Three things we learned: West Ham v. Liverpool

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LONDON — Liverpool dropped two more points in the Premier League title race, as they drew 1-1 at West Ham United.

Pressure does strange things to teams at this part of the season.

Monday’s trip to the London Stadium offered Jurgen Klopp‘s men the chance to open up a five-point gap atop the table, but a spirited Hammers side cancelled out Sadio Mane‘s controversial opener as Michail Antonio grabbed them a well-earned point. And West Ham could’ve easily won the game had they taken their chances.

With Liverpool now drawing to both Leicester and West Ham in their last two games, Manchester City can jump top of the table with a win at Everton on Wednesday and put the pressure back on the Reds.

Here’s a look at what we learned from the London Stadium, as the title race is well and truly on.


LIVERPOOL SHOULD BE HAPPY WITH A DRAW

In the first half West Ham should have been at least 3-0 up. Liverpool were all over the place from defensive set piece situations, holding a high line for no apparent reason. Antonio scored from one situation. Declan Rice somehow nodded wide from another and both Aaron Cresswell and Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez drilled just wide from counters which stretched Liverpool’s defense easily. It was as if Liverpool’s defenders were keen to keep their high-line no matter what, and in the second half they were lucky both Felipe Anderson and Mark Noble lost their cool in the penalty box when big chances arrived. Liverpool had chances themselves, as they always do, but this was far from a game where they played well and had to settle for a draw against a stubborn West Ham side. Klopp’s men got away with one by not losing at West Ham and now they are just three points ahead of Man City atop the Premier League table, and must expect City to beat Everton on Wednesday and slip to second place, albeit with a game in hand. Injuries are impacting Liverpool, but Klopp’s men are showing signs that they are cracking under the pressure. The nervous tension emanating from Liverpool’s fanbase is seeping into the previously carefree players. The 29-year wait for a league title is weighing heavy on everyone connected with Liverpool right now.


WEST HAM COUNTER TO PERFECTION

Man United, Arsenal, Chelsea and now Liverpool have all failed to win at the London Stadium and for Pellegrini this was a perfect response after three-straight defeats for the Hammers in embarrassing fashion. Like Leicester City, the Hammers are one of those teams outside of the top six who frighten the life out of the big boys. When they aren’t forced to possess the ball, create chances and take the games to opponents, that is when they are at their best. Sure, Manuel Pellegrini has brought a certain panache and control to their game since arriving in the summer, but the fact that both Marko Arnautovic and Samir Nasri were missing through injury did them a favor. Anderson, Antonio and Chicharito pounced when they could on the counter and the pace of full backs Cresswell and Ryan Fredericks was helpful in supporting attacks and stopping Mane and Salah from running riot. In truth, West Ham’s wasteful finishing let Liverpool off the hook. Yes, West Ham’s fans want them to be more attractive to watch but when they counter this well, it’s hard to see them not deploying these kind of tactics on a regular basis against the big boys. They lost their impetus when Andy Carroll came on late in the game and that proved what direction the Hammers must move in going forward. They have the squad to hurt teams on the counter and must realize, and play to, their strengths.


INJURIES MOUNT UP FOR KLOPP

The news that Joe Gomez now requires surgery on a fractured leg was bad enough for Liverpool fans to wake up to Monday, but when Jordan Henderson, Dejan Lovren and particularly Georginio Wijnaldum missed the game at West Ham due to injury, the alarm bells were ringing. A midfield trio of Naby Keita, Fabinho and Adam Lallana should have had enough quality to wrestle control of this game but Mark Noble, Robert Snodgrass and Declan Rice won that battle rather easily. Joel Matip appears to frighten the life out of his fellow defenders when he plays and even the usually placid Virgil Van Dijk was caught out as Liverpool’s undoubted defensive leader failed to settle things down. James Milner, playing at right back, was targeted throughout and both Snodgrass and Anderson had a field day drifting out to his flank. Liverpool’s squad is not quite large enough to deal with injuries to five key players, as Milner and Henderson at right back in recent games has shown. Letting Nathaniel Clyne leave on loan in the January window and not adding another defender as back up could be the difference for them in this title race.

Liverpool suffer title slip-up in draw at West Ham (video)

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  • Liverpool’s title lead shrinks to 3 points
  • Reds score from blown offside call (22′)
  • West Ham fight back to 1-1 (28′)

When Jurgen Klopp‘s Reds visited West Ham United on Monday, Liverpool had β€” and missed β€” their second golden opportunity in a month’s time to build an insurmountable lead in the Premie League title race.

