Following a fantastic 2020-21 campaign, few expected West Ham’s form to carry over into the 2021-22 campaign to the same extraordinary extent. But David Moyes’ men have gone from strength to strength this season, playing some of their best football in decades. The Hammers are now all the way up into third place, ahead of Liverpool, after a hard-fought 3-2 victory over the Reds this weekend. Here is our analysis of the match!
west ham united – 4-2-3-1
West Ham United set up in their usual 4-2-3-1 formation, with Pablo Fornals central and Said Benrahma wide. Ben Johnson continued at right-back amidst Vladimir Coufal’s injury, while Ogbonna only lasted half-an-hour before being replaced by Craig Dawson. The formation operated as a 4-4-2 in defense, with Fornals stepping up alongside Antonio when Liverpool played out in their own half. Further down the field, Fornals often dropped to screen passes into central midfield areas, but was afforded room to continue his close connection to Antonio in more of a 4-4-1-1 shape, due to Fabinho’s reserved position.
The Hammers spent only 31% of the match in possession of the ball, excellently shuffling and sliding with the play in their compact shape. Liverpool often also condensed central areas, making West Ham’s job all the easier. Declan Rice was astute in front of the back-four, screening passes into Diogo Jota and tracking the striker’s movement in deep away from West Ham’s back-line. Rice also succeeded in double teaming Mohamed Salah alongside Aaron Cresswell, and only had one slip up when Salah dove over his toe and won a free kick, which was converted by Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Upon winning the ball, West Ham would break quickly through two main methods. They would either use the intense dribbling and running power of players like Jarrod Bowen, Pablo Fornals or Said Benrahma to expose Liverpool’s defense and get them on the back-foot, or they would go more direct in playing balls over the top into the wide channels, for someone like Antonio to chase. They were effective in creating chances in these moments of transition, and even scored their second goal within less than ten seconds after winning the ball back. They were also effective in winning themselves corner kicks from these situations, which as we all know, West Ham can be deadly in attacking. To little surprise, Moyes’ men were able to convert two goals from their corner kick attempts, with the help of their robust centre-backs rising above the rest. With a fantastic whipped in delivery, reaching a dangerous area where two-three players roamed, the Hammers had some of their brightest moments from corners.
While set-pieces ultimately won the Hammers the game, they were still able to create much in the way of chances outside of that. Aaron Cresswell got up and down the left side well, forcing Mohamed Salah to track his movement. This benefited the Hammers in transition, with one of Liverpool’s most dangerous attackers now situated in their own half. Antonio meanwhile was excellent in making himself a nuisance, and pegging Liverpool’s back-line further back. This afforded space for Fornals to roam deeper and pick up possession, where he was able to get on the ball and create. But of course, with quick, vertical runs, passes and dribbles in attack, West Ham wasted no time in creating chances for themselves. So while two of their goals were scored from corners, that only tells part of the story.
liverpool – 4-3-3
Liverpool also lined up in their usual formation – deploying a fairly narrow 4-3-3. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain earned himself a selection ahead of Thiago following Naby Keita’s injury last weekend, while Diogo Jota continued in Roberto Firmino’s injured stead. Their attacking shape took on many forms, most commonly a 2-1-4-3 and 3-1-6. Fabinho always engaged himself ahead of the centre-backs in and out of possession, with Henderson and Oxlade-Chamberlain floating higher. Andy Robertson meanwhile also played as the wider and higher of the two fullbacks, with Trent sometimes low as part of the three in the build-up, and other times inverted in central areas. That meant Jordan Henderson fulfilled a wider role in possession than we’ve become accustomed to, as Salah ran into traffic in central areas. Diogo Jota was perhaps the most clever in his movement of the front-three, often dropping deep to escape the pressure of West Ham’s robust back-four. He was then clever in finding space in the box to get on the end of Henderson’s many right-sided crosses, but unsuccessful in converting. Due to West Ham’s compactness, Liverpool were forced into continuing this crossing mentality, and were perhaps too slow to bring on a more natural target player like Divock Origi to truly make these moments count.
While West Ham were fantastic in transition, it’s also true that the Reds were often up to the task. Virgil Van Dijk excellently shepherd the ball out of bounds or away time and time again, and won nearly everything that came his way in the air. Jarrod Bowen tried his best to take advantage of Robertson’s high position in attack, but Van Dijk was always there to sweep up the mess. The one time Liverpool massively slipped up was in Matip first getting too close to Antonio, who was already being tracked by VVD, and then abandoning that to step out and pressure Bowen. This left Fornals completely free in space to the left of Matip, where he was able to take advantage of Alisson’s high starting position and score.
Liverpool also deserve some credit for their ability to create from set-pieces themselves. Trent Alexander-Arnold converted a glorious free kick in the first half, while Mane could have easily drawn the game level toward the end had it not been for a wayward header. Liverpool were not utterly poor on the day, but they were certainly bested by an organized West Ham team, who exploded on the break and took chances when they came.
So there it is! A tactical analysis of West Ham’s formidable 3-2 win over Liverpool. Be sure to check out more of our Match Analyses, and follow on Twitter @mastermindsite to never miss an update. Thanks for reading and see you soon!
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