Tactically speaking - Liverpool

West Ham United travel to Liverpool on Saturday seeking to end one of the longest winless streaks at anywhere in the footballing world.

The Hammers have not tasted victory at Anfield in nearly 52 years and 42 league games, and will face a Reds team which has yet to concede in the Barclays Premier League this season.

So, why have Brendan Rodgers’ side been so resilient this term?


Looking down a list of Liverpool’s statistical strengths this season, the phrases ‘defending set pieces’, ‘aerial duels’ and ‘stealing the ball from the opposition’ all appear.

However, those traits have not been associated by Brendan Rodgers’ Reds in recent seasons, when a habit of conceding soft goals arguably prevented them from winning the Barclays Premier League title two seasons ago.

The slips which cost Liverpool dear in 2013/14 have been absent from their play so far this term, with Rodgers’ new-look team yet to concede a goal in league play this season, winning 1-0 against Stoke City and AFC Bournemouth before drawing 0-0 at Arsenal on Monday evening.

Strangely, for a team with a reputation for possession football, Liverpool have averaged 49 per cent of the ball so far, completing 78 per cent of their passes.

Formation-wise, Liverpool have favoured a flat back four in all three league matches, switching from a 4-2-3-1 in their opening two games to a 4-3-3 at the Emirates on Monday.

Simon Mignolet appears to have rediscovered his best form in goal, while in front of him new boys Nathaniel Clyne and Joe Gomez have provided pace and power in the full-back positions.

Clyne has already received international recognition with England, while the 18-year-old Gomez is already getting rave reviews for his speed, strength and ability to carry the ball forward with purpose.

In the centre, Martin Skrtel is an old-fashioned centre-back who loves winning aerial duels and throwing his body in where it hurts. However, he boasts Liverpool’s best pass-completion with 89 per cent.

Dejan Lovren is a more modern defender, who distributes the ball well and has good positional sense.
Captain Jordan Henderson has shielded the back four with aplomb alongside the hard-working James Milner. The two England internationals have complemented each other well, with Milner’s underrated range of passing helping the Reds to open up the opposition.

German Emre Can started at Arsenal, but is likely to be sacrificed for a more attacking alternative on home turf, while Lucas Leiva is seemingly out of favour. Young Academy product Jordan Rossiter is a central midfielder in the Steven Gerrard mould who is very highly thought of on Merseyside.

Liverpool’s trio of attacking midfielders will include Brazilian Philippe Coutinho. The 23-year-old is an all-round talent who can pass, shoot and dribble with aplomb, while his defensive contribution is underrated. Coutinho has unleashed 15 shots in Liverpool’s opening three matches – more than any other Reds player.

Fellow countryman Roberto Firmino is another new boy and started for the first time at the Emirates. Also 23, is an elusive forward who will enjoy cutting inside with the ball at his feet from the right flank onto his stronger left foot.

Jordan Ibe is another promising young player. Just 19, Ibe is a powerful runner who likes to bring the ball forward and beat his man with pace and trickery. England schemer Adam Lallana is injured.
In the absence of the injured Daniel Sturridge, Christian Benteke is Liverpool’s attacking talisman.

Well-known to English football fans from his time at Aston Villa, Benteke is tall, strong and can both hold the ball up and run in behind. He can also finish with aplomb with his head and either foot.

Possible starting XI: Mignolet, Clyne, Skrtel, Lovren, Gomez, Henderson, Milner, Firmino, Coutinho, Ibe, Benteke