Football Expert & ColumnistTrent Alexander-Arnold's delivery is key and Liverpool have also benefited from thinking outside the box
Last Updated: 30/01/20 1:33pm4:10 Danny Higginbotham analyses Liverpool's set-pieces and explains just how important they have been to the Reds' success Danny Higginbotham analyses Liverpool's set-pieces and explains just how important they have been to the Reds' success
Liverpool's set-piece potency comes down to Trent Alexander-Arnold's "sensational" delivery, according to tactics expert Danny Higginbotham.
Jurgen Klopp's side have scored more goals from set pieces than any other Premier League side since the start of last season, their total of 31 including 11 in the current campaign.
Liverpool's set-piece strength has helped them move 19 points clear of second-placed Manchester City at the top of the Premier League table.
And Higginbotham says the credit should go to right-back Alexander-Arnold, who has registered 10 assists this season on top of the 12 he contributed in 2018/19.Alexander-Arnold holds key to set-piece success 2:59 FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Liverpool's win at West Ham FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Liverpool's win at West Ham
"We can analyse the movements, we can look at Virgil van Dijk being very good in the air," Higginbotham said on Sky Sports News. "Just narrow it down: It's the person taking the set pieces.
"He has got one of the best deliveries in world football at the moment. It's absolutely incredible. It's not a case of saying, 'Does a player run around the back? Does a player come around the front?' It's just the delivery.
"What you've got is a group of players that know the delivery is going to be absolutely spot-on, so therefore they make the runs and they are confident."
Higginbotham sees parallels with the Stoke side he played in, in which Rory Delap's long throw caused havoc among Premier League defences.
"When I was at Stoke - and this isn't comparing the two teams at all - our set pieces were one of the biggest things for us," he says. "We believed we were going to score because our delivery and throw-ins were so good.
"I can tell you now that when Liverpool have a set piece and that ball is coming into the box, there are four or five players who believe they are going to score. Firstly, because they have done it before. Secondly, because of the delivery of Alexander-Arnold.
"His set-piece delivery is absolutely sensational. It's up there with the best I have ever seen - it's that good."Thrown-in coach helping Reds Trent Alexander-Arnold takes a throw-in for Liverpool
Higginbotham also believes Liverpool are reaping the rewards of their decision to appoint specialist throw-in coach Thomas Gronnemark, who estimated that 12 of Liverpool's goals this season have resulted from throw-ins in an exclusive interview with Sky Sports this week.
"The art of the throw-in is massively underrated," Higginbotham said.
"When you are playing against Liverpool, it's difficult enough to clear your lines because they are pressing you so high, now all of a sudden we are seeing them being inventive with throw-ins too.
"You're a defender, you pick the ball up and all the Liverpool players are coming at you and, in the back of the mind, you're thinking, 'I don't want to give away a throw in'. You might therefore make a split-second decision which is not the correct one.
"Also, the more you dominate a game, the more throw-ins and set pieces you're going to have in the final third.
"I'm not saying Liverpool are scoring directly from throws, but a throw-in may lead to a corner or a set piece and we know how good they are from those situations."
Liverpool's use of a throw-in specialist has nevertheless been greeted with scepticism in some quarters.
"Anybody who says a throw-in coach is a waste of time, then tell me why," said Higginbotham.
"If you can use everything to make you stronger, to give you those extra few per cent to go on and win, then you're going to do that.
"I give full credit to Liverpool and any team that wants to do that because they are thinking outside the box and that's the way it should be.
"I think it's a wonderful idea. Jurgen Klopp is looking at every avenue to find what can make them even better. They fully deserve the fact that they are getting goals from set pieces."Soccer Saturday Super 6
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Liverpool U23s will face Wolfsburg in the quarter-finals of the Premier League International Cup.
Neil Critchley’s young Reds secured their place in the last eight with a 2-2 draw at Wolverhampton Wanderers on Wednesday night that was enough to top Group E on goals scored.
Their reward is a home tie against the German team, which will be a one-off game with extra-time and penalties to decide a winner if required.
Fixture details will be confirmed on Liverpoolfc.com in due course.
Premier League International Cup quarter-finals
Swansea City v Benfica
Arsenal v Monaco
Liverpool v Wolfsburg
Derby County v West Ham United
Mohamed Salah netted a penalty and then provided the pass for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to seal a 2-0 win for Liverpool at West Ham United on Wednesday night.
The result saw the Reds increase their lead at the top of the Premier League to 19 points.
Here is what the media made of the game...
