Jurgen Klopp's heavyweights send out Premier League statement
James Pearce's verdict is in after Liverpool put four past West Ham on the opening day
This is what you call packing a punch.
Liverpool got their Premier League campaign off to a flyer with a genuine heavyweight performance at Anfield.
“We're still Rocky Balboa, we're not Ivan Drago,” insisted Jurgen Klopp ahead of the big kick-off as he sought to keep a lid on expectation levels.
But belief in what the crop of 2018/19 are capable of delivering will only rocket after such an emphatic start.
This was the Reds' biggest opening day win at Anfield since Wolves were thrashed 5-1 way back in 1932.
If it had been a boxing match the towel would have been thrown in long before the end. With Adrian watching on from the Hammers' bench, Manuel Pellegrini's side were subjected to a pummelling.
The attacking juggernaut which reached the Champions League final in thrilling fashion last term is rolling once again. New season, same old box office Liverpool .
Mohamed Salah, the 44-goal record-breaker of 2017/18, wasted no time in opening his account before Sadio Mane took centre stage with a clinical double.
The strength of the squad Klopp has assembled courtesy of the arrival of £170million worth of new talent was underlined by the sight of Jordan Henderson, Xherdan Shaqiri and Sturridge coming off the bench. There was no let up for the punch-drunk Hammers.
Anfield was a fortress last season as Liverpool completed an entire league campaign unbeaten for the first time since 2008/09 and this demolition job will serve to crank up the fear factor. The Reds still haven't conceded a league goal in L4 since February.
The best pictures from Liverpool's 4-0 win over West Ham at Anfield
Of course tougher tests than West Ham lie ahead as Klopp's men look to mount a Premier League title challenge. Pellegrini spent £100million himself this summer but they still don't look like being anything other than mid-table fodder.
The difference is that Liverpool have added to an already gifted line up with boda fide quality – showcased by a brilliant debut from Naby Keita.
The Guinea international was involved in everything best about the Reds. With energy and dynamism in abundance, he gives Klopp's midfield a new dimension. No wonder the manager was happy to wait a year for him after Liverpool struck a deal with RB Leipzig last August.
Keita vowed that wearing Steven Gerrard's iconic No 8 shirt would be a source of inspiration rather than a burden and this was an eye-catching start.
There were positives for Klopp in all departments as Liverpool looked potent at one end and rock-solid at the other with fellow new boy Alisson Becker enjoying a quiet afternoon.
West Ham had won just one of their previous 45 league trips to Anfield and they never looked like improving that dire record.
Roared on by an expectant crowd, Liverpool flew out of the traps and dominated from the start. The midfield was a mismatch with the Reds having far too much athleticism and guile for Mark Noble and Declan Rice to handle.
Keita, Gini Wijnaldum and James Milner stamped their authority on proceedings. Keita repeatedly won the ball back and then burst forward to link up with Klopp's front three.
Stand-in captain Milner, sporting a headband after needing 15 stitches in Dublin a week earlier, led by example as he thundered into tackles and whipped in some glorious deliveries.
When Salah played in Roberto Firmino early on, Michail Antonio got a vital toe in before the Brazilian could pull the trigger. Mane was then inches away from converting Milner's inviting centre as Liverpool cranked up the pressure.
It finally told with the breakthrough on 19 minutes. Keita was heavily involved with a surging run and a neat lay off to Andy Robertson.
The left-back's low cross put it on a plate for the on-rushing Salah, who tucked away from close range.
Trent Alexander-Arnold more than justified his inclusion ahead of Nathaniel Clyne as the teenager rampaged down the right flank. His curling 25-yard free-kick was tipped behind before Wijnaldum stabbed wide after another dazzling run from Keita.
Alisson was largely a spectator but when he was called upon he clung on to Fabian Balbuena's header.
Liverpool's £65million new No 1 was well protected by those in front of him. A centre-back crisis had been averted by Joe Gomez proving his fitness and the young defender impressed with a composed display alongside Virgil van Dijk.
Gomez may have played most of his senior football at full-back but his future undoubtedly lies in the middle and he clearly relished the opportunity handed to him by the absence of Dejan Lovren, Joel Matip and Ragnar Klavan.
On a rare occasion when Marko Arnautoic got in behind Liverpool, Gomez was on hand to deflect his shot behind.
Referee Anthony Taylor enraged Anfield with a string of baffling decisions and nearly provided an assist for Arnautovic when he failed to get out of Wijnaldum's path.
But Liverpool kept their cool and pressed forward in search of greater reward. Firmino unselfishly squared for Salah, who was thwarted by a smart save from Lukasz Fabianski.
The second goal the hosts craved arrived on the stroke of half-time. Robertson's cross was expertly hooked back across goal by Milner and Mane slammed home.
The Senegal winger has taken Philippe Coutinho's No 10 shirt for this season and his influence on Klopp's team continues to grow.
With so much focus on Salah, it almost went under the radar that Mane bagged 20 goals himself last term and he's more than capable of improving on that tally.
Eight minutes into the second half Liverpool's 500 win of the Premier League era was wrapped up.
There was an element of good fortune to it as Mane had strayed offside before he swept in Firmino's poked pass but the goal stood.
With Henderson on for Firmino, Salah was deployed through the middle with Keita shifted out to the left.
Shaqiri and Sturridge soon followed with the rejuvenated England striker having the final word. His impact was instant as he was alert to convert a corner at the far post – his first Premier League goal since last October.
A slow start cost Liverpool any hope of launching a title challenge a year ago. Now they look a much more complete side.
West Ham will have needed the smelting salts on the journey back to the capital. Having talked the talk this summer, Klopp's Reds are now walking the walk.
Liverpool: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson, Milner, Wijnaldum, Keita, Mane (Shaqiri 81), Salah (Sturridge 87), Firmino (Henderson 69).
Not used: Karius, Clyne, Fabinho, Lallana.
West Ham: Fabianski, Fredericks, Balbuena, Ogbonna, Masuaku, Noble, Rice (Snodgrass 45), Antonio, Wilshere, Anderson (Hernandez 62), Arnautovic (Yarmolenko 67).
Not used: Adrian, Zabaleta, Obiang, Diop.
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Goals: Salah 19, Mane 45, Mane 53, Sturridge 87
Bookings: Alexander-Arnold, Balbuena, Antonio.
Man of the match: Naby Keita. Lit up Anfield on his debut.
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