[ MORE: Three things we learned from Liverpool’s draw with West Ham ]

1-1 was the final score at the London Stadium, and the current PL leaders, who saw their lead shrink from five points to three this weekend, were quite fortunate to come away with their point.

The game’s first scoring chance came with barely two minutes on the clock. West Ham quickly and fluidly worked the ball through Liverpool’s midfield and backline, but Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez curled his shot inches wide of the far post. The tone had been set, though: Liverpool were in for a tough fight.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

The ensuing 15 minutes featured plenty more of the home side taking the game to the title leaders, as the Hammers caught the Reds out of shape on the counter. Ultimately, though, Aaron Cresswell smashed his 20-yard effort through a sea of bodies, only to see it goes inches β€” fewer the Hernandez’s effort eight minutes earlier β€” wide of Alisson‘s left-hand post.

West Ham’s control and threatening period came and went without the payoff they so desperately need, and they were unjustly punished for it. Sadio Mane opened the scoring in the 22nd minute, but the passage of play should have been halted well before the Senegalese dynamo put the ball in the back of the net.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Adam Lallana played a backheel into space for James Milner, whose cross into the box found Mane for the goal, but Milner stood a full two yards offside when the pass came from Lallana (WATCH HERE). West Ham defender Angelo Ogbonna seemed to switch off in anticipation of the offside flag going up, but it never did.

Justice was served in short order, however, as Michail Antonio pulled West Ham back to level terms six minutes later. Felipe Anderson started the training-ground masterpiece with a deftly played ball from his free kick, sending Antonio to a tight angle wide of the six-yard box, but the finish was impeccable.

Once back on level footing, West Ham returned to the front foot and should have gone a goal ahead once again in the 41st minute. Declan Rice beat Liverpool’s high line and had five yards of space between himself and the nearest defender, but the ____-year-old lifted his header of Anderson‘s free kick just inchesΒ β€” yet again β€” over the crossbar and let Alisson off no man’s island.

There was little hope for the second half to live up to the lofty standards of its predecessor, but Liverpool were determined in their desperation to match Manchester City’s result against Arsenal on Sunday.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Mohamed Salah was effectively neutralized for much of Monday’s matchup, but the Egyptian nearly broke the deadlock with a brilliant slalom through the Hammers’ penalty area and curled shot in the 61st minute, but Lukasz Fabianski was all over it to make the diving save. Beyond that move just after the hour mark, Liverpool were threatened very little and West Ham were able to usher the game toward full-time with an unexpected measure of comfort.

Despite frustrating the league leaders, West Ham remain 12th in the league table.

West Ham fall victim to FA Cupset at hands of Wimbledon

Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images
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Saturday was a day of Cupsets in the FA Cup β€” at least in the day’s late games β€” as West Ham United were the second Premier League side to be knocked out by lower-league opposition.

[ Transfer rumor roundup: Perisic to Arsenal; Gomez to West Ham ]

AFC Wimbledon, who currently sit bottom of League One, raced out to a 3-0 lead by the 46th minute and managed to hold on for a 4-2 victory at Kingsmeadow. Championship side Millwall bounced a PL side of their own, Everton, from the competition earlier on Saturday.

Since Wimbledon was reformed as a club in 2002, the Dons’ deepest run in the FA Cup was previously the third round. On Monday, theirs will be one of 16 names in the draw for the fifth round.

The game was mostly dominated by West Ham for the opening half-hour, but the Hammers were visibly shaken after going a goal down in the 34th minute (Kwesi Appiah), doubly so when the Dons made it 2-0 in the 41st (Scott Wagstaff).

Manuel Pellegrini made a triple-change at halftime β€” bringing off all three of Pedro Obiang, Andy Carroll and Grady Diangana β€” but it made little difference from the outset of the second half. Wagstaff made it 3-0 less than 60 seconds after the restart.

[ MORE:Β USMNT v. Panama preview, projected starting XI ]

West Ham got as close as 3-2, thanks to goals scored by Lucas Perez (57th minute) and Felipe Anderson (71st), but Toby Sibbick restored the home side’s two-goal lead with a tap-in header in the 88th minute.

Transfer rumor roundup: Perisic to Arsenal; Gomez to West Ham

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Arsenal are in talks with Inter Milan about signing Ivan Perisic, according to the BBC and Sky Italy.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]Β 

Perisic, 29, is said to be keen on an exit from Inter and the Croatian winger has long been linked with a move to Manchester United. However, per the reports, Arsenal want to loan Perisic initially and then an option to buy him for $46.2 million in the summer.

