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This could be seen as job done, completing the bare minimum expectations of six points from nine after dropping the first three against Hull at the start of the week. It could also be seen as job just about done, since it arguably should have been at least seven if not the full nine.
Brendan Rodgers’ side played pretty well against Sam Allardyce’s West Ham United side, with old boys Stewart Downing and Joe Cole having some time on the pitch of their former club, while Andy Carroll continued to sit out with a long-term problem. For the 20 minute period before and after half-time, Liverpool looked immense, moving the ball around with aplomb and crispness, interchanging their positions and trying to get in behind the defence. The other periods saw the Hammers try to get back into the game, mostly with long punts or crosses into the box, which Mamadou Sakho and Martin Skrtel dealt pretty decently – albeit the latter’s own goal came from some aerial pressure.
Joe Allen did improve on his decent performance from midweek against Norwich. With Steven Gerrard and him constantly switching between who goes forward and who sits back, Allen – when going forward – managed to find his team-mates in tight situations and did take on and dribble at the opposing defenders. When Lucas came on to replace Gerrard around the 60 minute mark, this allowed Allen to press higher up and freed him to go forward more, knowing Lucas would sit back. When West Ham got back to 2-1 and had some control of the game, Allen and Lucas, along with Jordan Henderson, formed a robust shield in front of the defence that stopped the likes of Mohamed Diame and Kevin Nolan from supporting Madibo Maiga.
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Further, Raheem Sterling also improved on his goal and performance against Norwich. He constantly ran in behind the defence from Philipp Coutinho’s low as well as lofted through balls, and almost got an end to a few of them, most noticeably the shot that ended up just wide of Jussi Jaaskelainen’s far post. Sakho had an immense game at the back, dealing with most of the high balls and keeping Maiga in check – except for that one chance when Matt Jarvis found Maiga’s head, which drew a superb save from Simon Mignolet that even his opposite number Jaaskelainen applauded along with the Anfield faithful.
Luis Suarez, not as spectacular as midweek of course, still managed one headed goal from yesterday’s stand-in vice-captain Glen Johnson’s pinpoint cross, and also one deflected goal after feigning the West Ham defenders two, maybe three times.
Trip to White Hart Lane
As was the philosophy of looking at it one game at a time, this month has necessitated the need to look at the games in batches. Rodgers has navigated out of the first batch of December fixtures with some good performances but an above average points haul. How his side will fare in the next batch of fixtures before the new year will define Liverpool’s season. With away trips to Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester City, along with the last home game of 2013 against Cardiff (not an easy fixture either – just ask City and David Moyes), this batch of four games should hopefully yield around eight or nine points out of a possible twelve – a win at either away match and two draws at the other two away games along with a Cardiff win. This is the most ideal and realistic hope for Rodgers to end the year on the high and in the running for a top 4 place…
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