Commanding But Not Convincing
What a pleasure it is to watch your team play with stylish attacking intentions; full of energy, movement, invention and just a touch of swagger. West Ham were so dominant that the final score-line should really have been far more emphatic. Seeing the scores level at half-time and the game tied at 2-2 with just over five minutes remaining was difficult to comprehend. To their credit the Hammers kept pressing forward, boosted by adventurous substitutions, to secure a final result that, even if it will look more convincing in the record books that it seemed at the time, will be great for confidence. Even at 3-2 Burnley had a gilt edge opportunity to draw level once again.
Anderson Puts The Win Into Winnable
Very pleased for Felipe Anderson that he finally had an afternoon to remember. The goals were the icing on the cake but his all-round performance and level of involvement was impressive. No West Ham player had more touches during the game. The challenge now is for him to do the business on a regular and consistent basis. Only then can he be considered as a player justifying his transfer fee. There was a touch of fortune about both his two goals: the first squeezing between Hart’s flailing legs; and the second courtesy of a kind deflection. In fact, his best effort was the first half chip headed miraculously from under the bar by Mee. He might also have done better with the shot that hit the bar in the second period. Probably, I am being picky because he did have an excellent game as did Grady Diangana and Marko Arnautovic. There was another goal from Arnie, in his quest to be West Ham’s first ever Premier League 20 goals a season man, and Diang played with a quality of touch, vision and determination that you would expect from a seasoned campaigner. However did the referee miss that penalty!
An Off Day At The Back
Fabian Balbuena and Issa Diop have set the bar of defensive competence very high over recent weeks but this was one of their less dominant performances. Perhaps the more direct and physical style of the opposition was new to them and something to learn from. Both goals conceded were disappointing. With the first: Diop failed to deal with the high ball; Burnley were unchallenged as it ran loose; and Balbuena and Aaron Cresswell seemed more concerned with offside than preventing the goal. For the second: it was a routine corner; why was it Robert Snodgrass who had the duty of marking Wood – and no-one on the posts to clear. Wood was also given a free header late in the game. While on the subject of playing to the whistle why did Chicharito (nice goal by the way) ignore the loose ball to claim a handing offence in the box? Credit where it is due and Declan Rice was, once again, very impressive in his defensive midfield role.
A West Ham Way Philosophy
It was pleasing to read Manuel Pellegrini’s post match comments as they confirmed his philosophy is much closer to what many regard to be the West Ham philosophy than any other manager in recent history. With the currently available resources the ‘we’re gonna score one more than you’ approach may not always be successful but it makes for interesting spectating. Instilling a calm, controlled, passing game into the team looks to be paying dividends at last. Encouraging a positive and creative attitude in the players raises everyone’s spirits and generates a feedback loop from the crowd that maintains momentum.
Medium Term Outlook
Funny things can happen in football but it is difficult to imagine any scenario other than a steady rise up the table. Outside of the top six there is not a massive difference in quality between any other teams but maybe West Ham have already lost too many games to threaten for a Europa League spot. Despite the long injury list there are still weaknesses in the squad that need to be addressed if it is to improve. Most immediately, more quality is needed in the heart of midfield and longer term full-backs who fit the system must be found. Perhaps Jack Wilshere can still do a job (if he fully recovers from injury) in there and I wonder how will Manuel Lanzini fit in? I guess like many of us, I would be surprised if the owners dig deep during the January transfer window – they are likely to believe they did all their spending in the summer. In any case, we can all breathe a little easier after this weekend.