11 August 2018

Liverpool v West Ham 08.12.18

8:30am ET, live in the US on NBC Sports

Last four head-to-head:
4-1 Liverpool (h) 02.24.18
4-1 Liverpool (a) 11.04.17
4-0 Liverpool (a) 05.14.17
2-2 (h) 12.11.16

Last three preseason matches:
Liverpool: 3-1 Torino (h); 5-0 Napoli (n); 4-1 Manchester Utd (n)
West Ham: 1-0 Angers (n); 1-1 Mainz [7-6 pens] (n); 2-1 Ipswich (a)

Referee: Anthony Taylor (LFC History) (WhoScored)

Guess at a line-up:
Clyne Gomez van Dijk Robertson
Wijnaldum Henderson Keïta
Salah Firmino Mané

Everyone's optimistic. And rightfully so. And now we get to see how much is justified.

Well, kinda.

The first match doesn't define a season, but it can define some of it. 3-3 at Watford last season, a warning about conceding from set plays issues and conceding late goals issues which would haunt Liverpool off and on all season, at least decreasing as the season went on. 4-3 at Arsenal in 2016-17, a marker set against Liverpool's top four rivals – which they'd go unbeaten against – and a prediction of some of the wild score lines we'd see until that winter of our discontent.

This season starts against West Ham, a team Liverpool have scored four against in each of the last three meetings. This season starts at Anfield, for the first time since 2014-15 (don't look up how that season went).

It won't be full-strength Liverpool, but it won't be far off, despite World Cup exertions. Fabinho and Lovren are injured, and the latter wouldn't be included anyway because of his late return. Henderson will seemingly play despite returning around the same time as Lovren, but we could get Milner in that role instead. Clyne, with a full preseason, will probably be preferred to Alexander-Arnold, but it's close. Gomez is the fittest of the non-van Dijk center-backs, which is our first "oh shit, injuries" worry for the season. Maybe we get a Shaqiri or Sturridge curveball, but I doubt it.

But we'll get that front three, from the opening whistle of the season. We'll get Naby Keïta. We'll get Alisson Becker. We'll get a lot of the very good Liverpool players which led to the last very good season. It's up to them to both repeat and improve upon it.

And we won't get the same West Ham that Liverpool stomped in the last three meetings. A new manager in Manuel Pellegrini. A ton of new signings: Felipe Anderson, Issa Diop, Andriy Yarmolenko, Jack Wilshere, Lukasz Fabianski, Carlos Sanchez, Lucas Perez, Ryan Fredericks, Fabian Balbuena.

It's probably a good time to play West Ham, before this side settles. I expect they'll be a lot better this year than last. There's always a risk that many new faces won't coalesce, but there are some good players in there, loads better than the season before. And Pellegrini's also an obvious upgrade, an experienced manager who both knows how to balance a large squad and play to that side's strengths.

It also makes West Ham's XI near-impossible to guess. Let's go with Fabianski; Fredericks, Diop, Ogbonna, Cresswell; Wilshere, Noble; Felipe Anderson, Antonio, Arnautovic; Chicharito – basically the side from the final preseason match. Carroll (surprise!), Lanzini, Reid, and Fernandes are all out through injury. West Ham shouldn't sit too deep or press too hard or attack solely via countering. I expect we'll get a little of everything as this side figures itself out.

Liverpool should do Liverpool. That usually works out well.

It's time. It's finally time. It feels like we've been waiting forever since the Champions League final. But it also feels like the World Cup just ended.

The dichotomy of watching Liverpool. The exhilaration and excitement. The utter terror.

Deep breaths. We go again.

1 comment :

Georger said...

So insanely stupid there were no signings made in central defense or at right back, not shocking, but good god absolutely no depth still. Gomez better have the horse placenta lady on retainer.