He has scored three goals and added five assists in 25 appearances in all competitions for Inter this season, and shone at the World Cup as Croatia were runners up.


Make sure to tune-in for our special Transfer Deadline Day show on NBCSN on Thursday, Jan. 31 from 5 p.m. ET as we focus on all of the moves across the Premier League in the January window. You can stream the show live online right here.


The reports go on to state that Inter only want to sell Perisic in January and will not loan him out.

Unai Emery has previously said that Arsenal could only afford loan deals in January, which enraged fans but is understandable given their huge outlay on Mesut Ozil’s new contract, plus bringing in Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in recent seasons.

Is this a deal which the Gunners really need to do?

They’re losing Aaron Ramsey in the summer on a free transfer to Juventus and it appears that Denis Suarez will arrive from Barcelona to replace him in central midfield. Suarez is linked with a loan move before the window shuts, but a midfielder, nor a winger, shouldn’t be high on Emery’s wish list.

With several poor defensive displays this season, plus a recent batch of injuries, beefing up defensive options should surely be the long-term plan for Emery. Maybe he can’t get in the defenders he wants in January so is instead looking elsewhere to strengthen, and there’s no doubting Perisic’s pedigree.

But with Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Alex Iwobi, Ozil, Lacazette and Aubameyang around in the attacking areas and Emery playing narrow 4-3-2-1 or 3-4-2-1 formations, bringing in Perisic doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Then again, Arsenal gonna Arsenal…


Sky Sports claim that West Ham United will break their transfer record to bring in Maxi Gomez from Celta Vigo.

Gomez, 22, has a release clause in his contract of over $57 million and per the report he could sign for West Ham in January and then be loaned back to Celta Vigo for the rest of the season. The La Liga outfit is struggling in the table and need Gomez’s goals to help with their bid against relegation.

Given the situation regarding Marko Arnautovic, who has now said he will remain at West Ham despite a huge offer to go and play in China, this would be a smart move from the Hammers.

Securing Gomez ahead of the summer is smart business, as the Uruguayan forward will be in demand after scoring 26 La Liga goals for a struggling Celta side over the past season-and-a-half. Gomez is a powerful forward who can hold up the ball and stretch defenses with runs in-behind, and with Andy Carroll out of contract in the summer, Arnautovic potentially leaving and Javier Hernandez reportedly wanting to leave in January, Manuel Pellegrini needs to have some long-term stability up top.

Following the big-money signing of Felipe Anderson last summer, it is clear West Ham are now buying quality over quantity. And after the signing of free agent Samir Nasri, Declan Rice signing a new long-term contract and the additions of Diop, Fabianski and Balbuena last summer, the Hammers are suddenly making plenty of smart moves in the transfer market.

That is not something we could say often, if at all, about their dealings in recent years.

Premier League player Power Rankings

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Who excelled and who struggled in the Premier League over the weekend? Our latest batch of player Power Rankings are out as we focus on the top performers in Week 22.

[ MORE:Β Full Power Rankings archiveΒ ]

Stars from Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United, West Ham and Southampton all feature, as stars from the likes of Tottenham, Chelsea and Arsenal are misfiring.

Remember: this is a list of the top 20 performing players right now in the Premier League.

Let us know in the comments section below if you agree with the selections.


  1. David De Gea (Man United) – New entry
  2. Gabriel Jesus (Man City) – New entry
  3. Declan Rice (West Ham) – New entry
  4. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) – Up 6
  5. Paul Pogba (Man United) – Even
  6. Marcus Rashford (Man United) – Up 5
  7. Fernandinho (Man City) – Down 4
  8. Jan Bednarek (Southampton) – New entry
  9. Fabinho (Liverpool) – Up 8
  10. Virgil Van DijkΒ (Liverpool) – Down 3
  11. Leroy Sane (Man City) – Down 3
  12. Heung-Min Son (Tottenham) – Down 11
  13. Raheem Sterling (Man City) –Β  Down 4
  14. Aymeric Laporte (Man City) – New entry
  15. Jesse Lingard (Man United) – Down 2
  16. Felipe Anderson (West Ham) – Down 3
  17. Shane Long (Southampton) – New entry
  18. Harry Kane (Tottenham) – Down 12
  19. Abdoulaye Doucoure (Watford) – Even
  20. Lukasz Fabianski (West Ham) – New entry