Routine Win Or Stumbling Block?

Muhammed Ismail looks ahead to Sunday’s clash in London against Sam Allardyce’s West Ham.

The Reds can further enhance their title chances with maximum points but it could well be a very tough game.

As we’ve been told by everyone involved with Liverpool FC, the last 6 games of the season are like 6 cup finals so obviously there is no room for error in any of these games. Another well said phrase at the moment seems to be “just concentrating on the next game”. As luck would have it, or perhaps not in this case, our next game happens to be against the recently rejuvenated West Ham. Although this might seem like a routine win for most Liverpool fans who are already looking forward to the Man City game, it’s important to remember why Brendan Rodgers is adamant that he will not concentrate on any match past the next one. From this point onwards, we cannot afford to lose a single match which is going to be incredibly tough considering we have games against Man City, Chelsea and Newcastle. However, as high profile as those games are, our title hopes could just as easily be unravelled by a defeat or draw against West Ham.

Former Reds looking to unravel Liverpool’s defence and prove the club were wrong to sell them (pic from Andy Carroll’s twitter).

The reason why West Ham could prove to be a stumbling block is the way Sam Allardyce has encouraged his team to play. What makes this whole situation more interesting is that Big Sam has at his disposal two former Liverpool castaways in the form of Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing. The manager has been able to form his team to play around Andy Carroll which is what many people believed was the reason he did not work at Liverpool. The way that West Ham are set up, the perfect goal for them would be to attack teams on the counter with a long ball forward to Andy Carrol,l who then holds the ball up for Kevin Nolan who then scores. This is demonstrated by the fact that the increase in Kevin Nolan’s goal tally coincides with the re-introduction of Andy Carroll after his long term injury. Nolan had only scored 2 goals in 18 appearances while Carroll was injured and then 5 in 4 appearances when he was playing alongside Carroll (stats by Squawka).

Time and time again the accusation has been thrown at Liverpool that we are a one man team, whether it be Steven Gerrard or more recently Suarez, but West Ham seem to be the definition of one man team if you believe the stats. Kevin Nolan seems to hold every accolade at West Ham both positive and negative; most goals, most assists, most yellow cards and most red cards at the club (stats by Fotmob). It seems then that the way to stop West Ham is to negate Nolan’s effect on the game, but that is a trap that many teams have fallen into during the course of the season. With the emphasis placed on stopping Nolan, the likes of Downing and Diame are allowed more room in front of the defence and throughout the course of the season they have created a total of 64 chances for West Ham, whether that be assists or passes that eventually end in a goal (stats by Squawka).

The best way in which Liverpool can protect against this threat then is not to concentrate on the goal threat of Kevin Nolan but to stop the supply coming from their defenders and the passes from Andy Carroll. Of course this leads to one answer, pressing high. A skill that Liverpool have demonstrated they are more than capable of, with Sterling, Sturridge and Suarez hassling opponent’s defenders into mistakes all season. This shouldn’t be a difficult task considering Tomkins and Reid have been far from convincing for West Ham. Should Liverpool succeed in doing so, they must have a fantastic chance at 3 points and a charge for the title, and you can view football fixtures today at WilliamHill to look ahead to what’s in store for the Reds. 


Liverpool’s SASAS could be key for the West Ham game on Sunday (pic by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images).

Liverpool could be best lining up with the same team as against Tottenham apart from two important changes. Sakho in for Agger and Lucas in for Gerrard. With Carroll’s aerial threat from set pieces, a strong centre back is required to prevent Carroll from getting a good running jump over him and Sakho is easily the strongest defender we possess. Agger was probably the weakest of the 2 centre backs against Tottenham last week and that is the reason why I would choose to take him out the team rather than Skrtel. Steven Gerrard is one yellow card away from a suspension and this would mean him missing the vital Man City game, also Lucas needs a run out after coming back from his injury and the West Ham game would be ideal to settle him back into the team. Taking Gerrard out of the team against West Ham would mean he would also get a well deserved rest and be able to give 100% against Man City when we will need his experience most.

As I mentioned before, the West Ham game is just as important as the Man City and Chelsea games so the boys have to give their all and leave everything out on the pitch which is what we’ve done for the majority of this season.

I’ll finish by echoing a chant that seems to be heard coming from the red half of merseyside at the moment:

“We’re gonna win the league, We’re gonna win the league, United didn’t believe us but we’re gonna win the league”

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