West Ham produced another fine display against Liverpool on Saturday night to get their first home win of the season.
A magnificent team performance nullified the effects of a Liverpool side who only narrowly won against Ludogorets in the Champions League during the week. Although a lot of the media coverage had centered around Liverpool’s poor performance, there was the other side of the story, that West Ham look to have finally turned a corner due to the new tactical style at the Boleyn Ground.
West Ham had more shots at goal than Liverpool with more on target, despite seeing very little of the ball due to Liverpool’s 62.7% possession. West Ham also attempted more passes in the final third (119) compared to Liverpool (113). Also, Liverpool played a total of 47 long passes with West Ham only attempting 40.
These figures show a shift in West Ham’s philosophy, that there is a tendency to prefer more precise, intricate passing rather than going direct all the time. This style of the play clearly produces results too, as West Ham ended up creating 11 chances that were directly from a teammate’s pass, compared to Liverpool’s 8.
There are a number of reasons as to why West Ham are suddenly creating more due to an alteration in style. Playing two up front means more options for the midfield in terms of going forward and, when you have a hard working pair like Sakho and Valencia up front, they will also chase down defenders and press players into making mistakes.
The best example of this is West Ham’s third goal; West Ham’s Sakho pressured the rather inferior Liverpool Sakho into making a mistake that resulted in Downing applying the pass for Amalfitano to finish expertly. Although there is always evidence of West Ham applying pressure under Sam Allardyce, rarely did it occur so far up the pitch, resulting in the team adopting more of an attacking approach.
West Ham’s new diamond midfield is also working a treat, with Downing excelling in the advanced, free role in the four-man formation. Width was also provided by Downing who made the occasional run down the channel. However, the real impact in terms of width was made by Aaron Cresswell, who probably had his best game in a West Ham shirt since joining in the summer. The young full back was always willing to get forward and stretched Liverpool on the left hand side; we also know that Demel’s biggest strength is getting forward on the right hand side too, so width in this diamond formation is not a problem either.
Although the team performance was absolutely spot on, there were a number of fantastic individual performances against Liverpool. Last week Downing was faultless against Hull and his involvement in the first and third goal on Saturday showed that he is a player excelling in his new position at the moment. However, it is a defender who gets the plaudits this week.
Despite West Ham’s successes in the summer window, one of the biggest achievements of the summer was keeping hold of Winston Reid. He produced an excellent display that was top class across the entire 90 minutes. He showed awareness from the free kick to get his goal at the beginning of the match but it was his involvement in the second goal which summed his performance up.
It looked like Liverpool were about to spring a counter attack as Balotelli got on the ball at the halfway line. However, Reid was immediately in his face with a strong tackle. He won the ball and played it to Mark Noble who found Sakho and the Senegalese man applied the finish.
Defensively, Reid’s performance was pretty much perfect. He rarely made a tackle but managed to win the ball for the team a number of times due to his ability to read the game. The majority of his clearances resulted in West Ham gaining possession, showing that the defence are looking for a pass rather than booting it to nobody. He made it into WhoScored.com’s team of the week and rightly so.
Reid resembles everything positive that is happening at West Ham right now. Although the team can showcase a formidable attacking force, they also showed that the defensive discipline is still there and that they can see a game through.