4-0 was the damning scoreline at Anfield on Sunday afternoon as West Ham United began their 2018/2019 Premier League campaign, their first under new manager Manuel Pellegrini, with a crushing defeat to Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, today, we help to tell the story of how it all unfolded by looking back on five Massive Moments from the match.
#1 Team And Tactics Selection
Some would argue that West Ham’s fate was already sealed after the team news had been released on Merseyside, with Pellegrini making a few evident tactical and selection errors when naming his starting Xl.
As the game developed, the clearest and most obvious of them was more of a mistake in the tactics and not the team selection, the baffling and insufficient high defensive line, something that was described by Jamie Redknapp before kick-off as “footballing suicide.”
The Reds beat the offside trap of the high line of on numerous occasions, most vividly for the second and third goals although the latter was clearly offside, and pierced right through the defensive system all afternoon.
In terms of team selection, many outlets, including ourselves, predicted that the Chilean woud favour the experience of Pablo Zabaleta in the right-back position rather the new signing Ryan Fredricks.
Fredricks was chosen and looked clearly out of his depth against one of the league’s best teams, along with Arthur Masuaku on the opposite side of the defence, against such a well-oiled machine of a club like Liverpool, getting the team and tactics wrong is always going to be a deadly move, hence why it’s our first Massive Moment.
#2 Liverpool’s Opener
Our second Massive Moment is something that seemed to be on the cards right from the first few seconds at Anfield as it was a case of when and not if it would happen, the Reds breaking the deadlock.
It took them all of 19 minutes to do so after an abundance of close calls which culminated in Andrew Robertson capitalising on space freed up by Fredericks to roll the ball across the box for the prolific Mohamed Salah to tap home past debutant Lukasz Fabianski.
Had it not been for this opening goal, the game could have taken off on a very different trajectory from here, had the home side continued to spurn opportunities, they may have been punished for these misses with a conceded goal.
However, the strike came at exactly the right time for Klopp’s men and only shoved coal into the fire that is their attack as they went on to double the lead, triple it and then quadruple it during the thrashing.
Further mistakes were made by the likes of Fredericks and Arthur Masuaku, which we will touch on later and despite the fact that the Reds had dominated the opening exchanges, both teams will look back on the first goal as one of the many Massive Moments of the day at Anfield.
#3 Arnautovic’s Missed Chance
It may have been all Liverpool for the most part for the entirety in the North East yesterday, but the visitors did have some openings and some half-chances, the best of them falling to Austrian Marko Arnautovic during the first period, a Massive Moment.
Nearly ten minutes after the deadlock was broken, A long ball was punted up from deep by the aforementioned Masuaku with last year’s Hammer of the Year and top goalscorer Arnautovic bringing it down excellently.
He turned at goal in battle with Joe Gomez and got his shot away, the England International just doing enough to deflect the ball wide of the far post, it had beaten a dumbfounded Allison all ends up.
Had the ball been a few inches to the left and buried in the bottom corner, Pellegrini’s men would have been level and we would be looking at a very different game, over than this and one over half-chance, Arnautovic barely had a sniff of the ball and it would be harsh to suggest he should have scored.
From the resulting corner, the Irons managed to get a shot on target, Paraguayan Fabian Bsalueba on a debut headed straight at Allison to save and similarly, if that had just had a little more angle on it, it could have changed the game completely, but things went the other way for West Ham.
#4 Rice’s Departure And Half-Time Tactical Changes
This is where the tactics of the Hammers’ new Chilean boss come into question once again at Anfield on a day many pundits and fans alike claimed that the East Londoners were the masters of their own downfall.
Half-time was always going to bring about change from Pellegrini, whether that was in personnel or tactics, and in the end, he went for both, replacing Declan Rice with Robert Snodgrass, and changing to a 4-3-3 of kinds.
Rice, the 19-year-old Irishman who made over 30 first-team appearances last season, was far from the worst performer on the field in the first period and had arguably been the pick of the away midfielders, non-deserving of being taken off.
When the Hammers came out for the second half, they looked even more unsure of themselves in midfield and at the back, with the defence never looking like they had made their minds up between dropping back or keeping the high line.
This is another Massive Moment as the correct tactical change, perhaps the shaky Fredericks being replaced by the weathered Zabaleta, could have got West Ham back into the game, instead, the wrong one plunged them further behind and contributed to a four-goal drubbing on the day six players made their debuts.
#5 Liverpool’s Third Goal
They often say that teams are only dead once they concede the third goal and this could well have been true in the case of this encounter as it well and truly was game over when the Reds struck their third eight minutes into the second half.
Coming out after half-time, Klopp’s men were expecting some kind of fightback at some stage, one that never really came at all, so they knew the importance of getting a third and being able to relax, in relative terms.
It would be a disaster for the Hammers to lose a goal so early after changes at the break, however, they did, although there was a slice of fortune for the home side when Mane struck home past Fabianski.
The turn and finish having received a close-range pass from Roberto Firmino was excellent from the Senegal International, what wasn’t so excellent was the fact that he had been comfortably offside when the pass was played.
The linesman on the far side failed to raise his flag despite protests and had VAR been in operation for this season, the decision would certainly have been overturned, thus giving the Irons more time to avoid falling three behind, it’s a familiar theme, but who knows what would have happened if it wasn’t for this Massive Moment?
So, now that we’ve analysed all of the Massive Moments from an embarrassing afternoon for Pellegrini’s West Ham at Anfield, will there be more positive Massive Moments to go back over in a week’s time, in the fallout of the first home game of the campaign, against Eddie Howe’s AFC Bournemouth?