Filed: Monday, 13th February 2017
By: Adam Smith
A day or two have gone by, but the sting is still there. A 94th-minute equaliser takes the absolute elation out of a crowd that was celebrating the home squad, and replaced it with utter heartbreak. But how can a draw and a point from a team the Hammers are chasing hurt so bad?
Because we deserved three.
The quality of the match was not represented in the box score, but it surely was in the statistics. Before the match, West Bromwich Albion sat one position higher on the table than West Ham and held a five-point advantage. However, watching the match unfold told a completely different tale.
The run-and-gun game plan put in place by manager Slaven Bilic was risky, but was executed to near perfection by the squad. West Ham marched at will up the wings of the West Bromwich Albion side and were able to cut inside to create offensively.
Sofiane Feghouli, Robert Snodgrass, Manuel Lanzini and Michail Antonio were powerful yet precise through the midfield and were collectively responsible for the statistical domination.
One of the most impressive numbers from the match was the 65 per cent possession that West Ham worked towards. The Hammers opted to hold the ball rather than force runs inside, risking turnover in hopes of a quick scoring opportunity.
Patience was key as crossing balls were bending through the Baggies box for the majority of the match by picking their spots and allowing the play to develop.
The two most impressive players of the match for West Ham were undoubtedly Lanzini and Feghouli. Both players ended with a goal and an assist on the day. Both goals were explosive plays off the wing, pushed into Ben Foster's area, and brilliantly finished.
The equalising goal coming in the 63rd minute was a rebound after a Foster push onto the crossbar from a screamer courtesy of the right boot of Lanzini. The impressive cut inside saw Lanzini create enough space to get the blistering shot away, a result of the pressure the home side had been able to sustain.
Feghouli followed up on the play by Lanzini, and deposited the ball under the 'keeper.
Feghouliís goal was a bit of redemption from earlier in the match. On a broken play from a set-piece Feghouli had nudged in a passing ball to seemingly level the scores. However, whether by foul, offside, or divine intervention the 'goal' was disallowed and West Ham would head into the break one down.
The Algerian midfielder has made an impact on his side, taking advantage of the midfield openings provided by the departure of Payet, and the African Cup of Nations nabbing the likes of Kouyate and Ayew.
Lanziniís goal was simply class and skill on display. Having created Feghouliís goal off a cut inside and the release of a blazing shot, Lanzini opted for a similar play albeit from the opposite side of the pitch. Foster could only have hoped to have Lanzini curl it wide but with no mistake made, the Argentine put the home side ahead in the 86th minute.
Lanziniís superb game should have a credit to Bilic who had to get creative in his approach to formation with striker Andy Carroll sidelined with a groin injury. Lanzini who started in the wing with Snodgrass in the center appeared to switch roles with the Scot, taking charge in the midfield and pivoting inward multiple times to create offensively.
The malleability of Bilicís formation can be described as a gamble as he pressed on the offensive pressure, freeing up Lanzini by moving him to the center. With a substitution at half taking Aaron Cresswell out and putting in yet-to-emerge striker Jonathan Calleri, Bilic doubled down on this gamble.
With the numerous positives in this game, what is possibly more important are the few negatives. Regardless of referee decisions, in a game where West Ham dominated both possession and shots there should have been no reason to not take three points from this game.
However, on the first goal conceded, while it was a bit of magnificence from West Brom midfielder Nacer Chadli, the team refused to press him hard, including captain Mark Noble.
Despite the early defensive softness, the largest misstep of the West Ham squad was their inability to close out the match, surrendering an equalising goal in the fourth minute of stoppage time.
With a fourth defender on in James Collins, neither the back line nor 'keeper Darren Randolph could manage to win the ball and quell the final attempt against. Since outplaying Adrian for the role of starting 'keeper Randolph has looked strong and could rarely be faulted for goals against, but a misread in such a crucial game invited blame and criticism.
Nabbing points is never a negative, and West Ham provided a wealth of positives in this 2-2 gut-wrenching draw that certainly felt like a loss. A major positive is in the patience shown by the attacking forwards in the match.
The crosses and passes that littered the Baggies 18-yard box most certainly had ailing Andy Carrollís eyes widen. If nothing else this game showed commitment to an offensive game plan and regardless if their skyscraping striker was in or not, West Ham continue to stick to their identity as a team that attacks through the air.
Getting over such a promising performance that failed to show the desired result would be much easier if the impending match with table-place peer Watford was slated for a midweek match up. However, the Hammers must wait until the 25th of February to get back on pace and show their fans and themselves that they can build from such an impressive performance.
The thirteen-day break has positives for a squad as banged up as the West Ham side. Andy Carroll should certainly be fit for action against Watford, while clarity on the condition of defenders Sam Byram and Arthur Masuaku should be received during the break.
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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