Loving The Tempo and Mobility
A game in which we were definitely ‘up for it’. Playing again at a high tempo with great movement and incisive passing. In some ways it is easier to play like this when teams come to attack you but that is not really an excuse as to why we have floundered against the weaker teams again this season. If you look at the performance last night you can believe that we are a match for anyone; far removed from the laboured display (especially in the second half) against lowly Sunderland just a few days ago. When you are passing and moving with pace you will always create chances and there could have been more to add to the the excellent strikes by Kouyate and Fernandes. The interplay between Cresswell, Lanzini and Payet is exceptional at times. We simply need to play like this more often and more consistently; not just when the big boys come along.
The Peripatetic Michail Antonio
Michail Antonio is becoming Slav’s odd job man; right back, right wing, wing-back and striker. I have heard some question his attitude, that he sulks if not in his favoured position, but I believe that is nonsense. He shows great commitment and spirit wherever he plays but is not equally as effective in each one. Although I don’t think he is an answer to our striking problems it was great to see someone with the strength and movement to give the opposition defence the run around. Poor old John Terry was dragged all over the place. The presence of this type of frontman is so important in the modern game. The static lump of a centre forward has no place at the top level and certainly not when played as a lone striker. Pace and movement as well as an eye for goal are what is required both to score goals and create space for others.
It is very unfortunate that the crowd trouble over-shadowed the performance; at least as far as the media were concerned who preferred it as a story to Chelsea being ‘ousted’ from the EFL Cup. I have no insight as to who caused the trouble, the ‘real’ extent of the problem and whether the stadium design contributed in any way towards it. Probably need to get the taxpayer to sort it out for us! Other than that it was a tremendous atmosphere.
Three Men at the Back
It is unusual to see a full bloodied English cup-tie with both teams employing 3 at the back. You might expect the midfield to be super over-crowded but it was an open and free-flowing game. The 3 man backline had worked well (until yesterday) for Chelsea and it is so far so good as far as West Ham are concerned as well. It can and does leave more room to exploit down the flanks but is possibly our best option given current available personnel. I guess Slaven will use the system until it goes wrong but in reality it will be more successful against some opponents than others. At the moment Reid, Kouyate and Ogbonna seem to create a solid partnership and acquitted themselves far better than Old Man Terry and his pals.
Obiang and Fernandes
All of the midfield players did their bit last night but in a situation where supporters have perhaps been generally underwhelmed by the summer transfer business it has been very pleasing to see what Fernandes can offer; he looks a very talented and assured player and not just one for the future. Although Obiang is not a new signing he seems like one due to the limited opportunities he was given last season. He provides much needed solidity in front of the defence and what a strike that was towards the end of the first half. It is difficult to understand why he was trusted so little previously. Similar to playing Antonio at right back (and signing Tore) it is one of Slav’s stranger decisions. Great to see Ayew back in the action as well.