West Ham have prepared well for the winter schedule by impressively beating Newcastle and West Bromwich Albion to remain in the top five of the Premier League table.
The performances were not overly impressive but the team have now developed the useful knack of being able to produce results when not performing at their best.
Aaron Cresswell stole the headlines after the victory against Newcastle and rightly so. The left-back has been hugely impressive so far in his debut season for the Hammers, offering an excellent attacking option on the left hand side as well as being defensively sound. He took his goal excellently, reacting the quickest to a miss-hit shot from Cheikhou Kouyate before calmly slotting it past Rob Elliot.
Although his attacking abilities this season have been well documented, Cresswell’s defensive performance against Newcastle was probably his best so far. He had a 100% tackle success rate (3/3) and completed more clearances than anyone in the West Ham team (12/12).
He also won the most aerial duels (4/5) out of every defender on the pitch, with Andy Carroll completing a massive 16/21 aerial duels in the game, showing just how influential he has become in the last couple of games.
“Against Newcastle, Carroll completed a massive 16/21 aerial duels, showing just how influential he has been .”
Many would have predicted a close game against Newcastle, especially after their very impressive run of form resulted in them chasing seven wins on the bounce by the time they visited the Boleyn Ground. Despite this, West Ham scraped it on the statistical front and deserved to win the game. The Hammers registered 12 attempts with three on target with Newcastle only registering one shot on target out of seven attempts on goal.
Newcastle had more of the ball (52%) but West Ham used the ball more effectively in the right areas with 55.5% territory compared to Newcastle’s 44.5%. The Hammers also completed more passes in the attacking third than Newcastle (86 compared to 68) and were dominant in the air, winning 29/42 aerial duels that took place across the 90 minutes.
Mauro Zarate appeared as a second half substitute again and produced another impressive cameo. He almost scored with a curling drive that was well saved but he proved to the manager that he should start against West Brom. Although his display against West Brom wasn’t fantastic, it was more of a team effort to defeat the struggling Baggies. The stats did reveal that West Brom were the dominant team throughout, registering more passes, shots and crosses than West Ham.
However, Allardyce’s second half tactics allowed West Brom to keep the ball and come at West Ham. Rather typically of Allardyce, the defensive formation was very difficult to break down and introducing James Collins was a master stroke as he was incredibly dominant in the latter stages of the game.
West Ham made 18 successful tackles compared to West Brom’s 10. The Hammers also cleared their lines a massive 65 times, compared to West Brom’s 20. Allardyce’s side were once again the better team in the air, with James Tomkins winning 10 of West Ham’s 29 successful aerial duels (West Brom won 21/50).
Adrian did have to produce a couple of good saves to keep the home team out but the Baggies’ lack of goal scoring form was really exposed against a well organised defence.
Many have questioned the impact of Kevin Nolan this season. The Newcastle man was captain against West Brom, replacing Mark Noble in the heart of midfield. His performance against Newcastle looked laboured but, across the 90 minutes at the Hawthorns, he was very impressive.
“Tomkins rose so brilliantly the away fans thought it was Andy Carroll who had scored!”
Other than the goal, Nolan registered the most successful passes on the pitch, an encouraging stat when you consider West Ham only had 28% possession in the second half of the game. He also produced the most attacking third passes out of all the West Ham team (9/11).
Nolan also read the game well, making four interceptions, the highest figure in the team. Overall, his performance was very encouraging, especially after playing against Newcastle only three days beforehand. There may still be life left in the old scouser yet.
James Tomkins owed the West Ham fans a good performance after embarrassing himself against Everton. He didn’t start well, getting booked for a foul that resulted in West Brom scoring directly from the free kick. Tomkins did respond in the best possible manner, however.
He stayed on his feet despite the booking and went on to score West Ham’s vital second goal, rising brilliantly from an excellent Stewart Downing corner to head home. So brilliantly, in fact, the away fans thought it was Andy Carroll who had scored!
He was dominant from then on, making a huge 24 clearances in the game, with James Collins the closest behind with nine. He won more aerial duels than anyone on the pitch and made the most blocks in the West Ham team, closing down four shots on goal.
Overall, both performances showed true resilience from West Ham, winning two straight games despite the amount of injury problems at the moment. Allardyce has added attacking flair to the team but this has not come at a cost, as the Hammers still look defensively strong and are still very hard to play against.