Liverpool lost for the first time all season, as West Ham won a thrilling game at the London Stadium in the Premier League. Liverpool leveled four minutes before half-time with a fine free-kick from Trent Alexander-Arnold, but the Hammers almost retook the lead at the start of the second period when Declan Rice headed against the bar. An unmarked Kurt Zouma soon made it three, with a header from a corner. It was a disappointing afternoon for Liverpool, which saw their 25-game unbeaten run come to an end as they struggled to defend against West Ham’s set pieces. This was the sixth occasion this season that they have conceded two or more goals.
Liverpool struggled in that environment, with Salah having one of his least effective games of the season in front of the goal. The visitors’ lack of depth in midfield was exposed as well, and that is an area that must concern Jurgen Klopp.
Attempted duels against West Ham United:
Duels won by Liverpool against West Ham United:
The above visuals indicate that Liverpool were able to win most of the loose ball duels that they attempted but failed to win defensive and aerial duels in their half. The Liverpool defense looked very shaky, as every West Ham attack looked to threaten the defense and created a goal-scoring chance for them. Liverpool only won five defensive duels in their half, which indicates they failed to recover the ball from the West Ham players.
Liverpool only won seven defensive duels out of the 49 duels they attempted. Andy Robertson did manage to win his duels but failed to recover the possession of the ball. It was a similar story for the rest of the Liverpool players. The Liverpool midfield only won one defensive duel and failed to be the protective layer that they usually are in front of the defense.
Henderson has featured in more than seven Premier League matches for Liverpool this season, while Fabinho and Oxlade-Chamberlain join the Reds skipper in featuring in all four of their Champions League matches so far this season. The trio is the club’s only group of midfielders to record more than 10 appearances in all competitions so far during this campaign. This run of midfield injuries had left the Reds weakened before the international break, as Henderson started game after game, culminating in a very tired Liverpool midfield performance in their defeat to West Ham United last weekend.
Trent Alexander-Arnold had a brilliant game when it comes to attacking in the opposition’s half, but he was nowhere to be seen when West Ham were attacking the Liverpool defense. The English fullback had committed himself in the final third and at times moved central to provide balls to his wide forwards. He failed to complete his defensive duties and was also responsible for ball watching in West Ham’s third goal from a corner.
There is no doubt that at times Liverpool have not defended well as a team this season. But the blame cannot be aimed towards the defenders, as often issues have arisen due to a lack of protection in front of them. Liverpool have been free-scoring so far, which pushes their midfielders higher into the opposition half, which creates a gap in the midfield and makes them more susceptible to counter attacks. Jurgen Klopp will need to get the balance between defense and attack right once the Premier League resumes after the international break to ensure his team maintains the pressure on leaders Chelsea.