There were some nerves going in to the trip to the London Stadium after Arsenal cruised past Stoke City yesterday to crank up the pressure in the race for a spot in the top four, but Liverpool turned in assured performance in the capital to keep ahead of the chasing pack and keep their Champions League hopes in their own hands.
For all the criticism leveled at Reds boss Jurgen Klopp over the last couple of weeks for the flatness of their attack and his rigid tactics, the German got it spot on in the capital. Giving a start to Daniel Sturridge in place of the injured Roberto Firmino and the oft injured striker repaid the boss for his chance, latching on to a perfect through-ball from Philippe Coutinho en-route to rounding Iron’s ‘keeper Adrian and slotting home the opener.
With three-points and the chance to put one foot back on the continent hanging in the balance, they weren’t stopping there either; Andre Ayew came close to restoring parity just before the break, but the Ghanaian attacker hit the post and fluffed an easy chance to roll home on the rebound after a set-piece caused the kind of chaos in the Liverpool box that we’re all too accustomed to seeing. Coutinho, playing in a deeper role as Klopp put out a diamond to take advantage of West Ham’s three-at the back, added a quick-fire pair to put some distance between the two sides and by the time Divock Origi drilled home the fourth, there wasn’t any question about who the better side was on the day.
It’s obviously a good sign. Part of our lives is to handle pressure; to ignore the bad part of pressure and use the good part of pressure. That’s our job. I thought we did really well,” said Klopp, speaking to the club’s official website. “We drew in the last game, we didn’t finish, we didn’t score with the penalty, so maybe then people said, ‘Yeah, well they can’t deal with pressure’ but the only sign for this was using a penalty or not,” added the German. “These players did so good this season that we are in the situation we are, 73 points – and nobody gives you 73 points as a present. Take it and use it, we had to work for it.”
And it hasn’t been easy work. Stumbling here and conquering there, it’s been a weird season all together and while a win against already relegated Middlesbrough next weekend will see us claim third place and a spot in the Champions League proper, this isn’t over yet.
With that being said, it’s one match at a time; to be fair, Slaven Bilic’s side didn’t put up much of a fight, but you can only beat what’s in front of you and in the second half we absolutely pummeled them. The Gunners still have an outside chance of sneaking their way in to the top four, but if we play against Boro the same way we did against the Hammers, this strange season will at the very least have a happy ending.