Paul Gorst, Liverpool Echo
Victory here at West Ham was enough to take the table-topping Reds a blockbusting 19 points clear of their closest challengers Manchester City. Victory here also means that the runaway Premier League leaders have now beaten all other 19 teams in the division this term. This latest triumph - Liverpool's 23rd of the campaign - sees them edge up 70 points before January's final hours are through. For emphasis, it is more than twice the points tally of Manchester United in fifth. It's 30 more than Chelsea who currently occupy the final Champions League spot. Klopp's Liverpool are making the unsustainable seem ordinary. It's all become frighteningly routine. How long can such breathtaking consistency realistically last? Klopp will argue for some time yet. It's now nine successive penalty conversions from the Egypt superstar, dating back to October 2017 and five more goals this season will see him become the first player since Robbie Fowler in 1997 to net 20 or more in three consecutive campaigns.
Neil Jones, Goal.com
Salah, with 16 goals, is now Liverpool’s leading scorer in all competitions this season, the Egyptian taking advantage of Sadio Mane’s absence to re-establish himself as Klopp’s go-to man. Since his arrival at Liverpool in 2017, Salah has scored more Premier League goals than any other player. This was his 66th, converted emphatically from the spot after Issa Diop had brought down Divock Origi, 10 minutes before half time. Salah’s other party piece is to score and assist in the same game. He has done that on 14 occasions in the last two-and-a-half years – no other Premier League player has managed more than nine – the latest secured with a sublime second-half pass with the outside of his foot, allowing Oxlade-Chamberlain to make it 2-0. This being Liverpool, of course, there was a piece of history to be made. For the first time, the Reds have beaten every single team in the top-flight during a single season. Not even the great sides of Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley or Kenny Dalglish managed that particular feat – that is how special this team are.
Tony Evans, Independent
It should send a wave of terror throughout the Premier League that Liverpool were able to produce such an ordinary performance against West Ham United at the London Stadium and still win 2-0. Salah scored a first-half penalty and set up Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to seal the game in the second period. Alisson Becker’s brilliance made sure the lead was never in danger. Liverpool are 19 points clear at the top. Liverpool do not need massive leads with Alisson in goal. The Brazilian rounded off a fine night with a full-stretch parry of a Rice header. With Salah at one end and Alisson at the other, Klopp’s team do not have to be at their best to win with ease.
David Lynch, Evening Standard
Jordan Henderson has taken his game to another level of late and was excellent once again tonight. Snapped into tackles, moved the ball well, and showed his underrated vision with the pass that put Liverpool in position to create their second goal.
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Liverpool were immediately thinking about their next match once the 2-0 win at West Ham United was secured, with Alisson Becker warning there is no alternative.
Goals from Mohamed Salah and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in either half at London Stadium sent the Reds 19 points clear at the top of the Premier League on Wednesday night.
Alisson had to do his bit, too, with several important saves preventing the Hammers from launching a comeback as Jürgen Klopp’s side completed a full set of victories over the division’s other 19 teams this season.
The goalkeeper was pleased by the result but reiterated the ‘don’t stop’ mentality that the leaders must maintain as they pursue their ambitions.
“We always said, and we are always saying, we are focused on the next challenge and the next game,” the No.1 told Liverpoolfc.com after the final whistle.
“We are already focused on the next game that we have on Saturday. The next challenge is the most important of the season. We’ll try to do our best to win everything.
“We know our qualities and we know how far we can go but we can only go far if we do big performances on the pitch. The Premier League is top level so you cannot stop and you just need to keep going.”
Analysing the encounter, the Brazilian said: “It’s always difficult to play here against West Ham.
“They are a good side. They might not be so good in the table at the moment but they have a good team, good quality and they play a lot in behind so it was difficult for us to find the spaces in between to create.
“But we were calm enough to find the spaces, we got the penalty and when we scored early in the second half the game opened up a little bit. Then they had chances but we defended well. We scored the second goal and got the three points, which is the most important thing, and we are happy for that.”
Liverpool enjoyed 70 per cent of the possession at London Stadium but needed Alisson to thwart four shots on target from the Hammers in the second half.
Successive saves to deny Declan Rice were particularly impressive, the Reds stopper first parrying a powerful drive before leaping to claw away a looping header.
Asked about the importance of remaining alert when his side are generally dominant, he said: “I’m used to doing that.
“I’ve played in big games for the national team, teams who keep hold of the ball and like to play, who concede less chances for the opponent to play, and work hard for that.
“I only keep training and keep doing my best to be in the best shape when the ball comes to me to make the save.
“I think the boys help me a lot on the pitch and I also say when the defender is close enough to the ball it’s difficult for the striker to kick the ball. You need to kick quickly and then you cannot produce too much quality and this helped me a lot.”
It took a while for Liverpool to get going, but they dominated possession and Salah fired his team in front from the penalty spot.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain doubled the lead after the interval, getting on the end of Salah’s inch-perfect pass and finishing with aplomb.
It means Liverpool have 70 points from a possible 72 this season, as this astonishing campaign continues.
