Some People Are on the Pitch They Think It’s All Over It Could Well Be Now! The chances of Championship football rattling around the London Stadium next season increase significantly after a disastrous afternoon in Stratford.
Some people are on the pitch…..
Probably it is no surprise that events unfolded as they did. It started with a show of unity in memory of Bobby Moore and ended with a shambolic descent into chaos both on and off the pitch. I would defend the right of any paying customer to make their feelings known but there is a time, a place and a way of doing it. Perhaps the board do not have the interests of the club at heart (beyond the value of their own investment) but then neither do those who ran onto the pitch – their only objective was personal attention seeking. In typical West Ham fashion the response was slow and late and there are sure to be consequences; how serious we will have to wait and see. Disgraceful scenes were beamed around the world. For a while, it looked as though the players might be taken off the pitch and the director’s box was more or less emptied for the safety of its occupants. By the end a forlorn Trevor Brooking sat alone as the baying crowd sang ‘he’s one of our own’. I doubt that a respectable man like Sir Trevor was sharing the same sentiment.
A Darkest Hour
It is difficult to see how there could be any positive outcome or acceptable way back from yesterday’s debacle – at least during the short term that remains of the 2017/18 season. There will be action by the FA for sure – perhaps it will be just a fine but games played behind closed doors or away from London are other options they will be considering. We are a club to make an example of, after all. The pitch invaders will undoubtedly be banned from the stadium but how does the club with Board, players and fans at each other’s throats navigate the rest of the season while at the same time battling a desperate relegation fight. For me, this now puts West Ham as one of the strongest of favourites for the drop – just behind West Bromwich Albion. Perhaps some will see that as a price worth paying if it means farewell to Gold and Sullivan but I would view it as a disaster from which recovery will be slow and painful.
Shuffling The Bare Bones
Moyes decided to shake things up after heavy defeats at Liverpool and Swansea. But with a third three goal defeat on the trot and the disappearance of what was once a slight goal difference advantage the changes badly backfired. The Hammers have conceded more goals than any other team in the division and now boast the fourth worst goal difference as they sleepwalk towards relegation. Rather than strengthening the squad in January it was weakened by more leavers than joiners. Further injuries mean that few to no options are available in an ageing and lopsided squad; while potential youthful reinforcements were allowed to go out on pointless loans. I predicted that Moyes would reinstate Joe Hart but this was a mistaken gamble as demonstrated with the third goal. Michail Anntonio made a welcome return to the side but he is wasted on the left where good positions created are undone by an inability to deliver from his weaker side. Declan Rice did not deserve to be left out and could have done a job either in central defence or midfield. Once again, the defensive midfield resistance was as flimsy as a David Sullivan promise.
Another Self Inflicted Defeat
West Ham bossed the first half without being able to turn better chances into anything tangible. Marko Arnautovic should have done better when through on goal and Manuel Lanzini really should have scored. By the time the half was coming to a close it was clear that Burnley had realised that the Hammers were ripe for the taking. In the second half the visitors were by far the more composed side from the start and when Dyche introduced the second striker things started to look very ominous. The breakthrough goal was a typical piece of lackadaisical Angelo Ogbonna defending. We have seen him do this so many times in the past where he switches off and enters standby sauntering mode. He should never have allowed Woods to outpace him and then give him all the time in the world to pick out Barnes. After that the spirit visibly drained from West Ham and with further goals following swiftly it was the cue for the disgraceful crowd scenes to unfold. There was not even time for the consolation goal of previous weeks.
I Think It’s All Over
There is no game for three weeks now and it seems that the players are off on holiday to Miami. We know how well these warm weather breaks have worked in the past and so expectations are low. West Ham could well be in the bottom three by the time the next game comes around; wherever that will be played. Suddenly the relegation battle looks to be narrowing down to a five horse race – or four teams competing for the remaining two places on the assumption that West Bromwich are already certainties. Present form suggests that one of those unfortunate two may well be the Hammers.
