Five talking points as Liverpool open the new season with a hammering

Five talking points as Liverpool open the new season with a hammering

West Ham were swept aside with ease as Liverpool began their Premier League season in style.

matt-addison
Matt Addison

Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool got their Premier League campaign off to the perfect start with a 4-0 victory over West Ham United on Sunday afternoon, as Sadio Mané scored twice with Mo Salah and Daniel Sturridge also getting on the scoresheet.

Naby Keita and Alisson Becker both made their competitive debuts for the club, while Xherdan Shaqiri came off the bench on what was an ideal start to a season that promises so much. 

Liverpool ended the opening round of fixtures top of the table on goal difference, a position they are aiming to replicate when the final standings are confirmed in May.

Wijnaldum impresses

Gini Wijnaldum was linked with a move away from Anfield at times during the summer, and while there was never any doubt that the Dutchman was a player Klopp wanted to retain, few would have predicted him to begin the first game of the season given the new arrivals.

Playing as the number six – the deepest of Liverpool's midfield trio – Wijnaldum was combative on the rare occasions he was called into action, and showed an impressive range of passing when afforded the opportunity.

His energy levels, interceptions and front-foot forward balls set the tempo for the home side, and he often found Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson in space in wide areas.

How often Wijnaldum features as Liverpool's number six when Fabinho is fully fit and Jordan Henderson is back at full tilt having been given extended time off following England's World Cup exertions, remains to be seen.

But on this evidence, he is a more than worthy candidate, particularly when the Reds are playing at Anfield, where it is his ball-playing skills rather than his tackling that need to be top draw.

Milner getting better with age

Captain on the day, at least until Henderson entered the field, James Milner was one of Liverpool's star men in the middle of midfield, spraying passes intently and appearing in all areas of the pitch in a typical all-action performance.

At 32, Milner was Liverpool's top fitness performer in pre-season, comfortably completing various tests at Melwood and coming out on top, and that showed here.

Mark Noble and Jack Wilshere in the central areas for the visitors were unable to get close to him, as his dynamism and clever runs moved the opposition this way then that.

Milner had been rumoured to be considering retirement at the end of this season, but keep performing like this and he would be mad to leave; rarely in his already stellar career has he looked like he has been enjoying himself so much.

Keita worth the wait

Bought from RB Leipzig last summer in readiness for this season, Keita already looks part of the Anfield furniture after just one game.

Like Milner, he has the ability to pop up all over the pitch and has the quality to make things happen.

Often linking up with Mané on the left side of Liverpool's team, and in fact replacing the Senegalese on the left side of the front three late on, Keita showed an exciting glimpse of what is to come.

Liverpool were willing to spend big on the 23-year-old and were willing to wait twelve months for his arrival. Elite performances like this so early on in his Reds career show exactly why they did so.

With Salah, Mané and Roberto Firmino, Keita could replace Philippe Coutinho in a rebrand of the 'Fab Four'. 

Salah and Mané straight back at it

Questions over whether Salah would be able to pick up where he left off last season, where he scored 44 goals in an incredible debut year, will remain, but he scored early on to break the deadlock.

Mané, too, Liverpool's Player of the Season the campaign before last, would have been keen to prove a point, and his brace sets him up well as he aims to better his tally of over 20 from last term.

Both players are capable of bettering their previous season in terms of performance level and goal numbers and they will be crucial to Liverpool's silverware chances. 

Mané started on the left, and finished on the right, highlighting the versatility available for Klopp with Shaqiri brought into the squad. Wherever he plays, he will always be a threat; the number 10 has now scored in each of Liverpool's last three opening Premier League fixtures.

Firmino is still rusty having come back to pre-season training late, but while he will take time to get back to his best, the two alongside him seem to have picked up where they left off – right at the top of their game.

Calmness between the sticks

Perhaps Liverpool's most important summer acquisition was in goal, where Loris Karius was replaced by Alisson.

The Brazilian number one kept a clean sheet and had next to nothing to save, but it was with his feet that he really impressed.

Where Karius’ dithering last season caused audible consternation in the Anfield stands, much more trust was afforded to Alisson.

The former Roma player, signed for £66 million, was composed and accurate in almost every pass.

He takes a chance from time to time. Marko Arnautovic, for example, was close to blocking one of his long passes on one occasion – but the more times he shows he is capable of knowing just when to release the ball, the more the Liverpool crowd will feel at ease.

There is no doubt that Alisson will have far more sterner tests to come than a West Ham side that have not yet gelled having bought several new faces in the summer window, but it was a more than promising start.

The early signs are good for Liverpool as they look to win their first trophy under Klopp in his second full season. 

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