Hammers boss David Moyes confirmed that Mikhail Antonio will miss the game in Anfield after he was sent off early last weekend in the game against Manchester City.
Liverpool’s back injury misfortune is well documented, but the news that West Ham United will be without one of their key players in attack on Saturday has given the game a boost.
David Moyes’ team has surprised people with its positive start to the campaign.
Antonio will be a big miss, having finished last season as the London club’s top scorer and having already gone to the net three times during this term, including in the game against City.
“We don’t think it’s too bad, but it’s enough to keep him out of this game,” Moyes said of the striker, who also failed for 90 minutes in the 3-3 draw in Tottenham.
Club record holder Haller has fallen out of favour since his return from injury in July, having played all his league appearances from the bench since the Premier League summer break. However, the former Eintracht Frankfurt striker has already scored a goal in the league this season, scoring the fourth goal for West Ham in the Wolverhampton Wanderers win, and he also scored four times in the Carabao Cup this season.
His absence on the 18th matchday, however, will leave Liverpool with other considerations.
For Moyes, it is obvious to replace Antonio with Sébastien Haller and to stick with the 5-2-3 formation he has used so far this season.
Another option that Moyes tried on Saturday before throwing Haller into the mix is to put Andriy Yarmolenko on the right of a front three and move Jarrod Bowen to the center.
He is a bigger threat in the air than Antonio, which could be a problem for a Liverpool defense that lacks Virgil van Dijk’s airborne skills but lacks the English player’s range of motion.
Bowen does much of his best work from a distance, but his range of shots saw him finish last season as the championship’s seventh highest scorer, despite moving from Hull City to West Ham in January.
The 23-year-old has fired 12 shots this season (via FBref.com), scored three goals and was close to beating Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson last season, which was only his second game for the Hammers.
If Moyes were to go down this path, it would probably lead to a more fluid triple chain, in which Jarmolenko and Pablo Fornals would have the freedom to score a central point over the 90 minutes.
The Algerian joined from West Ham on the final matchday from Brentford, but was absent on the 18th day of the City Match and could not be considered ready to go straight into the starting XI.
Another option that may be available to Moyes is the introduction of the new signing of Said Benrahma.
He could be an option from the very outside, with either Haller or Bowen in the middle, but it could be that Moyes will take his time and let him sit on the bench for now.
Regardless of how West Ham line up on Saturday, Liverpool will also need to be on guard against the airborne threat from visitors from set pieces.
However, if Benrahma’s exploits in Griffin Park last season are to be believed, he could add a more subtle and less direct element to West Ham’s attacking play.