West Ham suffered their first defeat of 2015 against Liverpool on Saturday, failing to recapture the thrilling form that saw them claim victory during the reverse fixture back in September.
The Hammers have not won at Anfield since 1963 so this result does not come as much of a shock. There was, though, a lot of optimism prior to kick-off but it was short lived as Sam Allardyce’s side played out a cautiously defensive game.
They did make it through till half-time still at 0-0 with both teams creating very little in the first period, however second-half strikes from Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge condemned a below-par West Ham to a routine defeat on Merseyside.
Here we take a look at five things we learned from the loss.
1.TACTICS ALL WRONG
Allardyce set the side up in the same 4-2-3-1 formation that was deployed in the narrow win against Bristol City in the FA Cup, however against an in-form Liverpool outfit it was always going to be a tough ask.
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For 45 minutes it did what it was set out to do, which was to contain the hosts and limit them to few chances, but Sterling’s 51st minute strike completely deflated the team.
The system restricted the Hammers and they posed almost no attacking threat throughout which allowed the Reds to control the match and play at their own tempo.
2. NO CREATIVE SPARK
Considering how dynamic and entertaining the east London outfit have been this season this performance was massively disappointing and it all comes down to Allardyce’s tactics.
When they set-up in a diamond everything seems to click for the Hammers and it utilises the likes of Stewart Downing and Enner Valencia, however in the system they played at Anfield they were lumbered out wide and had no impact on proceedings.
None of the players had a particularly good day at the office, but had they been given more of a license to attack and get up in support of the isolated Andy Carroll things could have been a lot different.
3. SAKHO A HUGE MISS
Diafra Sakho’s absence was hugely conspicuous in this match. His pace-fuelled partnership with Valencia left Liverpool shell-shocked earlier in the season, but their defence dealt comfortably with the attackers the Hammers had on show this time around.
With all the controversy surrounding the striker at present it is understandable he was left out but with Manchester United next up they will need the situation to be quickly resolved.
4. MIDFIELD WEAKNESS
The main weakness in the side was in midfield and partly due to Allardyce’s insistence of accommodating players around Kevin Nolan, which proved costly, with Downing unable to be nearly as effective as he can be.
A combination of the system and the reshuffling of the pack saw that there was a clear lack of understanding in the team. No one was on the same wavelength and this frequently led to a breakdown in attacking moves and sloppy ball retention.
Liverpool dominated the midfield comfortably and this was a major factor to why West Ham was beaten.
5. AWAY FORM NEEDS TO IMPROVE
The Hammers have got a decent away record this season – picking up 13 points from eleven matches – however they’re now without a Premier League win on the road since 2 December.
If they are to continue to challenge for a European qualification place this term then they need to start picking up some more points on their travels, but with their next away fixtures against Southampton and Tottenham it won’t be easy.