Filed: Sunday, 26th February 2017
By: Adam Smith
Excuse the brevity and scattered nature of my thoughts, but my heart rate remains high after the lack of Success at the end of that match. With that said, an away draw is a positive, right? Then why does it feel so wrong?
With a 3rd minute penalty Troy Deeney put Watford ahead as the headaches from West Ham fans set in earlier than usual on match day. Cheikhou Kouyate looked uncomfortable as a right back thought the game and was the guilty party for the clumsy tackle on former Hammer Mauro Zarate, which led to the early goal from the spot.
His willingness to step into the line up in any position does deserve recognition. However, a natural defender - whether it be centre back Jaime Collins, or left back Arthur Masuaku - would provide more reliability in the position. Kouyate did manage to pressure up the wings and showed creativity with the ball on his foot, but he needs to be in the middle of the field to really make an impact.
Defending the centre, Winston Reid and Jose Fonte successfully quelled the Watford attack throughout the match. Fonte does deserve some more recognition because he covered behind Kouyate who over-extended in attack. Forced to defend the wing more often than anticipated, Fonte was terrific on the evening helping stabilise the back end. Both Reid and Fonte seemed to rely on Randolph sending the ball down the pitch as their midfielders often could not advance the ball forward.
While incorporating the keeper is necessary at times, the West Ham attack was deflated by the reliance on the 'keeper to find them downfield. It is worth mentioning Fonte nearly tied the game up on a ricocheted header that came to him off a West Ham corner, however it was pushed aside denying the defender his first West Ham goal.
Patience with the ball in attack is a growing strength of the West Ham side in recent weeks. Coming off a game where they had 65 per cent possession, the Hammers followed up with another impressive effort, holding on to the ball for 64 per cent against Watford. West Ham can score off the rush in games where possession does not favour them, with the likes of Antonio and Lanzini breaking away, but the upside to the possession game is limiting chances against and making the most of chances for.
A disciple of the possession game and emerging offensive threat is Sofiane Feghouli. Again, Feghouli looked dangerous attacking from the wing. He maximised his space by slowing play down when outlets were limited, and forced Watford to foul him by upping his pace at the drop of a dime. Feghouli also crossed the ball in with intent multiple times, nearly finding Antonio’s head from a seemingly benign location. In recent weeks, he has played himself onto the field and Bilic will be hard-pressed to find a reason to remove him.
Up front, Michail Antonio started alone for his second match in a row. To his credit, he looked more dangerous than his did against West Brom, and commanded attention within the box, drawing towering Watford defender Younes Kaboul regularly. Responsible for creating the goal, Antonio showed an incredible burst of speed and displayed his ability to shoot in stride when he nicked both posts, setting up Andre Ayew for an equalising tap in. But Antonio’s antics are something that need to be reeled in and addressed.
Eventually assessed a second yellow and subsequent red card off a bone-head play where he intentionally touched the ball with his hand, Antonio was eaten alive by the refereeing tonight. It is not a new, fresh, or sexy story line, but poor refereeing had implications on the outcome of the match.
The mentality must be different to what Antonio showed, when this is happening. His first yellow came off what he thought was a pull on his back in Watford’s 18-yard box on a developing play via a throw in. When it was not called, Antonio lunged in on the clearing attempt tagging the defender in obvious fashion. Antonio continued to play borderline through the night, attacking overly aggressively, and eventually decided it would be wise to slap the ball on his way down from a slip. His skills and output are too valuable to West Ham to be wasted on plays like that, regardless of how poorly the match was called.
Moving forward West Ham now prepare for what should be a heated match against top-sitting Chelsea. The Hammers will have nine days in between today's match and their next, hopefully providing the likes of Sam Byram and Andy Carroll enough time to heal up and return to the line up. With Antonio facing a one match ban for his red card, Mark Noble may have had his position saved for another week after a lacklustre effort against Watford.
Snodgrass should review this game as an example of overplaying the ball and trying too hard to notch a goal for his new team. His name was said more than anyone else’s in the first half, but he missed two terrific opportunities within the box to score. Also, his crosses seemed low and off target whether by corner or free kick, a skill he prides himself on, and one of the reasons he was brought in. Simply marked as an off game, Snodgrass should rebound against Chelsea with his usual grit and hardnosed effort, not to mention his silky crosses.
Now for some quick positive notes as revealed in the emotional roller coaster this match turned out to be. Lanzini remained elusive and threatening, driving the West Ham attack and upping the play of Cresswell who looked back in form, banging screaming crosses in from the wing. Also, Ayew looked the man West Ham thought he would be when they signed him in the summer. Capitalising off Antonio’s double post shot, Ayew cleaned up the ball and secured one point for the squad. Ayew also played a role in creating that run, nodding the ball at centre on a great header.
Lastly, and most predictably, Pedro Obiang remained in top form this match, tackling everything in sight, winning balls for the Hammers. It appears his tacking record has given him a reputation amongst referees as he seems to have earned the benefit of the doubt on close calls as well.
It would not be a match day if my heart rate didn’t rise, and the neighbours didn’t look on concernedly. But a draw away should be hailed as a positive, especially when you seal the game with ten men on the field. Much like against West Brom, the claret and blue seem a class above their mid-table competition, but need to show some finish to cement this feeling. They go again against Chelsea, an opportunity to turn some heads and wreak some havoc.
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.
comments powered by Disqus