They Are All Looking The Other Way
The problem with beating Manchester United was that all the non-partisan observers wanted to discuss were the shortcomings of the Red Devils and the latest in a long line of managerial crises at Old Trafford. It happened last season with Jose and now it is happening again with Ole. Poor old Ole – the only manager in the league whose plans are thwarted by injuries. By the end of the game, it looked like he was about to burst into tears and scream “It’s not fair”. What a ludicrous decision it was to appoint him in the first place. Even at Manuel Pellegrini’s post-match press conference there was little interest from the assembled media in what West Ham could take out from the game and a fourth clean sheet on the bounce. Only questions regarding his thoughts on the developing situation up in Manchester. We will need to celebrate this one, a thoroughly deserved victory, quietly by ourselves, while the pundits continue to view everything through the lens of the rich six. At least more time out of the spotlight might help keep the Hammer’s feet firmly on the ground, allowing the team to build further on their fine start to the season.
An All Round Team Performance
This was a competent, professional performance rather than a spectacular one. Finally, we appear to be attacking and defending as a team. Attempting to win the ball back as quickly as possible and denying the space that was previously gifted to opponents by the acre. Manchester United were not allowed or were unable to create many chances – although Mata was presented with a gilt-edged opportunity equalize at 1-0. Otherwise, the visitor’s attacking play was mostly channeled wide and generally defended with ease. There were no major stand-out West Ham performances and everyone played their part. Declan Rice was again the pick of the midfield for me, but ably assisted by the busy Mark Noble in putting in the midfield graft and yards. Issa Diop and Angelo Ogbonna were sound while Ryan Fredericks had maybe his best game in a West Ham shirt (hopefully it is not a serious injury). Aaron Cresswell defended well and although he was a little wasteful going forward what a peach of a free kick that was for the second goal.
Make A Chance For Me (Come on, give me a break, will you?)
Over the course of the ninety minutes, the Hammers created few clear cut chances of their own. Other than the two goals, there were only a handful of routine saves to disturb De Gea’s afternoon. The Andriy Yarmolenko goal was a thing of beauty and seemed rather out of place in a mainly uneventful first half. Yarmolenko is a difficult player to work out. He has a deft touch, a wonderful left foot – but a right one that is only any use for standing on. Playing wide right, it is obvious that he will want to cut inside yet he still somehow manages to create shooting opportunities. The pass from Felipe Anderson for the goal was the Brazilian’s best moment of the afternoon. He is frequently the one player on show likely to produce the unexpected but unfortunately, he had one of those lazy Sunday afternoons. He could have done better in trying to pick out Sebastien Haller rather than attempt that shot, blocked by De Gea, from the tightest of angles. Haller must have had a most frustrating afternoon. He showed some excellent touches and layoffs but most of his work was in the wrong areas of the pitch. I’m not sure whether he eventually got any touches in the opposition penalty area but he is badly in need of better service if he is to do what he is paid for. They may be old mantras of mine but more width, the ability to get in behind defences and more incisive passing in the final third all need further work.
Passing The Back
On the topic of mantras, the number of backpasses to the goalkeeper that West Ham players make continues to frustrate. It is not that we use the keeper as an extra defender, building from the back in the style of Manchester City or Liverpool. The pass back to Lukasz Fabianski is usually as last resort when all other ideas have been exhausted or there are no options available. I can’t find the stats (and I wasn’t counting) but there must have been close to a dozen backpasses in the first half alone. When you consider that Fabianski’s pass success rate was below 40%, there has to be a better way of using the ball. Even a hopeful upfield clearance by the last man would be just as productive, if not more so. Outfield players need to take more responsibility in making themselves available. Perhaps Manuel Lanzini was missed in that respect – being someone who can receive the ball and move forward with purpose. I thought Pablo Fornals (his replacement) had a steady enough game and getting a full league match under his belt would have done him the world of good. Plus another promising cameo from Jack Wilshere – a performance that needs to be upgraded to a more prominent role.
Premature Exhilaration – the ANTIVAR movement
It was pleasing to go through an entire match free from the invasive interference of the poorly implemented eye in the sky VAR system. Whenever a goal is scored now there is always a thought at the back of your mind that the crazy, crowd celebrations and the carefully choreographed player ones will all be for nothing. Naturally, I can see the funny side of the disallowed Aurier goal for Tottenham but it was a ludicrous decision. How could they seriously apply such a spurious level of accuracy to the Son offside from the information available. Time to go back to the drawing board I think.
Player Ratings: Fabianski (7), Fredericks (7), Diop (7), Ogbonna (7), Cresswell (6), Rice (8), Noble (7), Yarmolenko (7), Fornals (6), Anderson (6), Haller (6). Subs: Wilshere (6), Zabaletta (6), Snodgrass (N/A)