The Runner Sports

West Ham’s First Pre-Season Reaction: Sturm Graz II

With the first pre-season match now completed there is much to take from West Ham’s 0-0 draw with Sturm Graz II. While the score is disappointing the stats showed a dominant effort by the Hammers. Double-digit attempts on goal, multiple corners, and the lion’s share of possession tell the tale of a one-sided match, however, West Ham could not score. So what is to make of all of this?

The need for a true striker was ever present in this match

Ashley Fletcher started at striker in the first half and continued to lack any sort of offensive spark for the club. He was rather invisible during the match as was the case last season when he got game time for the first team. Highly rated youngster Toni Martinez started the second half and showed more promise than Fletcher, as he was involved in the offensive build up and sustained pressure. Yet, as Fletcher before him, Martinez was unable to cap for the Hammers as well. Fletcher is running out of time to impress and needs to show some level of skill while Andy Carroll and Diafra Sakho are still sidelined with injury. Martinez, on the other hand, could take a lot from a veteran striker slotting ahead of him and mentoring his development.

The geezers showed up

Captain Mark Noble, long time player James Collins, and newly signed right back Pablo Zabaleta all looked up to snuff in their first half appearances. Noble showed no signs of injury in his return from hernia surgery and moved up and down the pitch well. He should content for his patrolling central midfield spot come regular season play along with Pedro Obiang, who also returned from injury, and absent Cheik Kouyate. James Collins was beaten on a chance that required Adrian to be sharp, but other than the one instance was exactly what he has always been, a hard-nosed, physical defender. He will slot in as a squad player, coming on for late game defensive shutdowns in the back line. Zabaleta showed why he was signed at West Ham –strong defending and a veteran approach to play. He shut down the limited Austrian attack on his side, and did what he could to advance the ball up field. He will do well in grooming Sam Byram into a more complete player this coming season.

The kids are alright

Maybe the most impressive part of this game was the play of youngsters Josh Cullen, Declan Rice, Reece Burke, Nathan Holland, and Edmilison Fernandes. Both Rice and Burke, while not tested often, looked completely comfortable in the backfield defending Adrian, while Holland and Fernandes were constantly involved in the offensive attack. Fernandes showed a lot of promise attacking from midfield and joining the pressure, which should see him add his name to the score sheet more often this season given the opportunity. Josh Cullen appeared to be a veteran on the pitch, rarely overwhelmed, calm with the ball, and quick to recover. It would be a shame to see Cullen leave on loan this summer as he adds some youth and homegrown talent to the midfield; he was superb on the pitch today and deserves more consideration

Other Notables

The need for Manchester City keeper, Joe Hart, reared its head again today as Darren Randolph did his best to give Sturm Graz II a gifted goal. Only saved by the complete shock of the attacking player, Randolph drilled the player in an attempt to clear the ball from a goal kick. The ball was a low burner and if it made it passed the first player would have landed at the feet of another attacking player. Randolph appears to be asking for a way out with his confusing play.

Snodgrass has picked up his position of whipping boy where he left off last season. Constantly involved in the first half attack, he rarely made a strong or good move going forward and wasted plenty of opportunities. On the other end of the spectrum, Andre Ayew and Sofiane Feghouli both looked dangerous, albeit rusty, in their first games back. Ayew will be a terrific replacement for Michail Antonio on the right wing should he miss time to injury during this season, and his ability to play all attacking positions adds value off the bench as an impact sub. After declining an offer from Turkish club Galatasaray, Feghouli was displaying his prowess for crossing the ball and attacking from the wing. In all honesty, West Ham may be better suited to sell Snodgrass for a loss and hold onto the Feghouli, despite his high club wages, as he appears motivated to make the team moving forward. With more game time I am confident in Feghouli to get his timing back and not cause so many offsides, with Snodgrass I am less convinced in a turnaround.

Overall, there were no injuries and the match allowed a lot of young players to get game action in the pre-season. What needs to happen next is more cohesion and conversion on attacking plays to help the Hammers pot more goals than the disappointing year before.

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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