Angelo Ogbonna’s last gasp header earned West Ham a 2-1 victory over Liverpool and send the Reds out of the FA Cup.
Jurgen Klopp was surprisingly back in the bench just two days after his surgery. He made several changes to the lineup as he has been doing in all cup games giving youngsters and academy players a chance to show their mettle.
It was a 4-2-3-1 formation with centre-back pairing of Illori and Lucas; Smith and Flanagan were the fullbacks; Stewart and Chirivella were given the responsibility to hold up the midfield while Teixiera, Coutinho and Ibe played behind the striker Benteke.
Liverpool looked more sharper on the ball to start with and seemed a side determined to put one over the Hammers, Teixiera and Coutinho combined well down that left hand side along with left back Brad Smith, the key was to exploit the space that is sometimes left by Payet because of his inward run, Ibe was quite monotonous on the ball, he tried to take on players but got past very few times.
Stewart and Chirivella had a good game in the midfield, they both got the toughest job to hold the midfield together and knit the moves, they had to deal with inward runs of Payet and Antonio from wide areas. It was Chirivella who was deeper of the two sitting in front of the back four, Stewart moved forward whenever the opportunity came and tried to help the attack. It has to be said that both of them still need loads of time to get better.
The eye brows were again raised for Benteke, ok he looked more sharper and hungrier but his primary moves are not great which deprives him of good opportunities, though it has to be said that since the arrival of Sturridge and Origi, he looked a different player and made more runs in the box only to miss three glorious opportunities that in the end have cost the Reds.
Let’s take a look at the shape at the arrival of Sturridge and Origi and will also ponder few points about correct striker positions in the box :-
It was more of a 4-3-3 with Sturridge and Origi occupying opposition fullbacks and trying to create the gap between a centre-back and a fullback, Sturridge came central more than few times with Ibe supporting from that right hand side, Origi remained wider on the left, sometimes it looked a 4-4-2, the key with Sturridge is his ability to take defenders with him and create gaps for his partner or other runners to pounce upon, more than few occasions he got himself surrounded by three defenders but managed to find a pass which opened up West Ham quite a bit.
We’ll switch our focus back to Benteke and compare his movements in the opposition six-yard box with Sturridge :-
There was one instance when the right-back Flanagan got into a good position on the overlap, now as we see the positions of Sturridge and Benteke, we can easily realise whose position was more striker-like. If the ball is coming via fullback from inside the box, it will be a low cross between the last defender and the goalkeeper, how on earth you station yourself far post and expect a cross from there, that far post is the position of a midfield runner or left back to be in and not a striker, Sturridge showed his striker’s mentality and be more nearer to the crosser and in the process try being in between the last defender and goalkeeper. There has been many instances where Benteke’s primary movement doesn’t allow him to be on the end of things.
All in all it was a positive performance from the Reds’ makeshift eleven, the arrival of Sturridge obviously added more thought into the attack which was refreshing to see as far as Klopp and Liverpool well-wishers are concerned, they will be hoping to see more of Sturridge in this final part of the season. Klopp will be a frustrated man as his team succumbed once again against West Ham, that last minute header again reminded Reds that their set-piece defending is still an issue, if lop-sidedness remains then the season might well get over very early for the team from the Merseyside.
By Mizgan Ahmed on 10th February, 2016
Twitter – @mizgans