When the fixture list was published, games against Liverpool and Manchester United in quick succession looked daunting but, having produced such a confident attacking performance at home to the Reds, West Ham supporters must have been full of optimism ahead of the Old Trafford clash.
At the final whistle however, there was the usual sense of déjà vu. But this time something was different. I was left pondering with it was a good performance or a bad one?
The new system that Sam Allardyce has been employing to get his side playing more attacking football has evidently been working, as the team have been scoring more goals and playing better, especially in the last three games.
The Irons have included a diamond formation in their repertoire which can accommodate two strikers, rather than the one that Big Sam is famous for. This also allows the team to move the ball far quicker, not relying only on the long ball up to the sole striker.
All this was evident last Saturday.
The stats show that West Ham dominated. They had 60% more shots than the home side and more efforts on target. They were even up on the corner count and turned one into a goal.
There was also a feeling of injustice amongst the travelling support as, late in the game, Kevin Nolan’s sharp finish was ruled out for offside. It was a very tight call although a correct one it would appear. West Ham dominated possession for over an hour and when Wayne Rooney was given a straight red card for kicking out at Stuart Downing with just under an hour gone, Adrian was near enough a spectator for the remainder of the game.
Whilst there were positives from a West Ham perspective, there were also many negatives on the day. The Hammers should have anticipated how fast the home side would start the game in their desperation to atone for the dramatic collapse in the 5-3 defeat at Leicester City the previous Sunday. Instead they conceded two goals within the first 22 minutes, due to basic defensive errors.
To add insult to injury, the visitors were guilty of missing opportunities themselves, the worst of which occurred immediately after Wayne Rooney had put the Red Devils ahead. Enner Valencia was put through on goal by a defender but blazed his effort over the bar.
Although West Ham dominated large parts of the encounter, they were guilty of wasting good possession particularly in the final third. I think the bottom line is it was another bad away-day at Old Trafford. Football is a results business and we left empty-handed. Although West Ham have won two of their first six games, they are still the only Premier League side awaiting their first clean sheet of the campaign.
Despite this, there are some crumbs of comfort for the travelling fans to take away with them…
Nolan has returned ahead of schedule and looked sharp; with every game they play, Valencia and Diafra Sakho are forging a good understanding with each other; and Stuart Downing is performing excellently in his new role.
Sunday’s home game with Queens Park Rangers now takes on added significance. Allardyce will be desperate to collect maximum points from this game, because he knows that 10 points, rather than seven or eight, is a massive difference going into the international break.
QPR also share similarities with Manchester United, as their attack is stronger than their defence. So the hosts will be mindful not to continue making sloppy mistakes in defence, exert pressure from their impressive midfield and forward line.