Did you enjoy our excellent performance against a disappointing Tottenham side on Wednesday night? I certainly did. For me it was our best performance of the season by a long way and reminiscent of some of our better games in the last two seasons. There was only one team who were going to win the game in the second half and it wasn’t whingeing Tottenham.
They had taken the lead rather fortuitously in the first half with the own goal but I can barely remember Fabianski being troubled all night, and when he was called upon he showed why he has no intention of relinquishing the number 1 jersey with a commanding display. To be honest I expected a lot more from Tottenham but they resorted to dubious ‘old-fashioned Italian’ tactics, moaning at the referee at every stoppage, and generally they seemed to feel that everything should go their way because they have had a decent start to the season and we haven’t. They believe that they are genuine title challengers but with this display they are a million miles away.
The treatment of Bowen in particular was appalling in the way he was targeted and brought down at every opportunity. He was looking back to his lively self from last season and could perhaps have scored more than once in the closing stages of the game. With a little more composure Fornals should have scored too, as should Paqueta when he and Emerson left the ball for each other when in a great position from Coufal’s cross.
I thought the whole of our team played well with season-best performances all round, especially in the second half, and my man of the match was Antonio. He was unlucky in the first half when his long-range shot hit the post, and his Bergkamp-like flick to set up Soucek’s equalising goal was sublime. And didn’t Soucek take it well! All night Antonio (just like Bowen) was fouled by the Tottenham defenders who were allowed to get away with it by a referee who was too lenient in many respects. I am all for the new code where referees allow the game to continue more freely than before after strong tackles but this was too much.
Conte disappointed me too with his post-match comments about the VAR decision which sent the referee to look at the screen after the ball struck Cresswell’s arm after deflecting off his face. Quite frankly how VAR took almost four minutes before they came to that conclusion was baffling. You only had to look at the replay once to see what had happened. I am a fan of VAR applied properly and in this case justice was done, but why the hesitation? But not according to whingeing Conte.
Some excellent performances all round by our players and the new signings are going to be great additions. Paqueta’s thirty-minute cameo demonstrated what a signing he could become and was especially notable for the fact that he hadn’t trained with the team beforehand. Players are now playing knowing that there are quality players on the bench and the competition for their places is just what is needed. What I particularly liked in comparison to the earlier games this season was our ability to retain the ball and not give it away cheaply. We moved the ball quicker too with more purpose, and the players were finding space to receive the ball too.
I don’t usually give player ratings but I’ll make an exception for this game. Fabianski 7.5, Coufal 7.5, Kehrer 8, Zouma 7.5, Cresswell 7, Rice 8.5, Soucek 8, Fornals 7, Benrahma 7, Bowen 8, Antonio 8.5.
I won’t give a rating for the substitutes but Paqueta, Ogbonna and Emerson, all looked good with their relatively short time on the pitch and we were well on top as the game edged towards a close.
We now move on to Stamford Bridge to face big-spending Chelsea. Another performance like we produced for the Tottenham game, especially in the second half will be fine. We are actually playing a game on a Saturday! When did that last happen? If I’m not mistaken we last played a league game on a Saturday (the traditional day for football!) at the beginning of March when we lost 1-0 at Anfield. And when did we last win a league game on a Saturday? I don’t think it has happened since New Years Day, January 1st when we beat Palace 3-2 at Selhurst Park. I may be wrong but I don’t think we won a league game on a Saturday at the London Stadium in the whole of last season. Of course the main reasons for this are games shown on TV plus our participation in European competition.
The madness, also known as the transfer window, slammed shut on Thursday evening. (Why does it always slam?). At last an end to the 982 players linked with West Ham over the past few weeks! Sky Sports is whipped into a frenzy on the final day when so many clubs finalise the business that they’ve had weeks to do, and so many transactions take place right up until the 11pm deadline. Time will tell of course, but I reckon that this has been the most successful window for West Ham in years. Spending has certainly exceeded my expectations with the arrival of eight players to replace those that left or who have retired. Seven of the eight are current full international footballers. It’s now down to the manager to mould them into a team that can challenge for honours. I look forward to the rest of the season.