A lot of West Ham fans would have felt hard done by when the final whistle blew at Old Trafford.
Although the team were defeated, there were still a lot of positives to take from a game where a linesman’s close call was the difference between us gaining a point and losing.
Manchester United took advantage of poor defending from West Ham with both of their goals but West Ham always looked threatening on the counter. It could have been a different story if Valencia kept his head when he was through on goal at 1-0, I’m sure it was a subtle reminder that those sort of chances need to be taken at Premier League level.
Although we could linger on the result all week, it is important to consider the performance and the manner in which the West Ham players performed to a level that would have had the most confident of Manchester United fans worrying.
Overall, West Ham had more shots than their opponents with more efforts registered on target. This isn’t the first time West Ham have been dominant in the shot-taking statistics this season and it definitely shows that Sam Allardyce is adopting more of a forward thinking approach. Despite West Ham’s eagerness to shoot, it is the conversion of the chances that is the problem. Rooney and Van Persie’s combined shot total of four resulted in two goals.
Comparing this with Sakho and Valencia, the two strikers combined produced 8 shots with just the single goal. However, our two new strikers have made a great start this season and have developed a good understanding of each other, meaning that we could have a very potent attacking force if they continue to improve.
A lot of spotlight was on Alex Song, making his first start for West Ham since joining from Barcelona in the summer. Despite losing the ball that lead to Manchester United’s second goal, he managed to produce more attacking third passes than anyone else on the pitch, completing 15 of his attempted 22 passes. This suggests that Song will not act just as a holding midfielder for West Ham this season.
A willingness to get forward will result in more chances being created due to the quality he has on the ball. Interestingly, Aaron Cresswell produced the same amount of successful attacking third passes but overall, attempted one fewer than his midfield teammate. This again proves that the attacking intent was there and that the younger full-backs like Jenkinson and Cresswell are willing to get forward at any opportunity.
Again, Stewart Downing was influential in his attacking midfield role, thriving at the top of the midfield diamond. He created four chances against Manchester United, more than any other player on the pitch. He is quickly becoming, according to the stats, the most creative player in the Premier League with Cesc Fabregas being the closest competition. This can only mean that our strikers will be given good quality service if players like Downing remain fit throughout the season.
Diafra Sakho again showed exactly why he has been West Ham’s purchase of the summer so far. He chipped in with a goal and worked hard for the team throughout the game. Sakho’s player dashboard (shown above) suggests that he isn’t in the team to just play as a striker. He was economical with the ball and was very successful in the air, losing only three of his 10 aerial duels.
He has shown that he is a player who will work very hard for the team and his goals are an added bonus to the relentless work rate that really completes his game. The club may have found a diamond in the rough with Sakho, who is already proving himself as a reliable performer at Premier League level.