West Ham’s Dad’s Army put up plucky resistance but eventually succumb to Klopp’s superior firepower. What did we learn?
An Expected Result
In the scheme of things the outcome of this match doesn’t really change anything as far as West Ham’s battle for survival is concerned. I doubt that anyone working out their predictions and permutations for the remainder of the system, from the team of analysts with a supercomputer to man with a pencil and the back of a fag packet, expected West Ham to take anything out of yesterday’s game. If there was disappointment it was the size of the defeat and it’s resultant hit on goal difference, which at -15 is now worse that two of the teams below us. Mark Noble claimed that the scoreline was harsh on West Ham but it could easily have been worse if Liverpool had been more clinical. At what point a routine defeat turns into a thumping is debatable but the Hammers were well and truly beaten by a talented and in-form Liverpool side. The Merseysiders were allowed to dictate the game and took full advantage and although the West Ham players put in a decent amount of effort the impression was that there little belief to go alongside it.
The Strangest Selection
The team selection surprised me. I had doubted that we would see Joao Mario and Manuel Lanzini on the pitch at the same time and yet David Moyes was happy to give the combination a try. The result was a narrow formation that lacked width without solving the usual inability to provide an outlet for besieged defenders or to keep the ball once in possession. I thought Mario was poor throughout and although he was not alone in that it was his most ineffective game since coming to England. Starting with one of Mario and Lanzini along with Michail Antonio would have made more sense and, for a brief period after his introduction, the presence of Antonio appeared to unsettle Liverpool’s defence. This wasn’t a game where West Ham lacked effort but effort alone is not enough at this level. Players giving 100% should be a given and what West Ham need are skillful players giving everything; not players who make up for lack of techniques with effort. An honourable exception to the lack of quality on show in claret and blue yesterday was Marko Arnaoutovic who once again demonstrated what an exceptional player he can be.
Dad’s Army Defenders
When the referee called Mark Noble over following the yellow card shown to James Collins I imagined the conversation going: Referee – “what’s his name?”; Nobes – “don’t tell him Ginge”. With the introduction of Patrice Evra into the Hammers rearguard we now have a defence worthy of the veterans league. Looking at all of the outfield players with mainly defensive responsibilities (i.e. everyone except Mario, Lanzini and Arnie) they are characterised by an overall lack of pace throughout. Once again the central midfield pairing of Noble and Cheikhou Kouyate failed to get even close to impressing and allowed Liverpool to attack the backline with impunity. Evra and Pablo Zabaleta might have shown admirable commitment but with the best will in the world they are never going to be able to bomb forward to provide width in support of their forwards. What a contrast to Alexander-Arnold and Robertson for the Reds.
Assists For The Opposition Goals
Despite Liverpool’s dominance the Hammers once again contributed to their own downfall in the goals conceded. The opener by Can was just the type of goal I had not expected to concede; a simple header from a corner. It did appear to me that Adrian was badly impeded but this seems one of those rules that is now considered optional by referees. The second goal was the killer coming so soon after half-time and some blame must go first to Kouyate for a series of powder puff challenges and then to Aaron Cresswell for not getting close enough to Salah. The third was a result of Mario giving possession away cheaply and compounded by Adrian’s poorly judged rush from the area (but please no recall for Joe Hart) and by the fourth the players were just hoping for the game to end as quickly as possible. Giving a team like Liverpool so much of the ball was always going to be a huge risk. The weakness in central midfield, a lack of belief in being able to keep the ball and players bunching rather than spreading play all served to surrender the initiative to the opposition. Conceding was only a matter of time.
