West Ham 2 v 1 Chelsea

A time for reflection on the EFL Cup victory over Chelsea.

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1. Pedro Obiang – All season I have been writing about the need for Pedro Obiang to be one of the first names on the West Ham team sheet. Once again he demonstrated in the Chelsea game his importance to the team. We need a defensive midfielder who can tackle, pass, and show athleticism to get around the pitch. Players like this are vital in the modern game. To me he plays like Patrick Vieira did for Arsenal. He hasn’t yet showed an ability to score goals, but that is not his function in the team. He did, however, hit a tremendous shot from distance that could have been a goal.

The season began with Nordtveit in this role, but to me he doesn’t appear to have the all-round capabilities of Obiang. Pedro has now been with us for more than a year and I don’t believe he has been given an extended run to show his capabilities. And, despite knowing that statistics can be used to prove anything you want them to, I’ll now throw in one that I believe proves his value. In the last 31 Premier League and FA Cup games where he has been involved either as a starter, or as a substitute, we have lost just once. That’s right, one defeat in 31 games, and he only played for 45 minutes in the game that we lost. There is not another player at the club with this record. I don’t believe that it is any coincidence that our recent resurgence has come about partly because Pedro Obiang has been playing.

2. Edimilson Fernandes – Here we have a young player that I believe that the club bought with an eye to the future. But we must not underestimate his experience gained in Switzerland before he joined us. He was a regular as a teenager, and played a number of key games in European competition where he demonstrated his skills. It is early days I know, but to me he has already shown his versatility by playing in different positions. He is also athletic, appears to have a good temperament, can tackle, has good distribution, and showed that he knows where the goal is. I hope he is given an extended run, because I believe we may have unearthed an absolute gem. He seems to me to be a player ideally suited to the Premier League, and once again we look a better side with him in the team.

3. Mark Noble – A lot of people were writing off our captain following his early performances this season. To an extent I can understand this. Despite his many attributes, his lack of pace can sometimes let him down. And in some ways, our game seems more pedestrian when he is playing. However, we can get away this this if there are players with pace around him such as Obiang, Fernandes and Kouyate for example. I believe that the Chelsea game was his best so far in this campaign, and he orchestrated, and helped to dominate, the middle of the pitch. He did provide both of the assists, and can still be an important player in the team. I’m not writing him off yet.

4. Michail Antonio – Once again he has showed his versatility by playing in an unfamiliar position, and although he still has plenty to learn, we have to remember he has only really been playing top flight football for a year now. With his pace and movement he ran the Chelsea defence, and in particular, John Terry, ragged. He is definitely a better player when we don’t rely on him for his defensive capabilities, and I believe he can become a really top class forward. He has already shown his goal scoring ability, especially in the air, and with more composure can perhaps learn to score more goals with his feet.

5. Cheikou Kouyate – Once again here we have a player who has not yet shown this season the same form that he demonstrated in the last one. Nevertheless our new formation, which I assume we will continue to play, at least for the time being while it seems to be working, has shown him heading back towards his best. And not many players can score a powerful headed goal from the edge of the area such as the one that gave us the important early lead in the game.

6. The crowd trouble – For the life of me I cannot understand the mentality of individuals who support any football team, that show such hatred towards opposition fans, that they need to throw coins and seats at them with the sole purpose of causing injury. Obviously there are still issues to sort out in respect of the stadium safety issues, but if you look at some of the still photographs of the faces of some of the people involved, purporting to be both West Ham and Chelsea fans, you can see just why they are there, namely to cause trouble. There is no place for them, and if we do have a season ticket waiting list of over 50,000, as Ms Brady suggests, then anyone causing trouble must be identified, banned and face criminal proceedings. There are so many cameras that focus on the crowd this must be possible. If this continues then we will face unpalatable consequences from the authorities. An urgent solution to the problem must be found.

7. The players I haven’t yet mentioned – It is unusual to be approaching the end of an article about a famous victory without mentioning Payet, Lanzini, Cresswell, Reid and Ogbonna. The first three of these are beginning to show a wonderful understanding with quick incisive passing, movement off the ball, and marvellous skill. Reid and Ogbonna have never entirely convinced me as a partnership, although I can see the individual merits of both, and perhaps the addition of Kouyate alongside them will bring out the best in both of them. And finally Randolph in goal has many admirable qualities and will continue to push Adrian, and keep him on his toes.

8. Chelsea – I fail to understand why football managers rest key players and leave them on the bench, only to bring them on when a game may already be lost (e.g. Hazard, Costa). Surely put them on from the start to try to get into a winning position, and then perhaps take them off if the poor tired things are really in such need of a rest.

9. And Finally – We are now in the last eight of a major competition. Our season appears to be on the up. If we play as we did in this game then we can be a match for most teams. Let’s hope it continues.

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