Three Points: West Ham vs. Liverpool
LONDON -- Three quick thoughts from West Ham's 3-1 win over Liverpool from Upton Park.
1. Liverpool haven't made it just yet
A brilliant start from West Ham United on the day, and it only continues Liverpool's disappointing start to this season. Brendan Rodgers' side have now lost three of their first five games, and never really looked like getting back into this one once West Ham surged into a 2-0 lead after just seven minutes.
In that, Sam Allardyce outthought Rodgers, as the Liverpool manager was left with a lot to ponder. His team are still struggling to find their stride or a formation or approach that best suits them.
While the absence of Luis Suarez is as obvious to mention as it is now irrelevant, the deeper point is that Liverpool's attack is nowhere near the exponentially greater sum of its parts that they were last season. They just look that bit more predictable.
It meant Allardyce prepared for them superbly, and secured a fine win. Any fears about West Ham getting dragged into a relegation battle should already have evaporated. Liverpool may now have a few more concerns about keeping their new place in the top four. They certainly won't mean to go on as they've started.
2. It was typical
If the final score was surprising, so was the opening that delivered it. West Ham overturned a lot of expectations, as well as turning over Liverpool. They roared at the opposition in a way we have become so accustomed to from Rodgers' side.
In that, they completely caught the visiting team cold. One of the dangers of last season was that, wary of Liverpool's capacity for storming starts, opposition managers might get their teams to sit back and try to frustrate them in the manner Jose Mourinho made so evident at Anfield back in May.
There was none of that from West Ham. They produced a display of attacking energy not usually associated with their manager.
There was still something very familiar in the way they actually opened the scoring, though -- for both sides. An Allardyce team scored from a set piece, exposing a frequent vulnerability in a Rodgers side. On two minutes, Stewart Downing curled in a free kick, James Tomkins headed it back across goal and Winston Reid put it into the net.
A rocking Upton Park was lifted, but West Ham kept soaring. Just five minutes later, Mark Noble cut through the centre of the pitch to set up Diafra Sakho. The forward looked up, saw Simon Mignolet off his line and gloriously chipped the goalkeeper.
If Enner Valencia's run made it seem like Sakho was initially attempting a cross, the scorer's eyes made it clear the shot was intentional. Either way, it was also a show of intent from Allardyce.
After a summer in which he came under huge pressure as part of the ongoing debate about his style, this was a stunning display, and one of his best at West Ham. The home side produced some brilliant football, and that against a team usually more famous for it themselves.
3. This was Big Sam's win
For all the initial glorious chaos of this match, it would be wrong to say it was not one without some significant design. It was made by the managerial decisions. That could be seen with every substitution and switch.
The tactics ebbed and flowed as much as the play.
It started with Allardyce's new diamond midfield, with the comfort West Ham displayed in that formation giving them the foundation for that brilliant start to the match. Downing was revelling in his role to such an extent that it forced a starkly early substitution from Rodgers.
Javier Manquillo was hauled off for Mamadou Sakho as Liverpool went to a 3-5-2.
In that, there was also a mini-case study of both managers. Allardyce is often accused of reductive or simplistic football, but there is more ingenuity to his approach than he is given credit for. He is far from tactically naive.
Rodgers is meanwhile rightly seen as one of the brightest coaches in the game in terms of strategy, but he can still be guilty of overthinking things. This switch was an admission of that.
It was at least followed by an immediate goal, even if it's hard to say whether the switch directly caused it. It felt more like Liverpool's goal came out of nowhere. Mario Balotelli's shot was blocked but the excellent Raheem Sterling was already following up to power the ball home.
Liverpool perhaps should have been forced into a change shortly afterwards as Dejan Lovren seemed to suffer a head injury. He stayed on, but Lucas Leiva didn't. The underperforming Brazilian was taken off for Adam Lallana as Rodgers attempted to introduce some badly needed creativity.
It produced more Liverpool play but also a response from Allardyce. He took off the rampaging Valencia and brought on James Collins, greatly bolstering his defence.
Moves like that can occasionally backfire as they invite more pressure. Here they only backed up Allardyce's arguments. His tactic worked, his team stayed firm, and West Ham did what they had long been threatening: they caught Liverpool on the break as substitute Morgan Amalfitano sealed the three points.
Miguel Delaney covers the Premier League and Champions League for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MiguelDelaney.