It’s our new stadium now; there is no going back.
It certainly wasn’t the greatest performance but getting off to a winning start was a definite bonus. Having a “they haven’t won yet since they moved to Stratford” tag hanging over us would have been bad for morale and blood pressure. I suppose you get the same three points whether you grind them out or win them effusively so, for now, we should put them in the bank and move on. It moves us up to 10th spot and in the old days we would have been more than happy to be on the first page of Teletext.
The atmosphere at stadium seemed decent enough at the start but became subdued as the game failed to take off. The occasion and injuries may have been contributory factors but are things we need to deal with. Very strange that in setting a new club record home attendance of almost 57,000 it was reported so negatively on the BBC which used a zoomed in photo of a small empty bank of seats to illustrate their story.
No Payet, No Outlet, No Penetration
There were a few very smart periods of play during the game with crisp passing and movement but which then fizzled out with no end product is this what Slaven Bilic frowned on last season as “playing too sexy”? There was no sexy foreplay from Havard Nordtveit who treated the ball as something nasty that he wanted to be rid of, and as far away as possible, whenever it came into his possession. We know from last season that we struggle to create when Payet (and perhaps Lanzini to some extent) is missing. In the 8 games where he was absent last term we won just once and scored only 6 times – scoring 59 times in the 30 league games where he played.
Without Payet there is no outlet, no-one to pull the strings or bring a semblance of control. The lack of a frontman who can contribute more than two touches at any one time does not help.
It’s good to have some full-backs back
.Looking at he positives out of the game I think we can be pleased with the performances of the two full backs. Arthur Masuaku is a solid addition to the squad and looks more than a stopgap for the enforced absence of Aaron Cresswell. Maybe not quite as adventurous going forward but seemed to be defensively sound. There was also an assured performance from Sam Byram who as well as defending well is always looking to use the ball the ball wisely. He does seem to be an avid collector of yellow cards having received 5 in a total of 8 appearances. He could well have received two in the same passage of play yesterday as he twice sought to take one for the team within a few seconds. May well be suspended before the clocks go back.
The man who has no imagination has no wing(er)s.
Our manager is a man who likes wingers. It is how they play in Croatia and why we now have half a squad of them. Both Antonio and Tore blew hot and cold yesterday but then that is often the way with these guys. It seemed to me (unsurprisingly I thought) that both were more effective when playing on their natural foot even though Tore has spent much of his career playing on the right. It reminded me of when Trevor Sinclair was played on the left in a bid to secure an England call-up.
The major bonus with Antonio is that he is always likely to come up with a goal and despite a couple of chances where he might have done better it was his headed goal from a perfect left wing Tore cross that made the difference on the scoresheet.
Possession is nine-tenths of running down the clock.
We have never been the strongest at keeping possession and running down the clock. Having just seen Middlesboro do it so effectively in the closing stages of the Tyne-Wear derby it was noticeable how difficult it is for West Ham. The stats may show that the team with less possession wins but it is dangerous to adopt it as a tactic in the last few minutes where the opposition are desperately in search of an equaliser – even with 10 men. Invariably we give the ball away cheaply and the simple task of keeping it in safe areas of the pitch is beyond us. We did have two chances for a breakaway during the time. The first where Mark Noble appeared to be running in treacle which came to nothing and the second where Calleri really should have added a second. Ultimately it took a fine Adrian save and desperate Reid block to keep things even.