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Liverpool

Three talking points as Liverpool’s dominant win signalled the end of Slaven Bilic’s West Ham tenure

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Liverpool put the final nail in the coffin of Slaven Bilic’s reign as West Ham manager as a Mohamed Salah-inspired display easily swept aside a dismal Hammers at the London Stadium on Saturday evening.

After Jordan Ayew came close to giving the hosts an early lead when he hit the outside of the post it was Jurgen Klopp’s side who struck the hammer blow, scoring twice in the space of three minutes courtesy of a Salah goal from a devastating counter-attack and a point-blank effort from Joel Matip.

Manuel Lanzini’s deft finish gave Bilic some brief hope on the hour mark but this hope lasted all of 60 seconds as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain went straight up the other end to restore the two-goal lead.

West Ham left huge gaps at the back as they went in search of another goal and Salah rounded of a sublime solo display when he added a fourth late on, securing a routine three points for Klopp’s side.

The result sees the Hammers remain just a single point outside of the relegation spots heading into the international break, whilst Liverpool’s recent momentum continues as they sit sixth in the table.

West Ham hit self-destruct button

When your manager is under pressure and you’re fighting at the bottom of the table, the very last thing you want to do is play completely into your opponent’s hands as West Ham did on Saturday.

They would have known that Liverpool’s primary threat on a big London Stadium pitch would have been to utilise their pace assets in attack and counter, yet the Hammers still committed far too many players forward for a corner to leave Sadio Mane the freedom of the pitch to run into and find Salah.

It was the worst possible way to concede and it put the hosts on the back foot after a bright start, and Liverpool simply capitalised on the hosts’ lack of concentration by adding a quick second goal.

Bilic would have been livid as, for the opening 20 minutes, they were the brighter side after striking the woodwork through Ayew but in just 157 first-half seconds it all unraveled and the wheels came off, providing Liverpool with a two-goal lead that West Ham couldn’t turn around like they did against Tottenham.

There was a moment when it seemed like they could though when Lanzini’s cute finish halved the deficit but West Ham’s defensive naivety came to the fore once again and spelt an end to any chance of salvaging a positive result from the game, with Liverpool scoring again within a matter of 57 seconds.

They simply switched off and got carried away by their goal and that’s something you can’t do against Liverpool’s potent attack, and Bilic will be ruing what could have been with more focus.

Slaven Bilic’s time runs out as poor start catches up

How much longer does this man have?

It was a question that had been on everyone’s lips since the very start of the Premier League season, where West Ham went four games without a goal or a point, and it’s a question that’s now been answered.

Football is a results-generated business and despite Bilic coming across well when speaking to the media about his situation there was only so much time that the owners were going to give him with West Ham fighting at the bottom, and his post-match interview on Saturday was one of a man resigned to his fate.

And on Monday morning the inevitable became a reality when an official statement from the London side confirmed the sacking of the Croatian after two and a half years at the club, to little surprise.

Whilst some of his managerial decisions have been questionable this campaign, he hasn’t been helped at all by the lack of effort and passion from his chosen eleven on the pitch each weekend.

Against Liverpool they didn’t press, or have any urgency, and there just seemed a lack of desire or hunger to catch the opposition players when they managed to break through the midfield lines and bear down on goal and it was this gulf in commitment that pushed the game in the visitor’s favour.

With a two-week break from domestic action it was always going to be the perfect time to find a replacement and the owners have wasted no time in putting Bilic out of his misery after his poor start to the season.

Jurgen Klopp’s midfield experiment pays dividends

In the absence of first-team players Philippe Coutinho and Jordan Henderson, the Liverpool boss surprised most people by trialling a conventional 4-4-2 system instead of his customary 4-3-3 one.

In doing so, he moved Oxlade-Chamberlain out into a right-midfield position and utilised Salah in a striking role – rather than on the wing – and it was a bold switch that provided a devastating effect.

Salah’s role as a striker meant that he didn’t have to track back down the right-hand side, meaning he was a constant outlet on the half-way line when Liverpool did decide to counter – something that paid dividends twice for his two breakaway goals – and he took the game away from the Hammers.

Yet it didn’t just have an impact on Liverpool’s efficiency in attack as having two central midfielders provided a better sense of protection to their notoriously leaky defence, with both Georgino Wijnaldum and Emre Can putting in decent shifts as West Ham struggled to find a path in the attack.

Their influence on the game showed when Bilic threw on Andy Carroll in the second half in an attempt to gain some territory in the Liverpool half, and it’ll be interesting now to see whether Klopp decides to persist with the 4-4-2 formation when the Premier League recommences in a fortnight.

Will is a Multimedia Journalism graduate from the University of Salford, specialising in the art of sports. Long-time suffering Northampton Town fan who once saw us win a league title. Find him on Twitter - @96PearsonW.

Liverpool

Virgil van Dijk proving to be worth his price-tag, but must keep Cristiano Ronaldo quiet

Liverpool’s January recruit has been in fine form since his arrival at the club.

Mathew Coull

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Liverpool take on Real Madrid this weekend in the Champions League final in a highly anticipated game in Kiev. The fixture will see Jurgen Klopp’s side hope to capture an impressive title after an enthralling run to the final in which they have played some expansive attacking football.

