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