Cold Comfort: Five Takeaways From West Ham’s Mini Improvement At Arsenal

What did we learn as slightly improved West Ham flatter to deceive at The Emirates leaving a disjointed Arsenal flattered by the final score?

That Was Just a Dream, Just A Dream.

If you had read my match preview you will have seen that in my dream West Ham lost 3-1 to Arsenal.  As the other details of the dream – the order and nature of the goals – turned out to be wrong, I think we can put this down to a coincidence; or else, I have developed the psychic powers of Paul The Octopus.  I’m not sure there is such a thing as luck in football but the score-line certainly flattered Arsenal, who themselves are struggling to come to terms with a new regime.  At least they now have a confidence boost, something that continues to be elusive for Manuel Pellegrini’s side.  It was particularly annoying to concede yet another Welbeck goal, just as we did a Sturridge one a few weeks back – these two strikers appear to be on standby just to play against West Ham.  Three consecutive defeats means that we now sit proudly at the top of the most Premier League defeats (351) ever table alongside Everton – a feat that has been achieved from 150 fewer games than the Toffees.

Still Hasn’t Found What He’s Looking For.

Although the bar is fairly low, this was by far the best West Ham performance of the season.  With a touch more composure the Hammers might have added several more to their solitary goal tally.  There were signs of some understanding developing in certain areas of the pitch although much more work remains to be done – conceding an average of three goals per game is only going to result in one outcome. Strange then, that one of the successes of the season to date has been the performance of Lukasz Fabianski in goal, the last (and sometimes only) line of defence.  He has looked assured both as a shot stopper and in the air and I have been impressed.  Elsewhere, Felipe Anderson upped his game in a freer central role and provided a teaser of what he can bring to the party by injecting speed and wizardry into our counter-attacks.  It was also a competent full debut by Carlos Sanchez who kept busy and was efficient with the ball.  As Pellegrini searches for his best team and formation, he may have taken some small steps in the right direction – but he is still some way from finding what he is looking for.

In My Defence

It was a big surprise to see the selected central defensive partnership of Fabian Belbuena and Issa Diop as I had anticipated a Diop/ Angelo Ogbonna pairing.  Not that I felt Ogbonna deserved to keep his place and his tendency to switch off, which gifted Bournemouth their winner a week previously, has always concerned me.  It was just that throwing two inexperienced Premier League defenders into the mix seemed like a massive gamble.  Diop’s debut will be forever associated with the second Arsenal goal where he can rightly claim both the score and the assist.  It was unfortunate because he appeared to have brought some much needed athleticism to the task even if he looked somewhat raw.  If Diop and Declan Rice are to develop they are going to need an older head supporting them at the back.  I don’t know where this is going to come from unless we are banking on a rapid Winston Reid return.  Going to three at the back still seems the sensible solution to me based on the resources that are available – and that applies to both the central defenders and the full/ wing backs.

Waiting In The Wings

None of us are completely objective when it comes to judging players and I will admit that I would love it (love it) were Arthur Masuaku to go on and become a Hammer’s legend.  According to Whoscored, Masuaku was our top rated player yesterday and, although I am not sure that this is strictly true, he is always exciting when in possession – just not the greatest defender.  In many ways he is a budget version of Benjamin Mendy at Manchester City but while City adapt to Mendy’s defensive deficiencies and create space for him to exploit, Masuaku is left exposed.  Everyone knows that Bellerin can be a major threat for Arsenal but there seemed no plan to track his runs.  The gap between Masuaku and Michail Antonio was often a big one and neither of the central midfielders were available to plug it – it was difficult to know whether Antonio was meant to have any defensive responsibilities.  It was a similar story on the other flank where Ryan Fredericks’ strengths are his speed going forward and in providing assists.  As yet, there have been few opportunities to demonstrate these.

I’m A One Man Band

Marko Arnautovic weighed in with another goal to make it two in three games in his mission to become the Hammer’s first ever Premier League twenty-goals a season striker.  Maybe on another day he could have come away with a match-ball hat-trick, despite limping off injured just before the hour mark.  It is generally accepted that a striker needs to be single minded and a little bit greedy but, once again, there were occasions where a pass to a colleague would have been the intelligent option.  Keeping Arnautovic fit is going to be crucial as the season progresses as there is no obvious replacement at this point in time.  West Ham’s threat as an attacking force was significantly diminished on his departure.