One thing is for sure, Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp is using this year’s FA Cup to either blood in some of Liverpool’s rising young stars or see which of them will be given the door come the end of the season. Like he did in the previous round, Klopp gave his kids the opportunity to impress him and the fans by making ten changes to the team that progressed to the Capital One Cup final last week. In came Dejan Lovren, Nathaniel Clyne, Brad Smith, Steven Caulker, Joao Teixeira, Joe Allen, Cameron Brannagan, Jordan Ibe and Kevin Stewert. I’ll not lie when I saw the team I feared the worst. I expected yet another mauling from West Ham and for them to add to the five goals they have already scored against Liverpool.
As expected West Ham manager Slaven Bilic fielded a strong team and he would have been confident his team could over come Klopps Kids. The hammers started off the brighter and went close when Enner Valencia’s header came back off the post. I expected Liverpool to bounce back and put some sort of pressure on the West Ham goal but Christan Benteke was his usual immobile self and Liverpool lacked the creativity of Roberto Firmino. Jordan Ibe tried to get the Liverpool attack going but with no one playing in and around the box his attempted left fans frustrated.
But it wasn’t all doom and gloom for Reds manager Klopp, as Cameron Brannagan gave a mature and cultured performance. He was the rock in Liverpool’s midfield and was unlucky not to get on the score sheet in first half as his twenty five yard shot was saved by the Hammers stand in goalkeeper Darren Randolph. This proved to be the catalyst for Brannagan as he took control of the midfield and gave a Gerrardesque performance. He was one of Liverpool’s brightest stars against West Ham. Brannagan’s performance today comes as nothing new to some fans, as in the previous games he’s played this season he has shown that he deserves a run in the Liverpool team in the Premier League. I would advocate a midfield trio of Brannagan, Emre Can and Joe Allen while captain Jordan Henderson is recovering from injury.
Hammers manager Bilic will be left fuming after the game as he was forced to make two early changes after Cheikhou Kouyate and James Tomkins were forced off injured early in the first half and look set to miss at least the midweek Premier League matches. Bilic will also feel that his side deserved a penalty midway through the second half when Liverpool debutant Steven Caulker appeared to handle the ball in the box. Caulker was also guilty of giving Liverpool fans a scare five minutes in to the second half when a Nikica Jelavic header appeared to hit him on the hand. Referee Martin Atkinson turned down both appeals.
Jürgen Klopp will be disappointed his side couldn’t find the back of the net. Out of the eighteen shots they had against the Hammers, six of those were on target. Not scoring at Anfield seems to be a reoccurring problem for Jürgen Klopp since he took over from Brendan Rodgers. Liverpool have had seventy five shots on goal at Anfield, scoring only three goals and those goals were scored against League Two side Exeter City in the last round of the FA Cup.
Both managers will be bemoaning the fact the nil all draw in the fourth round of the FA Cup means another match for each of their teams. Klopp I think will be the unhappier of the two. It means he has another game to contend with. Since he took the reigns he has had a game on average every 4.1 days and with games next month in the Europa League and against Manchester City in the final of the Capital One Cup I can’t see the games per week ratio stretching out. But with the likes of senior players like Dejan Lovren and Nataniel Clyne coming back from injury, Klopp will be confident the squad he has what it takes to over come the amount of games Liverpool have coming up over the next few months.
Up next for Liverpool is a must win game against Leicester City. A win will improve Klopps chances of getting a Champions League place while if Liverpool lose I think the best opportunity to play in the lucrative Champions League is through the Europa League. If I had to pick a team for Leicester I would go with Mignolet, Clyne, Lovren, Sakho, Moreno, Can, Allen, Brannagan, Firmino, Lallana, Ibe.