The Table Doesn’t Lie
West Ham slip to 13th position just three points (four if you count goal difference) out of the relegation places. Assuming that Palace do not beat Tottenham today by two goals or more the standings will be unchanged before the crunch game next weekend away at Swansea. At least Swansea also experienced their own thumping yesterday meaning that both teams will need to demonstrate ‘bouncebackability’. With the bottom of the table so compressed and so many teams in relegation danger there are few yet in a position to start thinking about the summer holidays. Leicester had the look of going through the motions about them yesterday and maybe Burnley and Everton do as well. Some consolation in that these are three teams we have yet to play.
As David Sullivan calls for unity and the need to pull together, a Marko Arnautovic inspired West Ham bounce back from their recent doldrums to record a much needed win over Watford. What did we learn from the game?
We All Pull Together
The team performance against Watford was a perfect reaction to the disappointment of half-hearted effort on show at Brighton last week. In David Sullivan’s attempt at a damage limitation video (that was posted on the official West Ham website) he repeated, in a style reminiscent of Theresa May’s much ridiculed strong and stable slogan, the mantra as to how we all needed to pull together to drag the club out of its current plight. I am all for unity but for it to be achieved everyone has to see that striving for it is to their advantage. Donating my time, effort and money simply to line someone else’s pocket is just not tempting enough to earn my unquestioning support unfortunately. Still the players responded well and they ably demonstrated the spirit, determination and togetherness required to earn a valuable three points from what looked to be a troublesome fixture against a confident Watford side.
Arnie Is Back
In my match preview I predicted a point at best and that we would be lucky to see Marko Arnautovic on the bench. The inaccuracy of that latter expectation had a direct impact on the imprecision and negativity of the former. While I am in confession mode, I will admit to having been ambivalent about the signing of Arnautovic. Not that I was a huge Stoke City watcher but the impression I had was of an inconsistent, fair-weather, sun-on-his-back type of player who would pick and choose which matches he would contribute to at the best of his ability. His early outings in claret and blue did little to dispel that assessment. He looked moody and disinterested and added an early blot to his copybook with a needless sending off at Southampton. Then suddenly, after thirteen goalless outings, he was given a more attacking role by David Moyes, free from tracking back along the wing, and goes on to score seven times in the next eleven games. And it is not only in goals that he is contributing to the cause as his overall effort, strength and impressive close control have made him into a defender’s nightmare. It is difficult for me to remember ever being so completely wrong about a player in the past. When the new golden age of player recruitment, as promised by the Board, becomes a reality let’s hope there are a few more Arnies up their sleeves.
The Legendary Game Of Two Halves
In many ways it was an unusual game. The first half West Ham were very much on the front foot with great movement and invention on show. Cheikhou Kouyate was a midfield driving force demonstrating a power and energy that has largely been missing from his game in recent times, and with the ball at their feet the combination of Arnautovic, Michail Antonio, Joao Mario and Javier Hernandez always looked threatening and capable of opening up the Watford defence. A goal disallowed for the thinnest of offside margins, a denied penalty appeal and a spurned Arnautovic chance all preceded the opening goal. When Hernandez headed home after a fine Antonio run and cross it felt like we were on a roll. The second half was a very different animal and it was difficult to tell whether this was because Watford had upped their game or whether West Ham had decided the best tactic was to defend deep and deny the visitors any chance of a quick counter attack. The inability of West Ham to keep the ball for more than a few touches and the tendency to go for the long ball was a concern but for all of Watford’s possession they created little. Watching live it seemed a very long second half that was all Watford, but watching the highlights later it was apparent that, apart from a free kick well saved by Adrian, it was West Ham who enjoyed the clear cut chances. Ultimately it was the Hammers who secured a further (rather scrappy) goal to seal the match and claim the points.
Initially the starting line-up puzzled me when it was first announced. I was sure it was going to be a back four and when it was apparent that this was not the case I was concerned about how well the Angelo Ogbonna, James Collins, Aaron Cresswell threesome would deal with Watford’s creative players. Cresswell has performed adequately in his new role but I am yet to be convinced that his lack of height will not be exploited by more astute opponents. For all of Collins limitations against more mobile adversaries there are few better when the opposition decide to rely on the lofted cross as their main form of attack. Similarly the aerial assault plays to one of Ogbonna’s main strengths; the other being wrestling with opponents at corners. Much was made of Watford’s 64% possession but it should be obvious to most by now that possession does not equate to dominance.
