Coutinho & Sturridge sizzle as Liverpool strike hammer blow to Arsenal's top-four hopes

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The pair combined in stunning fashion as the Reds hit four unanswered goals past West Ham to take them a step closer to returning to Europe's elite


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“Pressure” was the word trending throughout the week, especially on Saturday night, as Liverpool witnessed Manchester City and Arsenal advance their Champions League aspirations with victories. 

Reds unbeaten in London this season

The discussion only ramped up on Sunday morning. Would Liverpool wilt against West Ham given the no-margin-for-error status of the fixture? Could they reverse a five-match winless run against the hosts, who’d just killed off Tottenham’s title challenge? 

Philippe Coutinho West Ham v Liverpool

The answer was an emphatic 'yes' - from Jurgen Klopp’s bold selection, to Liverpool’s rediscovering of their swagger and the 4-0 scoreline. 

West Ham 0-4 Liverpool

With Roberto Firmino sidelined through a muscle niggle, the manager opted for a 4-4-2 diamond to rectify his side’s diminished threat in the final third, handing Sturridge a first league start since January 2. 

The forward operated in tandem with Divock Origi as Adam Lallana was also back in the XI - stationed ahead of Coutinho, who was tasked with constructing their play. 

HD Sturridge and Coutinho

It was an inspired move from the German, with Liverpool slow to get into their groove before going ahead then going for the jugular after the interval. 

"It was hard work," the Reds boss said afterwards. "There were a few moments where the game could have changed, but we were the real deserved winner. We played a great football game.

"Part of our life is to deal with pressure. I thought we did really well today. The performance is obviously a good sign."

HD Jurgen Klopp

His men looked authoritative again, confident in their own attacking abilities and determined to prove how much they want to return to Europe’s top table. 

New landmark for Liverpool star

Coutinho was the architect of the club’s fourth successive away victory in the league: setting the tempo, oiling the supply and making his markers look utterly ridiculous at times.

Brendan Rodgers previously envisioned such a role for the gifted creator, who provided more evidence as to why that's a solid move.

Meanwhile, Sturridge, starting for only the 10th occasion in all competitions this season, illustrated his elite status.

Daniel Sturridge Liverpool

Expected to depart Anfield this summer in search of regular minutes - with West Ham confirmed suitors - he offered a reminder to bigger teams of how decisive he can be.

On 35 minutes, the duo offered a throwback at London Stadium. A devastating combination in the past, the Brazilian spotted the striker’s movement before he received the ball deep in midfield and delivered a sublime pass to him.

Aaron Cresswell stepped up and the England international shifted clear, rounding goalkeeper Adrian before slotting in the opener.

HD Daniel Sturridge

Joel Matip could have already put Liverpool in the lead before then having being left unmarked at the back post, but his header off Coutinho’s corner struck the bar.

West Ham, too, were incredibly denied by the woodwork twice in the matter of seconds. Andre Ayew, sans any attention, controlled a poorly defended set-piece by the Reds, but hit the post from close range.

The rebound fell to the Ghana international after he’d lost his footing and was floored, but he couldn’t force the ball past Simon Mignolet.

The visiting shot-stopper had already saved off Sam Byram and Edimilson Fernandes, and after the break, it was his counterpart stretched into action.

Sturridge, Lallana, Origi and Wijnaldum all tested him quickly as the Reds upped the intensity and tempo of their play.

HD Phil Coutinho

"They were better than us, we were nowhere near close enough," admitted Slaven Bilic. 

"If you give space to Coutinho, Lallana and Sturridge, sooner or later, they will kill you."

The former, at the heart of Liverpool’s most threatening moments, ensured that pressure was reflected on the scoreboard.

Gini Wijnaldum volleyed a weak headed clearance against the top of the bar, before the 24-year-old picked up the loose ball and with the defenders expecting a shot, he had the composure to dribble on and find the far corner.

The pair were involved again in more controversial circumstances. Wijnaldum, jostling with Fernandes in the air, cleared the ball with his arm - his face painted with guilt as he looked towards the referee.

A handball wasn’t awarded, West Ham switched off and Liverpool broke through Coutinho. He fed Emre Can, who passed to the Dutch international.

HD Coutinho Liverpool v West Ham

A one-two followed with the man of the match; Coutinho casually strolling through the box, standing up James Collins and slicing past Adrian and Cresswell with his effort. Sturridge showed stellar footwork and sharpness in the build-up to their fourth goal, which Origi tapped in.  

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Liverpool are now four points ahead of Arsenal and one ahead of City having played a game more than both. 

Champions League football is within their reach when Middlesbrough visit Anfield next week and it is the very least their start to 2016-17 deserves.

Klopp revealed the first thing he said to his players in the dressing room was "one more time, one more game." 

Liverpool are almost at the finishing line, but it needs to be only the start of their revolution under the 49-year-old.

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