But to beat Real Madrid they will also have to keep Los Merengues at bay. With one of the greatest to ever play the game in Cristiano Ronaldo among their attacking options, that is no easy feat.

For Liverpool, the key man could, therefore, be the one who has proven to be a massive improvement for the side since his January arrival.

(Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

The Reds paid Southampton a whopping fee of £75 million, as reported by the BBC. It was a price-tag called into question by many pundits and fans alike. However, the Dutchman has been in fine form since his arrival and added a genuine aura to the Liverpool back-line.

His aerial presence, speed and intelligence have all been demonstrated on a number of occasions as Liverpool’s defensive fragilities have been transformed since his arrival.

The impact he has had on Dejan Lovren cannot be understated. The Croatian looks to be back to something near his best since pairing with Van Dijk. His cool style on the ball and brilliant reading of the game has allowed Lovren to relax into his role and the pair make a good partnership.

(Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images)

Against Ronaldo, all of Van Dijk’s best attributes will be tested.

The Portuguese attacker is still lightning quick, a monster in the air and his footballing brain is often unrivalled.

If Liverpool are to keep him quiet, it will rest largely on the shoulders of their £75 million winter investment.

It is these challenges that forced Van Dijk into pushing for his Southampton departure and he must ensure he is up to it this Saturday.

If he can keep Ronaldo quiet and Liverpool win the Champions League, then that £75 million fee will no longer seem so astronomical.

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Liverpool

Liverpool target Besiktas’ Anderson Talisca would add superb attacking depth

The Brazilian has recorded 28 goal contributions in Turkey this season.

Max Cohen

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Anderson Talisca
Photo: Getty Images

After Besiktas’ 5-1 home win over Sivasspor on Saturday, manager Senol Gunes strongly hinted that star attacker Anderson Talisca would be joining Liverpool this summer.

The possible signing of the Brazilian midfielder would be a superb acquisition for Liverpool, adding depth and quality to the club’s star-studded attack.

According to FourFourTwo, the Besiktas manager confirmed Talisca would be leaving the Turkish club for the Premier League after two years on loan from Benfica.

And Gunes dropped a massive hint that put Liverpool as the possible frontrunners in attaining his signature ahead of Manchester United.

“He might be rivals with Cenk Tosun,” Gunes replied when asked about Talisca’s English destination.

Of course, former Besiktas striker Cenk Tosun plays for Everton– leading many to jump to the conclusion that Talisca is headed to Anfield instead of Old Trafford.

(Photo by Ozan Kose/Getty Images)

The signing would represent a strong statement of intent from the Reds, as Talisca has enjoyed a stunning two seasons at Besiktas and is a burgeoning attacking talent.

In 47 appearances this season, the 24-year-old was involved in an impressive 28 goals, scoring 20 and assisting eight.

And the Brazilian’s past form shows this fantastic season is not a one-off. In 2016/17, Talisca bagged 17 goals and six assists, despite only featuring 33 times in all competitions.

While some might argue that the Turkish Super Lig has a poorer defensive standard than the Premier League, Talisca has proven his worth in European competition as well. In his time at Besiktas, he has notched five Champions League goals, as well as two goals and four assists in the Europa League.

The Brazilian youth international would add impressive offensive depth for Liverpool, as the Reds look to seriously challenge for the Premier League next season.

The purchase of the prolific attacking midfielder would be an ideal first step in assembling a squad that could bring Anfield its first league trophy in over two decades.

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Champions League

Gareth Bale’s red-hot Real Madrid form should scare Liverpool

The Welshman has scored 11 goals in his last 15 appearances.

Max Cohen

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Gareth Bale
Photo: Getty Images

In Real Madrid’s final league match of this season on Saturday, Gareth Bale swept home a lovely right-footed finish to open the scoring against Villarreal.

That goal marked the Welshman’s 11th goal in his last 15 appearances for club and country; a remarkably prolific run of form that should scare Liverpool ahead of next weekend’s Champions League final.

Injury problems have marred much of Bale’s time at the Bernabeu, and he suffered a lengthy two-month absence from the first team this fall.

Yet, after returning from his injury lay-off, the former world-record signing has hit full form in the last two months.

In that time period, the winger has scored a hat-trick for Wales, braces against Las Palmas and Celta Vigo, and a crucial goal versus Barcelona.

This spring resurgence presents a worrying prospect for Liverpool’s defence, who already will have their hands full trying to keep Cristiano Ronaldo in check in Kiev.

(Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images)

Add in Gareth Bale hitting full form, and suddenly the task at hand for Jurgen Klopp’s men appears far more difficult.

The 28-year-old also has quite the decorated history for los Blancos in cup finals. In his debut season for Real, Bale scored sensational winning goals in both the Copa del Rey and Champions League finals.

The following season in the European Cup final, the Welshman assisted Real Madrid’s sole goal and scored his penalty in the ensuing shoot-out; his cup final record is simply superb.

Combined with Bale’s recent tremendous goalscoring form, the prospect of facing up against the powerful winger might strike fear in the Liverpool backline.

But the Reds have proven adept in stifling some of the best attacks in Europe this season.

Liverpool famously restricted high-scoring Manchester City to just one goal over 180 minutes in the quarterfinals and the Reds will have to conjure up that heroic rearguard performance in order to stop the on-form Gareth Bale next weekend.

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