Canny Jock Or Dour Scot?
It remains tight at the bottom end of the Premier League table but the thirty point milestone is a good one to have crossed with still more than ten games to go. When Moyes took control of the team, West Ham had recorded nine points from eleven games and were sitting in eighteenth place. In the sixteen matches since he took charge his team have amassed twenty one points and now sit in twelfth place. It is a decent achievement and current trajectory should ensure a safe end to the season and even eyes on a top ten finish. The likelihood that at least six out of the eight teams sitting below West Ham in the table outperform them by a sufficient margin in the remaining eleven games is a slim one. What happens at the end of the season though is anyone’s guess. Personally, I think Moyes should be given the opportunity to show what he can do (both in terms of success and style) after a sensibly planned transfer window. Whether he wants to, or will be allowed to, depends very much on what the new strategy of pulling together actually means in reality.
Five Takeaways As West Ham Inflict a Heavy Home Defeat on Huddersfield Town
Current Form Resurgence
At the risk of cherry picking statistics in order to prove a particular point, West Ham’s form over the past nine games gives every reason for supporters to breathe a little easier right now. Disregarding David Moyes’ first three games in charge, as an opportunity to get his feet under the table, the Hammers have since taken fifteen points from nine games; a return that if repeated for the remainder of the season would deliver a comfortable fifty-five points. At the same time, the goal difference (although still in debit) is starting to look much more reasonable in comparison with the rest of the relegation threatened pack. Three points are welcome at any time but on Saturday there was something of a recent rarity where victory was backed up with a fine dominant performance that demonstrated some of the most enterprising football witnessed for some time.
Team Selection Vindicated
It would be preposterous to question team selection following such an emphatic win but there was plenty of online negativity when the lineup was first announced; mainly centred on a defensive looking midfield and the absence of a recognised striker. The central midfield continues to be a problem area for West Ham and putting three bodies in it was a belt and braces solution for the respective shortcomings of the three individuals involved. In the context of the game it worked very well with Mark Noble getting more freedom and Cheikhou Kouyate being able to make himself a nuisance (Fellaini style without the elbows) in more forward positions. The one player who was unlucky to miss out was Declan Rice but I suspect that the management are keen to manage the youngster’s game time. I do not really see Rice as a midfield alternative and, for me, it would have been a toss-up between him and Aaron Cresswell for the final back three berth. Cresswell is doing OK but his lack of stature is a vulnerability that more wily opponents than Huddersfield will seek to exploit.
There has been a lot of talk about West Ham’s strikers and their respective attributes with the probability that none of the existing crop is a good fit to the way that Moyes wants to play. Despite stating at his press conference that he didn’t want to lose any of his four main strikers (and that he wasn’t looking for any new ones) it was interesting that he plumped for Marko Arnautovic in the striking role for Saturday’s game, just as he had previously shown a preference to use Michail Antonio for that task in earlier games. Arnautovic revelled in his new found freedom and gave the Huddersfield defence a torrid time. It was a match winning performance and his transformation over recent weeks has been a revelation. He has a reputation for being moody and we must hope that he can continue to be motivated to show was a superb player he can be. The link up play between himself and Manuel Lanzini was a joy and particularly effective when the team is looking to break quickly. How this might translate against a team coming to the London Stadium to defend is another question altogether.
Understandably it was Arnautovic and Lanzini who received the plaudits following the weekend’s game but this was truly a tremendous all-round team effort. I don’t think any player let the side down although one or two could have done better before Lolley popped up to net with his excellent equaliser. It has become fashionable in recent weeks to target the performances of Kouyate and Pedro Obiang for any deficiencies in West Ham’s play; and although neither of them has been at the top of their game they haven’t played as consistently poorly as some have claimed. One of the many player ratings I saw over the weekend (I think it was from Claret & Hugh) singled out Kouyate as the worst performing Hammer, this despite his telling involvement in three of the Hammer’s four goals. It is probably time to get off the bandwagon when you can no longer be objective.
