After frustrating Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium for most of the game, West Ham felt like they might have had a platform to build upon. Saturday lunchtime’s victory over Chelsea proved that they were right.
The same tactics were enacted at the London Stadium at the weekend as David Moyes’ side showed that their good performance wasn’t just a flash in the pan.
In particular, the defensive performances over the last two games will get the plaudits. The new manager took over a side with one of the worst defences in the league, and so whipping them into shape is clearly an achievement. But it’s been the Hammers’ ability to hit both Manchester City and Chelsea on the break over the last two games that should get the most credit.
It’s hard to hold out for an entire game against the top sides, but in both ties they’ve scored. And that’s forced the opposition to take more notice of West Ham on the counter attack, making them more cautious. It’s also allowed the defence to have a bit of respite.
One player in particular stood out as he linked that defence up with the counter-attack on Saturday, though.
Wing-back Arthur Masuaku had more touches than any other West Ham player, and more than most Chelsea players, too – quite an achievement given the fact that Chelsea had 70% of the ball possession.
But what was so impressive about Masuaku’s performance wasn’t just his willingness to get on the ball and bring his team up the pitch, but it was his all-round play, too. His five tackles – more than any other West Ham defender – show that he more than played his part contributing to the defence. And when he was able to take some of the pressure off, he did exactly what was needed.
When your team is under fire all game, being able to take the ball forward and hold onto it allows respite for the defence, and by completing 11 dribbles, Masuaku managed to do that more than any other player on the pitch. In fact, his tally of 11 was double that of any other player in the game. That shows just how important he was for his team in both an attacking and a defensive sense. The fact that this wasn’t just a rearguard effort shows how much the Hammers have improved, and how it’s clear they now have a proper gameplan the players are putting into practice. Masuaku’s performance, far from being a fluke, is proof that Moyes is having an effect, even if it is just a short-term one – though two good defensive performances on the bounce suggest it’s not.
The Hammers might haveto struggle on in a similar way for the next few months: picking up the results to take them away from any relegation battle is more important than style for the moment. But if the type of battling performances they’ve managed to dig out in the last two games are anything to go by, West Ham, under Moyes, could well be about to turn things around.