Another fantastic win on Sunday saw West Ham climb up to third in the league, albeit for 24 hours, but third in the league!
The performance against Swansea City was one of the finest of the season. The team responded brilliantly after falling a goal behind to Wilfried Bony’s measured finish and Swansea lacked any real opportunity in front of goal after they opened the deadlock.
The two stand-out players in the game were Alex Song and Andy Carroll. Diafra Sakho did his bit when he was introduced in the second half but it was his strike partner who ultimately grabbed the headlines.
Since returning from injury, Carroll has performed brilliantly considering the length of time he has been out. He had three attempts, all on target, with two of them finding the back of the net. His first goal was a thing of beauty, timing his run brilliantly before delicately placing a floating header back across Fabianski’s path. The second required more power in the header from an accurate Stewart Downing corner and it ended up nestling into the back of the net after all 5’5 of Leon Britton couldn’t keep it out.
The number nine was absolutely dominant in the air once again. He won 15/19 aerial duels, more than any player on the pitch (Bony only won four out of 11 duels). One of the successful headers fell straight into the path of Diafra Sakho, who stormed down on goal before lashing the ball past the goalkeeper to take his tally of the season to eight goals in all competitions. What was really encouraging was the way Sakho and Carroll linked up with each other.
So far, Sakho has shown that he is an excellent striker to play alongside – fans have already witnessed the excellent understanding he has with Enner Valencia. However, he also worked well with Carroll. Sakho read Carroll’s flick-ons and his constant energy drove the Swansea defence ragged. With his clear aerial threat also a big attribute, crosses from the full-backs will cause havoc for defences up against both Sakho and Carroll. The partnership that formed in a matter of minutes must be good news for the manager as it opens up more possibilities in attack as different strikers offer alternating styles of play.
Other than Andy Carroll’s excellent performance on Sunday, Alex Song showed the fans exactly why he is West Ham’s best player. The Cameroonian is so gifted with the ball at his feet, picking passes that other players simply cannot see. He was brilliant again on Sunday, breaking up play and quickly starting off new attacks. What really stands out in Alex Song’s play is his ability to hold possession.
Even under immense pressure, he has a tendency to shove players off the ball as well as having faith in his own ability by dribbling away from danger. He is a class act and the owners should do everything they can in order to capture him on a permanent basis.
Once again, Song dominated the stats in midfield. He completed more passes than anyone on the pitch (43/58) at an accuracy of 74%. He made the most passes in the attacking third (18) which is quite an achievement considering his defensive position on the pitch. He also completed more take-ons than anyone else on the pitch (4/5), showing his willingness to not just pass the ball but to beat players as well. No player was fouled more times than Song in the West Ham team (4), a stat that reveals the opposition’s frustration towards Song’s ability to keep hold of the ball under pressure.
He also recovered the ball 10 times, which shows his ability to read the game and set himself in the right position on the pitch. In terms of tactical awareness and positional play, there aren’t many defensive midfielders better than Alex Song in the Premier League right now.
In terms of an overall team performance, West Ham made more passes than Swansea (309 to 241), enjoyed a completely dominant amount of territory (62.6%) and produced 97 attacking third passes compared to Swansea’s 37. West Ham only needed to attempt 18 tackles whereas Swansea tried to win the ball 34 times. This reflects the overall dominance West Ham had over Swansea across the 90 minutes.
Garry Monk may argue that the sending off changed the game in the 68th minute but West Ham were already well on top by then, with Carroll heading West Ham into the lead just two minutes prior to the sending off incident.
Overall, West Ham look a very impressive team at the moment and the push for Europe must surely be going through the manager’s head now. Hopefully the team can continue their excellent performances so far throughout the winter schedule, for then the fans will know exactly what to expect at the end of the season if West Ham do well this month.