The West Ham Enigma
As West Ham fans our long experience of false dawns make us suspicious and ensures that we do not get carried away too easily by a few good results. However, we can be quietly encouraged by the improved performances that Moyes and the coaching team have managed to get from the players in a relatively short space of time. Naysayers will still point to cup performances as a reason to criticise but as much as we all love a cup run the club will see preserving Premier League status as the much bigger (if not exclusive) priority. Do you think that if West Ham won the FA Cup but were relegated the manager would still be in a job come the summer? So despite the recent turnaround in form the official stance from all concerned or associated with the club is to emphasise that there is still much work to be done before we can think of ourselves as safe. I am certain, however, that the more agreeable league position will put a different complexion on transfer window dealings, where signings can be made not just through panic but with longer term improvement in mind.
Another comfortable away win for the Hammers as we move up the table
Do you remember just a few short weeks ago when West Ham appointed David Moyes as the new manager to replace the much loved, but tactically inept Slaven Bilic? Social media sites went into overdrive even though the departing boss was not getting results, the team were performing poorly, there was no apparent plan, and the new man was the fourth most successful Premier League manager of all time. I guess it says more about social media than anything else. The win this weekend meant that Moyes became just the fourth manager to win 200 league matches (behind Ferguson, Wenger and Redknapp). And we were even the first game on Match of the Day! We are now unbeaten in five games and have moved five points away from the drop zone and sit in eleventh place.
The transformation has been astonishing in such a short space of time. I’m not getting carried away and, of course, there is still a long way to go, but with exactly the same players we are now in a much healthier position. How many people would have predicted that we would collect eight points from the last four away fixtures at Bournemouth, Stoke, Tottenham and Huddersfield? (We had only previously picked up eight points in our previous 15 fixtures on our travels!) We should have had ten but for the ridiculous refereeing of Bobby Madley that cost us two points. Even the point at Tottenham, although fortunate in some respects, could have been three if our defensive resilience had lasted just a few more minutes. How many fans would have thought that when he got sent off at Southampton, Marco Arnautavic would be such an influential player, so much so that a little over half way into the season he is already odds-on favourite to be the Hammer of the Year next May? And how pleased am I that I put him into my Fantasy Football team prior to the Huddersfield game?
The win against Huddersfield once again made nonsense of the importance of possession statistics. With little over one-third of the ball, and a poorer pass completion rate, we dominated the game in the areas where it mattered and comfortably won the match. It took a superb goal from the home side to wipe out Mark Noble’s opener, but then Arnie scored just eleven seconds into the second half, before setting up Lanzini for two further goals. The creative partnership between Arnie and our diminutive Argentinian was a delight. Huddersfield had only previously been beaten at home by Man City, Chelsea and Tottenham, which shows the difficulty that we faced and how impressive was our performance.
We now need to push on in the forthcoming games and consolidate our mid-table position, looking upwards and not downwards. Despite much speculation nothing has happened yet in the transfer window, but we still need a couple of quality players to give a better balance to the squad. It remains to be seen if the right players can be identified and persuaded to join us. And more to the point the owners need to make the finance available to ensure this happens. But I am more confident with our new managerial / coaching regime that we can move further up the table. However, there is still a long way to go to achieve the aspirations that the owners voiced when we moved into our new stadium.
What else did we learn from this excellent West Ham victory other than how sweet it is to get one over on Chelsea and the snarling Cesc Fabregas?
