It’s been a long, hot summer. Last season was so much fun and the way it ended had the potential to leave us all in a negative state of mind going into the new season. Luckily, the club wasn’t going to let that happen. After losing the Champions League final is such a disappointing manner we had to do something to keep the good feeling around the club. Announcing the signing of long-time Manchester United target Fabinho just two days after the game was just what was needed to do that. Not only was it the big-money upgrade we needed to replace the clearly outgoing Emre Can, it was also two fingers up to those pricks down the M62. The summer hadn’t even begun yet and we were already over the defeat to Real Madrid.
That signing set the tone. It was important that we didn’t dwell on what happened in Kyiv but made a concerted effort to use it as a springboard to bigger and better things. Naby Keita was already a done deal but I don’t think anyone expected to impress as much as he did in pre-season, fitting in seamlessly and so quickly. Yes, he proclaimed that to be the case but it seemed more like reassurance. I certainly took it with a pinch of salt. The signing of Xherdan Shaqiri took a while but once Switzerland were out of the World Cup he was eventually on his way. The one we needed was the last one through the door. We needed Alisson more than any of the other signings. It had become painfully obvious Simon Mignolet and Loris Karius weren’t up to the job of owning the number one shirt for the long term. They needed replacing and not getting Alisson, or the alternative that was Jan Oblak had the potential to undo all the good work put in over the summer. We got him in the end though. Klopp wasn’t going to allow Kyiv to ruin us.
So it’s been a very good summer. Now was the time to bring it all together.
West Ham had had a decent summer themselves. They have brought in genuine quality in the form of Jack Wilshere (I really do believe that), Felipe Anderson and Andriy Yarmolenko. They were facing a very different proposition than what they would have preferred on day one of the new season, though. I’m sure Manuel Pellegrini would have liked a nice, easy start to life in East London, a home game against Crystal Palace or Huddersfield perhaps. He must have been absolutely fuming when the fixtures were announced back in June and our name appeared as his team’s first outing of the season. Poor fell has a right to look like a saggy ballsack now.
From the very first minute, it became apparent that Liverpool were on another level. West Ham were struggling to deal with everything we threw at them. Sadio Mane was exploiting the space left by Ryan Fredericks over and over again. Mohamed Salah was able to find space despite being marked by three players at any one time. James Milner was working relentlessly hard and covered every blade of grass again. It’s hard to believe he’s thirty-two years old now. Joe Gomez and Virgil Van Dijk looked far from troubled any time West Ham came forward throughout the game.
The best and most pleasing thing though were the respective performances of Alisson and Naby Keita. Alisson is so calm and composed on the ball that it can be a bit scary. He allows the attacker to get within mere yards of him before poking the ball over his head. You know he is definitely going to fuck up at least once this season but that is something you have to allow with a sweeper keeper. You run that risk when you ask your ‘keeper to play out from the back in the manner that Alisson did today. The key will be whether the defence can cover for any mistake he makes. With the pace and power, our defence now has you have to back them.
Keita was able to back his claim of being settled and more. He looked sharp, quick and dangerous. Last season at Red Bull Leipzig he seemed a little more restricted and disciplined. Yesterday, he has clearly let off the leash. Imagine seeing him running at you. It must be terrifying! He did it on a number of occasions to West Ham and they had no answer to him. Not only does he scare defenders but he also has the nous to release the ball at just the right moment. He is by no means the finished article and his passing, in particular, could do with some work, but there is definitely something there with this lad.
I said at the end of every article last season that we were on the verge of something I didn’t know what. I finally concluded that the “something” must have been winning the Champions League, which wasn’t to be. Maybe that “something” is a little more long term. Maybe that “something” couldn’t be restricted to one season. Maybe that “something” is dominance. This is one game, I accept that, but the signs are promising. Liverpool may just be on the verge of something more special than we ever imagined.