The Runner Sports

Exhale, West Ham Nab Their First Win

In a do-or-die situation for manager Slaven Bilic, West Ham United pulled out a strong performance and secured all three points in their first win of the season. Using a narrow formation that has yet to be seen from Bilic, the East Londoners netted two goals late in the match to defeat Premier League newcomers Huddersfield Town. While beating a newly promoted team does not sound impressive, that is not the case here. Firstly, West Ham had been beaten 3-0 to newcomers Newcastle this season, and Huddersfield had also yet to concede a goal this season.

What was imperative in this win was the addition of injury ridden striker Andy Carroll. His impact came in his physicality and size, winning 1aerialal battles this week, more than any other player in the Premier League. He did not appear on the score sheet, but his presence forced the Huddersfield defenders to constantly worry about his positioning, freeing up others to score. Indirectly Carroll factored into Pedro Obiang’s goal; pulling defenders attention while Obiang was able to step up to the top of the box and shoot a ricocheted shot that found the twine. Likewise, Carroll drawing the eyes of defenders on a corner kick freed up Andre Ayew to tap in a sitter that fell to his feet. West Ham are a different team with Carroll in the lineup and his presence was felt immediately, however, his injury track record makes him an unreliable presence on the pitch.

West Ham can also credit the new formation for their victory. With Carroll up top with Javier Hernandez, Michail Antonio in the hole behind them, Obiang and Cheikhou Kouyate in central mid, Aaron Cresswell at left wingback, Pablo Zabaleta at right wingback, and a back three of Winston Reid, Jose Fonte, and JamesCollins, West Ham was staunch up the middle of the field with attacking crosses coming from the wingbacks. This formation was to maximize a “bigman, littleman” combination at striker, which ultimately failed to produce. However, West Ham were rewarded for placing Kouyate and Obiang in midfield roles that allowed them to push forward. Both were impactful in attack, culminating in the Obiang shot that careened into the net off a defender.

While successful, this formation will need to be abandoned in the near future. Central attacking midfield maestro Manuel Lanzini will return shortly, as well as elbow throwing suspendee, Marko Arnautovic on the left wing. Both of these players would slot into positions not made available in this formation. The win, in this sense, was a bit deflating as it showed West Ham’s need to run with three defenders in the backfield. The defensive woes of the team were well documented in their first three defeats, and the installation of another centerback with wingback attackers substantially helps the backline defense.

Man of the match was awarded to Michail Antonio, and for good reason. Playing in a CAM, off the striker role, Antonio essentially had the ability to play where he pleased in this match, a position usually reserved for Lanzini. Antonio did well here, but his skill was on display when he moved the ball down the wings. Multiple times Antonio tipped a ball long and blew by the Huddersfield defenders to create offensive pressure. He was a physical beast on the field and is a constant in the West Ham lineup. With performances like this Antonio should be gaining the attention of England manager Gareth Southgate for a national team call up.

Zabaleta should also receive massive credit for his efforts in this match as well. With many people questioning his legs in a wingback role, the 32-year-old veteran rightback shut the mouths of his critics with his play. Always first to the ball, and first on back on defense, Zabaleta proved he can still hang in a wingback role and remain effective on both sides of the pitch. Personally, I believed up and comer Sam Byram would see second half action after the legs had fallen off Zab, but he played a full 90 minutes and positively affected the team all night.

Next up is middle of the table West Bromwich Albion. With seven points in the young season, the West Brom Baggies will look to take three from a downtrodden, albeit rebounding West Ham team. What Bilic needs to do is remain unpredictable and not abandon his back three defenders. Arnautovic and Lanzini being back in the squad will cause Bilic to have to be creative in his team selection, but regardless, West Ham need to remain the physical, hardnosed team that teams do not want to play against.

Adam Smith
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Adam Smith

West Ham United Writer at The Runner Sports
Proud supporter of the Claret and Blue, West Ham United!
Actively interested in transfer news, match reports, developing story lines, and all things West Ham United!
Adam Smith
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