A Famous Victory
It is rare for me to get a prediction correct and so when it happens I will take just a brief moment to gently blow my own trumpet. In my match preview I predicted a nail biting one-nil victory and that is exactly what we got. While that is probably me done for the season there is a great deal of encouragement that can be taken from yesterday’s victory, as well as the gutsy performance in last week’s defeat at Manchester City. West Ham are still in the bottom three but now have momentum and, with plenty of ‘at risk’ clubs around us, any three of the bottom ten could be in for the drop come the end of the season. At last we are beginning to look like a team rather than a collection of strangers and once players starting performing as a unit then understanding increases, creativity improves, pressure reduces and individual errors start to reduce. Full marks to David Moyes and his team for putting pride and belief back into the club in a relatively short space of time. There is still some way to go but all of a sudden everything is looking just a little rosier.
Pundits Know Nothing
To most supporters who had watched West Ham during the early part of the season (and the better part of last season) it was glaringly obvious that the team lacked organization, fitness and discipline. I don’t recall any of the pundits who regularly interrupt our enjoyment of the football action pointing this out. To them, Slaven Bilic was a nice guy and a great coach who just needed a little more time and maybe a bit of luck with injuries and transfers to turn things around. Now though, through the wonder of hindsight, it is now revealed that the shambles that had been allowed to develop at the club is taken as read. Now I know the pundit’s job is simply to wax lyrical about the top six clubs but this is surely another example of their lack of credibility – time to phase them out and concentrate on more action. Equally as damning were David Sullivan’s admission (in response to a question about whether he was the de facto Director of Football at West Ham) that no-one at board level appeared to have any idea about what went on at the training ground. Another sign, if needed, of the club’s ongoing and long standing amateurish approach to football matters.
A Fine Team Performance
There were understandable rave reviews for Marko Arnautovic and Arthur Masuaku following yesterday’s game. Yet, if anything, this was an outstanding team performance. The whole approach to the game was tactically superb by the coaching staff and brilliantly executed by each and every player. Adrian inspires a confidence that Joe Hart does not; an unlikely back three of Winston Reid, Angelo Ogbonna and Aaron Cresswell suddenly looks solid and courageous; the midfield players didn’t stop running, harrying and denying space; and Michail Antonio and Arnautovic showed why movement and mobility is so important up front at this level. It was great that some players stood out but to criticize any individual would be churlish – although some fans couldn’t help themselves by still having a dig at their favourite bête noire. Could we have done better with ball? For sure! Do we still need reinforcements in the transfer window? Undoubtedly! But until then I will enjoy this victory and look forward to a repeat performance on Wednesday.
Those Special Mentions
Massive team performance aside it would be unfair not to give special mention to several stand-out players. I thought Declan Rice was unlucky to be left out of the starting eleven but his replacement, Winston Reid, had the type of game that made premature reports of his being washed-up look ridiculous. My previous reservations about Arnautovic were also torn to shreds by his application yesterday. As well as scoring the winner he was a handful all afternoon and was more than willing to perform his defensive duties. My only question to him was why stop when you thought Christensen had handled in the box? Taking Arnie off first in preference to Antonio who had run himself into the ground by the hour mark was the only strange decision of the afternoon but it all worked out marvelously in the end. Finally there was Masuaku. For a period in the first half it looked like the ball was magnetically attached to his boot such was the trickery of his footwork. It was great to see panache back in the side and to witness some wonderful combinations with Manuel Lanzini. Arthur had a more restrained second period and I wonder whether that was under instruction? Sometimes knowing when and where to turn it on is as important as the ability itself. A note to the referee: why no foul throw for the Pedro incident?
Where Do We Go From Here?
It is difficult to imagine that the approach against Arsenal will be much different to what we saw yesterday. The reality is that whatever West Ham can get out of games against top six sides at the moment are bonus points. The season will be defined by how well we can do against the rest. I still believe that we have one of the best ten squads in the league provided that they can be molded into an effective unit. If there are going to be additions in January, particularly in the problem central midfield area, then even better. What I am looking forward to seeing is how Moyes can take this new found attitude and organization and deploy it in a way that dominates teams that we really should beat. At least now I can look forward to that prospect with some optimism.
