A chilly and wet Anfield saw both Liverpool and West Ham drawing blank in a game where both sides had limited chances to carve out the openings.
Klopp made 10 changes to the side that started against Stoke, with Mignolet being the only one retained from that midweek eleven. Dejan Lovren and Nathaniel Clyne came back from their respective injuries to take part in this one.
It was a fluid 4-3-3 formation with Benteke leading the line, Lovren and Caulker were the centre-back pair for the first time, Clyne and Smith deployed in their respective fullback roles. Brannagan, Stewart and Allen were in the heart of the Reds’ midfield. Ibe and Teixiera were playing behind Benteke.
It was more like a 4-2-3-1 when Reds were pressing West Ham in tight spaces or if they had possession, fluid system means that turned into a 4-3-3 when the situation of defending comes into play, Teixiera was tucked centrally playing behind Benteke, Allen shifted his position from left hand side midfield to left winger and vice versa.
In all honesty, Allen was wasted in that left midfield area, his primary position is central midfield or anything centrally, he struggled a bit in those wide areas, he tried to tuck centrally but Teixiera’s initial movements were central forcing the Welshman to be wider. Ibe was a bit confused in his movements, he looked unsettled and was less involved in the game, he also tried to tuck inward a bit allowing Clyne to burst forward but the latter made less inroads to really threaten the opposition.
Benteke again was largely self-troubled rather than troubling the opposition, his movements were very static and his tendency not to be on the toes all the time makes it difficult to find those defence-splitting passes.
This was the shape off the ball for the Reds, it is worth analysing, Benteke is left secluded here and his closest partner Teixiera is helping the left wing rather than being central, this created the disjointedness in the forward line, Teixiera was supposed to be the one who knits attacks when Liverpool are on the counter or trying to break free from West Ham possession, but his uncanny movements made Benteke look isolated and by the time players move forward, West Ham had their numbers back in defence. Allen never really looked a threat going forward, Ibe had one or two good moments otherwise he was largely a silent man on the pitch, Brannagan and Stewart were alright but limited runs from midfielders into the opposition box makes it difficult for the crossers to pick out their teammates, there were many situations where Reds had only Benteke in the box against two defenders. As long as midfield runners are not willing to run the pitch more, the goals and threats will be handful in number and attacking play will look disjoint.
The defence which has been a source of constant criticism and talking was largely untroubled as West Ham were quite content with a draw and take the game to a replay at Upton Park, Lovren and Clyne came back from injuries and did alright, Caulker in his Liverpool debut had a decent game, made one or two vital blocks and interceptions. Brad Smith continued to put his correct impression in-front of Klopp with another decent performance, the only problem with the Australian is his dip in work rate after around 50 minutes, a left fullback generally has to play 90 minutes and increasing work rate would be one of the agendas of young Smith.
Slaven Bilic would be a happy man taking this tie to a replay at home but injuries to Kouyate and Tomkins early in the first half should make him a bit worried, Kouyate has been a central figure in West Ham’s successful season so far, Hammers were decent defensively overall, they didn’t created much though so all in all a satisfactory performance from them, but from their standards this season, it was far from perfect.
Klopp on the other hand would be scratching his head as there is another fixture added to an already jam-packed fixture list, he fielded many fringe players so on that note he would be pleased by the way they performed.
It was a game where chances came few and far, Liverpool were the ones who seemed to carve West Ham open but where never likelier to do so. A replay at Upton Park is what the Hammers wanted and for the Reds, it would be another in this game-flowing season.
By Mizgan Ahmed on 31st January, 2016