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West Ham’s Season Opener: Boys Against Men

Well, if the pregame squad released from West Ham did not lead everyone to believe the first game of the season would be an uphill battle for the Hammers, the product on the pitch would have convinced any viewers. Simply outplayed in every aspect, West Ham looked like boys on the pitch against top form men from Manchester United.

The game ended 4-0 for Manchester United, and it was a dominant effort. The final two goals were scored at the 87th and 90th minute, by Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba. These followed 33rd and 52nd-minute goals by new Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku. The late goals drowned any hopes of West Ham ending the game respectably, with a few West Ham players showing their unwillingness to play out a full game.

Uncharacteristically, midfield maestro Pedro Obiang looked lost and without direction for most of the match. He is at his best when he is being physical and forcing turnovers which he can then run on with upfield. Today he did neither. He actively hurt the squad at times, as MU was able to cut up the middle of the field at will. On a related note, West Ham fans have been hearing all offseason that the signing of Joe Hart is important not only for his talent, but also for his attitude, however, by the end of the game, he was unwilling to move to his left apparently. I am rarely critical on keepers, especially ones who have a defensive performance in front of them the likes Hart did today, however, he was merely part of the depressing ensemble today. Slaven Bilic should be tempted to start Adrian over Hart and look at a midfield replacement for Obiang to show that the performances they put forward were unacceptable.

Two more players who need replacing in the next matchup are Arthur Masuaku and Andre Ayew. Masuaku, who was subbed off in the 81st minute for Aaron Cresswell was just not good enough today. He played himself into the starting role with a strong preseason, however, he has apparently forgotten the “back” part of his “right back” position. He was not visible on defense and also failed to find Chicharito or Arnautovic on offense. Hopefully just a one-off, Masuaku has the support of the fans, but Cresswell will be pushing hard to take his spot.

Ayew looked confused on the pitch today, not offensively a factor, and not visible in the midfield unless splayed on the field, the forward was oddly not impactful in the match. Starting on the right wing, Ayew may have been more comfortable playing in behind the striker, either way, it was a puzzling effort for him but one he needs to put behind him if he wants to factor into any positive results for the team.

Two bright spots for West Ham were Pablo Zabaleta and Declan Rice. Zabaleta, a veteran right back, was tracking all over the pitch in today’s game, stymying the likes of Rashford and Blind along the wing, while putting pressure on in the offensive zone as well. Zabaleta is reluctant to quit, seriously… it looks like he is possessed at times and runs like a zombie towards the ball. He is exactly what this team needs: a leader that shows by example how to play. On the other side of the coin, Rice a youngster who impressed in preseason, entered the game for Noble in the 61st minute and looked completely settled in the match. Unfazed by the majesty of Old Trafford, nor the skill and size of the MU side, Rice showed his ability to defend and move the ball responsibly and was without a doubt a bright spot for West Ham. Many players should look up to how this 18-year-old lad played and follow his example.

Listen, maybe this recap of the action is a little harsh, especially with Manuel Lanzini and Michail Antonio out, but it is an honest one. Losing is never acceptable, however, giving up on the first game of the season and allowing two lazy goals is downright embarrassing. West Ham defended Lukaku at Everton last season in a game they could not afford to lose, he was simply a different beast with such gifted playmakers along side him, he was barely marked all match. West Ham needs to rebound strong against Southampton this coming weekend to get a grip on this early season.

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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