Salah (8.3) took the highest average on the night, following a much-improved performance that culminated in a goal and an assist.
With Sadio Mane absent through injury, Liverpool’s No. 11 stepped up hugely, putting in one of his most decisive displays of the season.
This Is Anfield’s Henry Jackson felt the 27-year-old was a “constant danger,” waxing lyrical about his “gorgeous outside-of-the-boot pass to tee up Oxlade-Chamberlain.”
Next up was Alisson (8.2), who once again showed why many consider him the world’s best goalkeeper.
Although untested in the first half, the Brazilian made several big saves after the break, earning yet another clean sheet in the process.
The Echo‘s Ian Doyle described Alisson as “very, very solid,” while Darren Lewis of the Mirror lauded a “fine second-half save” to deny Robert Snodgrass.
In joint-third place were Oxlade-Chamberlain (7.7) and Roberto Firmino (7.7), both of whom shone.
Lewis thought Oxlade-Chamberlain’s performance was a “fine answer to his critics” and FotMob highlighted that he won five of his seven duels, also making six ball recoveries.
Firmino, meanwhile, produced a “superb all-round display,” according to Jackson, and Doyle said he was “otherworldly at times.”
Next up for Liverpool is Saturday’s visit of an in-form Southampton at Anfield.
A win would for the Reds would put them an incredible 22 points ahead of City, who face a trip to Tottenham on Sunday afternoon.
Team news, key stats and predictions as the Premier League returns, with Man Utd vs Wolves, Burnley vs Arsenal and Tottenham vs Man City live on Sky Sports this weekend.
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Watch the best of the action from Liverpool's 2-0 Premier League win at West Ham United in our free YouTube highlights package.
The Reds moved 19 points clear at the summit after goals from Mohamed Salah (penalty) and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain at London Stadium.
Enjoy 90 seconds of highlights from the game below...
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain insisted records are not in Liverpool's thoughts after scoring to help make it 41 Premier League games unbeaten with a 2-0 win at West Ham United.
The Reds increased their lead at the top of the table to 19 points with victory in London as Mohamed Salah’s first-half penalty was followed up by Oxlade-Chamberlain’s calm finish.
Jürgen Klopp’s side continue to break and close in on more milestone achievements, but the players are focused only on the primary ambition of winning the title.
“That’s obviously nice but I think teams never get to those sorts of positions and have those accolades and records by thinking about those things,” Oxlade-Chamberlain told Liverpoolfc.com.
“They just go into every game, go to work and do the business. You keep that mentality, you give yourself the best chance of coming away with wins.
“There are a lot of tough games coming up so we’ve just to keep plodding along and keep doing what we are doing to first and foremost achieve what we want to do in the league. That’s the most important thing – finishing as high up as we can – and we are in a good position.
“We want to keep that going and if records come off the back of that then that’s obviously a little bonus, but you can’t really think about those things, I don’t think.”
Oxlade-Chamberlain’s second-half strike – confidently swept beyond Lukasz Fabianski from Salah’s pass across the pitch – was his sixth of the 2019-20 season so far.
“It was a great pass and I knew Lanzini was close to getting there, so I needed to get in front of him and even make him foul me,” the midfielder said of the goal.
“There was a bit of contact but I managed to stay on my feet and just tried to stay composed and finish it, so it was nice to see that one go in.
“I don’t always find myself in that position so it was nice and I think it set us up for a controlled performance to see the game out.”
Liverpool’s 15th consecutive league win saw Klopp’s men register a new feat for the club – the first time the Reds have beaten every team in the top flight in a single season.
But Oxlade-Chamberlain explained why the view of the squad, both during and after the match, was that improvements still have to be made off the back of their performance.
“It was a game when we had a bit more possession than the last away game [in the Premier League] at Wolves,” said the No.15.
“At times I think, especially in the first half, maybe things got a little bit static or robotic and we struggled to remember patterns of play and things that have got us success, so we came in at half-time a little bit disappointed with ourselves and disappointed with the fundamentals, the movements and the things that we work on to create space and go in the right direction.
“In the second half we had more moments where that was working a bit better. We won the ball back a bit quicker and a bit sharper, but we were sloppy as well at moments so we can improve on that.
“The boys at the back, we are lucky to have them and they get us out of some situations where we are a bit sloppy. Our goalkeeper, Ali, he is top drawer and with those boys behind you they get you out of a bit of trouble at times and we need that from time to time.
“We have people like Hendo, who just keeps us going, keeps pushing and keeps the standards high. We are barking at each other all game and are never satisfied, but I think after the second goal went in, overall, we controlled the game mostly.
“We had a few chances – Mo hit the post and there were a few other moments when we could have maybe killed the game off – but in the end we saw the game out well.”