpool to revert to the diamond, where they've been vastly more successful. My biases are well known, so I'd rather the diamond whether it's Borini or Lambert who partners Balotelli.

West Ham have and haven't been typical West Ham so far this season. They have been consistently inconsistent: starting the campaign by narrowly losing to 10-man Tottenham, beating the out-of-sorts Crystal Palace, and losing to Sheffield United on penalties in the League Cup with a weakened line-up. The one match where they were the least West Ham was the one match I haven't seen: Monday at Hull, a surprisingly attacking line-up where both sides scored twice.

West Ham started with something like a diamond, shifting to more of a 4-2-1-3 as the match went on, with Zarate playing up front with Sakho and Valencia, and Stewart Downing doing his best impression of a #10. And Downing tallied both of West Ham's assists from the position. I know, writing those words doesn't even make sense. Enner Valencia made his first Premier League start, scoring the first equalizer, and West Ham's three loan signings – Carl Jenkinson, Alex Song, and Morgan Amalfitano – all came off the bench.

So I guess it's little surprise that this is what Allardyce had to say after the match:

“Attractive football and no wins is no good to me, no good to the owners and no good to the supporters."

Keep doing you, Sam.

To be fair, they haven't been as defensively secure as they usually are, as Allardyce's sides usually are. Last season, West Ham kept 14 clean sheets, joint-sixth best in the league despite finishing 13th. Which is four more than Liverpool had. They haven't kept any this season, conceding once against Tottenham and Palace, three at home against Southampton, and twice at Hull. Last season's goals against per game average was 1.34; so far this season it's 1.75. Only Everton, QPR, Newcastle, and Palace have conceded more.

Which, of course, either bodes well or poorly for Liverpool tomorrow, depending on how pessimistic your worldview usually is. Either a leaky defense finds its form against Liverpool's stuttering attack, or Liverpool's stuttering attack finds its form against a leaky defense.

Allardyce has some options tomorrow. If he keeps the same formation that faced Hull, the only possible changes are Song for Kouyate or Jenkinson for Demel. But he could, and probably will, take off one of the forwards for Song, reverting to more of a 4-5-1. West Ham's been 4-4-1-1/4-2-3-1 in each of the four matches against Liverpool where Allardyce has been in charge. Of course, they've also lost three and drawn one of those matches. The Hammers will be without Matt Jarvis, Kevin Nolan, Joey O'Brien, and some guy named Andy Carroll because of injury.

The mantra for Liverpool matches has been pretty consistent this season. Do better in attack – especially if playing with Balotelli as the lone striker, requiring Liverpool to provide much more support from both the wide players and midfielders than we've seen so far – and don't do anything stupid in defense.

Easier said than done.

1 comment :

wides said...

It's hilarious that Downing was credited with an assist on that first goal... as he played a simple 5 yard pass... and Valencia dribbled with it forever... stopped... had some tea... made a juke... and shot (9 seconds after the pass!)