A reminder for Alisson Becker of the challenges that lay ahead. Should he prove himself as the difference for Liverpool this season, it will because he has accepted isolation as a feature of his game. It is fair to assume West Ham won’t be the only team Liverpool beat 4-0 at Anfield between now and next May. Their dominance was absolute here and Becker had just one save to make. Concentration will probably define him.
It was a day of immense encouragement for Liverpool and their supporters, one where the relentless performance of another new signing in Naby Keita made him one of several candidates for man of the match.
Keita is someone Jürgen Klopp was so desperate to recruit he was happy to wait a year for his arrival. The Guinean enjoyed an outstanding debut. He is a rare sort of midfielder that is neither a number 10 or even a number 8 because of the space he finds, the energy he expends in closing down opponents and his skill.
He is difficult to define because he appears to be so many things at once. Perhaps most importantly for Klopp, he is another player that does not muck around because everything happens at speed. And yet, he evidently possesses the intelligence to know when to slow down and wait for the back-up. Ultimately, this is why Liverpool were able to take the lead.
Liverpool’s opening goal was a classic, one which had three elements of perfection. Element one was Trent Alexander-Arnold’s pass into the midfield, the sort you do not necessarily expect a full-back to be able make. Element two was Keita’s decision to wait for Andy Robertson’s run and then serve him, rendering the line of West Ham defenders redundant. Robertson’s subsequent cross was firm and irresistible. Mohamed Salah could not miss. Liverpool were on their way.
James Milner’s presence beside Keita was also vital. The older he gets, the more energy and influence he seems to find. He is like a rash. Though his role and responsibilities were primarily central, he consumed Liverpool’s right side to the point where it felt inevitable that he would end up contributing towards something vital. Liverpool’s second arrived crucially right on half time and it involved Milner stretching furthest to cut another Robertson cross back towards Sadio Mané. Like Salah before him, he could not miss. In scoring, Mané became the first Liverpool player in 27 years to score in three consecutive opening day fixtures. The last player to do that was John Barnes.
What of West Ham and what of their new signings? Four of the ten started here and there was another two on the bench. Liverpool had more talent in their team but they also were also fitter. For all of Keita’s vibrancy and Milner’s persistence, they were afforded lots of space in which to operate. Of the new arrivals, only Felipe Anderson seemed anywhere close to being up to speed with what was happening.
When asked about what Liverpool need to challenge Manchester City this season, Klopp offered a few ingredients but the first was “more luck.” Mané’s second of the afternoon should encourage him because the forward was offside when he received Roberto Firmino’s flick.
You sense that the Senegalese’s output could be crucial for Liverpool because there is room for improvement in terms of his composure at vital moments. His finish here was delivered with the sort of conviction you see from a 25-goal-a-year striker. If he becomes one, Liverpool’s possibilities increase.
It helps Liverpool too that Daniel Sturridge is showing signs that he could become an important figure once again. Following an impressive pre-season, he scored within seconds of his introduction for Salah. Liverpool’s lead extended to four and it could have been more. Worryingly for their rivals, they ultimately were not close to being at their very, very best.