Filed: Wednesday, 22nd August 2012
By: Stuart Jones
Please join us in extending a warm welcome to our newest recruit Stuart Jones. Stuart opens his KUMB account today by looking back at Saturday's impressive win against Aston Villa...
A scorching hot summer’s day saw West Ham kick off life back in the Premier League against an Aston Villa side now managed by Paul Lambert who enjoyed an impressive season with Norwich last term.
Whilst new signings Modigbo Maiga and Alou Diarra were deemed not fit enough to start, there were home debuts for Jussi Jaaskelainen, Mohamed Diame in the centre of midfield, as well as James Collins against the club he left in the summer.
The biggest surprise was that James Tomkins, so imperious at the back for all of last season, was dropped to the bench, eventually replacing Nolan late in the 2nd half as West Ham looked to see out the game.
After patchy home form the last couple of seasons the Hammers management knew that a positive result was crucial here to build early confidence and set out to approach the match in a positive manner but it was Villa who settled the quicker and initially impressed with some tidy passing in midfield. Whilst Villa kept possession better, it came with little threat on the Hammers goal with Jaaskelainen largely untroubled for the majority of the half.
Whilst the largely-even first half appeared to be heading to a goalless conclusion up stepped captain Kevin Nolan on the stroke of half-time to grab another crucial goal that once again underlined his importance to Sam Allardyce’s team.
There was some doubt about the goal initially, with the linesman having raised his flag as Vaz Te crossed the ball into the box but Villa’s appeals were waved away as referee Mike Dean deemed, correctly, that the ball had come off Villa’s Ciaran Clark en-route to Vaz Te.
That goal settled the Hammers who largely controlled the second half much to the enjoyment of a West Ham support who’d been in full voice all afternoon. Noble and the impressive Diame began to overpower Villa in midfield and barring one smart shot from distance from centre-back Ron Vlaar, his debut probably Villa’s only real plus point of the day, Jaaskelainen was again a bystander for much of the half.
In truth Villa, worringly for their set of supporters, looked extremely toothless in attack up against a west Ham back four that was marshalled imperiously by James Collins who barely put a foot wrong.
In fact it was West Ham who could’ve grabbed a couple more goals. Ricardo Vaz Te’s quick feet were finding space, Carlton Cole was unlucky to not win a penalty after tumbling in the box after a shove in the back from Vlaar and substitute Modigbo Maiga was unfortunate in seeing his shot cleared off the line by backtracking Nathan Baker, having run clear of the defence and rounded keeper Given.
All in all I was really pleased with the performance. Our pre-season was quite poor and I do think the squad still needs some work before the close of the window so, with the likes of Diarra, Tomkins and Maiga not starting Saturday, I thought the squad have already shown there’s some depth there.
What I was looking for from a West Ham team managed by Big Sam in the Premier League is exactly what we got – physically strong, very solid at the back, nothing given away, and clinical when it mattered. All the debutants impressed me too.
We’ll come up against many better teams this season than what Villa produced on the day, but maintain that same discipline and we should be fine this season.
Stuart Jones may also be found on his blog at www.westhamfans.co.uk.
Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.
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