The predicted City storm fails to materialise as an encouraging West Ham performance almost leads to a major shock.
So Much Better Than Expected
It is an unusual sensation to have finally lost the game but still feel strangely positive about the performance at the Etihad Stadium yesterday. I read that the odds at start of play of West Ham losing by eight goals were shorter than those for a single goal defeat. Yet the drubbing that many (including myself) had predicted was not forthcoming. Despite a lengthy list of absentees West Ham managed to fashion themselves into the best approximation of a football team that we have witnessed so far this season. For the most part the tactics were spot on in preventing Manchester City from getting into their rhythm and were reminiscent of the smash and grab approach that reaped such unexpected rewards in the early days of Bilic’s inaugural season. In the first half City were limited to speculative long shots and that the game was ultimately lost to a pair of relatively scruffy goals should not detract too much from the many positives on display.
Pep The Poor Winner
Without doubt there is much to admire about the way that Pep Guardiola has got his Manchester City playing. Apparently his match-day squad cost in the region of £550 million in transfer fees with the starting eleven costing an average of £35 million per player. A bottomless transfer budget is not a new phenomenon for modern day City but under Guardiola the quality and style of play have reached new levels. It is a shame, therefore, that he feels the need to come across so petulantly as a winner. Of course clubs with fewer riches will seek to stifle the fluidity of his team but why the need to make stuff up about the opposition having “ten men in the box”. West Ham’s approach was pragmatic rather negative and his comments were as wrong as they were unnecessary. . A little self-awareness and humility might go a long way for Guardiola.
Organisation and Fitness
For the first time in many months our players looked like they knew what they were supposed to be doing and what was expected of them; attacking and defending as a team for once. Not only that but there was a demonstrable game plan which the players stuck to it despite the make do and mend look to the line-up. Everyone played their part and as well as a spirited defensive display there were further chances to to add to Angelo Ogbonna’s fine headed goal for Michail Antonio, Manuel Lanzini and Diafra Sakho . Possibly fitness told at the end but it was great to see players on their toes for a change and giving it their all. In truth I am not sure that many of the absentees would have performed better than their replacements although further injuries to Cheikhou Kouyate and Antonio could be cause for concern.
Stand Out Performances
Within a solid team display there were stand-out performances from Adrian and Declan Rice, an honourable mention for Arthur Masuaku and strong leadership from Pablo Zabaleta. Not only did Adrian make some fine saves but hw instils a far greater sense of confidence in the box and in the air than Joe Hart. It would be a travesty if he does not keep the shirt for the upcoming games. Rice gave a mature and assured display in the makeshift backline suggesting that he needs to be given an extended run in his proper central defence position. There were some suggestions that he might have prevented Silva’s winning goal but, for me, the responsibility was that no-one tracked Silva’s run into the box, after he had played the ball to De Bruyne, rather than it being Rice’s failure to cut out De Bruyne’s fine pass. Masuaku was once again a willing runner demonstrating an eclectic mix of exceptional and over-elaborate footwork.
Onwards and Hopefully Upwards
The levels to which organisation and fitness had fallen under Slaven Bilic really are quite shocking and the hope is that that these can be reversed before it is too late. The four games played under David Moyes have yet to follow any discernible pattern or consistency; two poor efforts at Watford and Everton interspersed with encouraging signs at home to Leicester and at City yesterday. The games against Chelsea and Arsenal will be useful in building understanding and momentum (even if we cannot expect too many points) but after that we need to embark on some serious point collection in the games against Stoke, Newcastle and Bournemouth if survival is to be assured. While there were many positives to be taken from the defeat to City it will be time very soon to turn encouragement into something more tangible. As it is West Ham have never had fewer points after fifteen games of a Premier League season and those alarm bells need to be silenced immediately.