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Yalla Shoot :West Ham vs Liverpool: Reds’ latest revival being powered by two unexpected sources

For only the second time this season, Liverpool have managed three straight Premier League wins.

Given the first time around they managed the feat their streak of four was interrupted halfway through by a six-week break to accommodate the World Cup, this one feels rather more real, somewhat more sustained.

They had to come from behind on Wednesday night to beat West Ham United 2-1, thereby adding the Hammers to a short list that also includes Nottingham Forest and Leeds United, but Jurgen Klopp will take it. Add in the rather more substantial names of Arsenal and Chelsea, who they drew with, and it’s five unbeaten for the Reds in league play.

Of late, the talk has been of a subtle switch in tactics: Trent Alexander-Arnold playing far more centrally, a double-pivot in possession and the return of some aggressive, high-upfield pressing. These factors were again on show at the London Stadium, but they were not entirely decisive ones in earning this three points. Instead, they came in part due to repeated, if unexpected, sources in recent games.

Firstly, Curtis Jones, whose resurgence late on this season improbably mirrors Liverpool’s own. And secondly, set pieces – which the Reds excelled at earlier in the year but had more recently been dreadful with.

But it’s Jones who deserves some focus, despite others contributing to the goals this time. After five months without a league start, the 22-year-old has now started Liverpool’s last five games. They haven’t lost in that time, and his performance here was similar to those before: a mix of diligent work rate, economical ball use and a willingness to progress play where possible.

He also dovetails well in the slightly altered alignment higher upfield: he dropped wide left, allowing Diogo Jota to take up central roles in attack, then filtered back inside when Andy Robertson judged his moments to overlap had arisen. Jones has had these runs of form and favour before but injuries have often disrupted them, then left him watching on for long stretches while other senior names get the nod repeatedly.

“Curtis had a super-difficult season this year with a freakish injury. We had to deal with him super carefully and his recovery was a session here and there but from when he could train properly, since he’s fully fit and ready, he’s doing really well,” Klopp said of his No 17 after the game.

“He set the tone with the first counter-pressing situation and he’s a really good player. He knows he has to improve but he’s in a really good moment and with the defensive work there’s a ticket into the team. On top of that, we are able to play good football and Curtis is part of that as well, absolutely.”

Jones it was who topped the bill in terms of both chances created and tackles won, not just for Liverpool but for both teams, such was his impact in both halves of the pitch.

And yet all of that came after far more familiar occurrences. There was a point this term when Klopp had to explain away the fact the Reds were conceding the first goal in matches week after week; that happened again here when Lucas Paqueta played a smart one-two and rattled a strike past Alisson Becker from range. Trundling in his wake was Jordan Henderson, unable to keep pace with an opponent striding past him and watching on as the ball ended in the net. Kevin De Bruyne, Gabriel Martinelli and Morgan Gibbs-White have all benefited in similar fashion in the past few weeks.

Lucas Paqueta opens the scoring for West Ham

(Getty)

The thunderous cheers from the home crowd, who ended the match baying for a late handball decision on Thiago Alcantara, did not last long. Cody Gakpo sent a long-ranger into the bottom corner, which Lukasz Fabianski should probably have done better with. A goal apiece, and an even game, which continued in the same vein until the break.

Diogo Jota nodded just wide from close range at one end; Michail Antonio did the same at the other. The Hammers striker thought he had an even better chance on the ground at the far post a moment earlier, but some truly excellent defending by Virgil van Dijk flicked the ball past him at the last instant.

Less impressive was Van Dijk’s failure to stop Jarrod Bowen cutting in and finding the bottom corner soon after half-time, but VAR intervened to save Liverpool on that occasion – and the visitors largely dominated thereafter.

Alexander-Arnold was pulling strings, but so too was Thiago once he replaced Henderson before the hour mark. Soon after, Joel Matip saw a shot blocked on the line by Fabianski – but from the resulting corner the centre-back powered in a header, unmarked and unchallenged, which the Pole had no chance of stopping.

Joel Matip scores Liverspool’s second from a corner kick

(Getty)

Matip’s effort followed in the wake of all three of the Reds’ goals against Forest coming off set-pieces, putting Liverpool on 15 goals netted off non-penalty dead balls this season, more than any other club once more.

More importantly, the three wins in succession see Liverpool up to sixth, climbing above Tottenham Hotspur, who they play at the weekend. It might not have been the case had West Ham been given a late penalty, a non-call that David Moyes labelled “disrespectful”, but fortune – or rules – favoured the visitors this time.

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