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Five things we learned as lethal Liverpool thrash West Ham and leave Slaven Bilic on the brink

Jurgen Klopp's tactical shift paid off, Joe Hart continues to struggle in goal for West Ham and could now lose his England place and Bilic is on the brink of losing his job

Luke Brown
Saturday 04 November 2017 21:02 GMT

Liverpool strolled to victory over West Ham to leave Slaven Bilic on the brink.

Mohamed Salah opened the scoring for Liverpool and just seconds later Joel Matip finished from close-range to double his sides lead.

Manuel Lanzini pulled one back for the hosts but further goals from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Salah wrapped up a comfortable win for Liverpool.

Here are five things we learned from the match.

Klopp's mind games pay off...

Klopp decided to start with Mane in his starting XI (Getty)

“Sadio trained with the team for first time yesterday and looked really good,” Klopp said with a smile at his pre-match press conference, before adding: “We will see how he reacts. He could be ready for 20/25 minutes.”

So naturally eyebrows were raised when Mane was named in the starting line-up, before going on to play a healthy 77 minutes. Ruling out a miraculous late recovery, his inclusion from the first whistle was evidence that even when under pressure, Klopp isn’t one to shy away from the odd managerial mind game.

And his decision to play Mane from the outset paid off, as the Senegalese forward assisted Mohamed Salah’s opening goal and was a buzzing nuisance throughout. He dominated Edimilson Fernandes, who was hauled off at half-time, and was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet himself.

... and so does his tactical switch

Liverpool strolled to victory (Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

This was a fantastic evening for Klopp, who has come under increasing pressure in recent weeks as Liverpool’s league form has slumped. Not only did his mind games prior to kick-off pay-off – but so did his decision to switch from his customary 3-4-3 to something resembling a 4-2-3-1 formation.

Mane and Salah combined well going forwards and terrorised the West Ham defence with their pace, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain looked comfortable deployed in a more advanced position. Without Oxlade-Chamberlain played as a wingback, Liverpool also looked more solid in defence, with Alberto Moreno and Joe Gomez playing well.

It was a fluid formation and perhaps this flexibility hampered Liverpool’s ability to keep the ball in the middle of the park, but ultimately Liverpool reacted well to Jordan Henderson’s injury and Klopp got his tactics spot on.

Hart's struggles continue

Hart is short of form (Getty Images)

An eye-catching stat began to do the rounds shortly before kick-off at the London Stadium: Joe Hart has conceded 29 goals in 17 Premier League games vs Liverpool during his career; five more than against any other side.

Make that 33 in 18 Premier League games after this difficult evening for Bilic’s struggling side. Could Hart be blamed for any of the goals? Perhaps – he left his near post wide open for Salah’s opener, although in fairness he was left incredibly exposed by his defence for all four. Regardless, he is a goalkeeper bereft of confidence, playing between the sticks for a side with the worst defensive record in the league this season.

England manager Gareth Southgate has shown that he is not afraid to be ruthless with his team selection with the Russian World Cup now just months away, and Hart must surely be in fear for his place as the nation’s number one goalkeeper.

Bilic running out of time

Bilic is running out of ideas (Getty)

Bilic could do little but hang his head in shame as he paced off towards the dressing room at half-time, the loud boos of the London Stadium crowd ringing in his ears. There was a similar scene at full-time.

His time in charge of West Ham is surely running out, with the club hovering just one point above the relegation zone having won two of their opening 11 Premier League fixtures. They haven’t won in the league since the end of September and it’s hard to see how they improve without relieving Bilic of his duties.

But is sacking Bilic really the long-term solution? The problems at West Ham seem to run so much deeper. From their frankly disastrous summer spending spree to the controversial decision to leave Upton Park in the first place, there is something very wrong in east London.

Lanzini offers some hope

Lanzini scored for West Ham (AFP/Getty Images)

West Ham’s hopes of getting their act together and rising up the Premier League table seem to rest squarely on the shoulders of the talented Lanzini.

The 24-year-old missed the start of the season with a knee injury – a spell on the sidelines that just so happened to coincide with West Ham losing their first three games.

He has played relatively well since his return and scored his first goal of the league season against Liverpool tonight, to give West Ham some brief hope of levelling the score. In truth he should have scored a second moments later, but even despite that miss he remained his club’s best player.

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