Match Report

Turning it around

I was worried that we could be in trouble this year when we were leaking goals incredibly easily and managing to make scoring look like an impossible science but to be fair to Bilic, he has identified the problems and come up with an almost perfect stopgap to fix them. The change to a three-at-the-back formation comes as a bit of a masterstroke from our manager who has implemented a new 3-4-3 formation. This has not only provided us with more defensive solidity but has also given more room to our creative players while our strikers have been unfit, injured or simply not firing. Payet and Lanzini are afforded far more room and flexibility to move around freely in the 3-4-3 formation which has been incredibly useful as shown in both games after the international break as both have affected these two games massively.

Alongside this freedom that our creative players have gained, our central midfield has been far more effective with the Noble/Obiang partnership. Obiang has been brilliant in these last two games and if it wasn’t for an outstanding performance from Reid against Crystal Palace, he would have easily clinched my MOTM award for both. He’s not only added a brilliant knack for winning the ball back in key areas but he’s also brought good vision and incisive forward passing to the team and these two factors have really driven us forward in the games against Palace and Sunderland. Noble has also stepped up his game massively and whilst many (including myself) may still complain that he is often too slow to release the ball and that those passes are often sideways, his general play is more assured and he picked up his highest passing accuracy of the season thus far (98%). With things ticking over in the middle of the park very nicely, it provides us with a very solid base to attack from.

Zaza still hasn’t stuck the ball in the back of the net and it’s getting tight now with the amount of games left on his loan deal diminishing before we’re obliged to buy. Everything is there apart from the goals. It must be said that his service from wide has been pretty poor but then again his positioning in the box has also been pretty poor and the middle was so congested against Sunderland that it was understandably difficult for him to find space to receive the ball to feet. He has to get a goal in the next game or two because it surely isn’t viable to splash out £20million+ on a striker that hasn’t scored consistently. There’s talk of us being interested in Icardi following his recent fall-out with the Inter ultras and if Zaza doesn’t find the back of the net soon, it could be a good option to return him to Juve and spend that £20-odd-million on Icardi.

It would be wrong of me to not mention Reid’s performances because he was wonderful against Palace at containing Benteke and scored the winner against Sunderland. He’s an unlikely hero but a hero nonetheless and for that he deserves great credit. With Cresswell back from suspension and Ayew soon to return, things are beginning to look more positive.

The League Table:

Antonio – 40.5
Reid – 36.5
Adrian – 36
Payet – 29
Kouyate – 25
Noble – 22
Lanzini – 21
Collins – 18.5
Masuaku – 16
Ogbonna – 16
Obiang – 10.5
Nordtveit – 10.5
Tore – 7.5
Byram – 7.5
Calleri – 5.5
Fernandes – 5
Zaza – 4.5
Fletcher – 4.5
Valencia – 4
Cresswell – 2
Arbeloa – 1.5
Carroll – 1.5
Feghouli – 1.5
Ayew – 1

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The HamburgHammer Column

Nightmare on the road - happy ending at home

Two quick things first: I’d like to begin by saying how happy I am that the WHTID meet up by all accounts was a huge success. As I’ve had the pleasure to be part of two of those so far I know they are always a lovely added bonus to a matchday experience and from what I’ve heard there was a record number of participants this time and I know how nice it is to put some faces to names, so well done to all of you, I hope to be part of the madness again for the next meeting.

And secondly I have decided to still keep some (slightly abbreviated) updates on my local team Concordia as part of my column. That team is a pretty vital part of my life as it is obviously easier for me to follow their games in person than West Ham games which I can generally follow only via an Internet stream and on the far too rare occasions of trips back to London. Concordia are part of my life and experiences and so they will get mentioned on here. People can easily skip those references if they aren’t interested.

Glad that’s out of the way and I will actually begin with Concordia as that was the chronological order on Saturday as Concordia’s kickoff away from home at Dassendorf was noonish at 1:30 (Dassendorf by the way is a village in farmer/horse countryside about 20 miles away from Hamburg’s East End).

I thought I was clever by leaving the house two hours before kickoff for a nice autumnly drive on the Autobahn and beautiful country lanes baked in the October sunshine. What wasn’t so clever was me not listening to the traffic updates on the radio before leaving the house. So I ended up in a fierce traffic jam (due to construction works on the Autobahn) followed by further diversions in the countryside due to even more roadworks, long story short: I spent a lot of time in a car not moving very fast and arrived at the football ground virtually as the players entered the pitch – I was still on my way to find a nice place to stand with other Concordia fans when the opponents scored the first goal after a mere 40 seconds of play.

It turned out to be an eventful game as you can watch for yourself if you fancy in the video above. Concordia lost again, their second defeat on the trot. A proper mini crisis although Concordia are still top of the table, but the chasing pack are getting closer now which makes for a more interesting season overall – if you want to focus on the positive side to those defeats. Despite choosing a different route on my way back I ended up in more traffic jams (there really is a lot of roadworks going on in and around Hamburg these days) which meant that I lost the first 35 minutes of OUR game afainst the Mackems.

Welcome back to all my readers only interested in West Ham at this point, glad to have you on board again!

I watched some of the missing bits on MOTD and my overall impression was we played with a lot of endeavour and desire, but Sunderland made it hard to break them down.
In the end it took an injury time goal, helped by some of those Sunderland players switching off for a few vital seconds when we took that quick setpiece.
If you remember the way Reid controlled that ball (are you watching Zaza ?) before putting himself in a shooting position and finding that bottom corner of the net it’s hard to believe he is a defender by trade – that was a very well crafted goal indeed that any striker in the world would be proud of scoring.

Again I was very impressed with the link up play of Noble and Obiang – they seem to work really well in tandem and deserve to keep their place. Our midfield looks a lot more organised that way and doesn’t even miss Kouyate who is doing a superb job at CB right now – if Kouyate is happy there I would keep things like that for the time being.
Our play sometimes still gets a bit too complicated (yes Mr.Payet, I am talking about you!). Of course it is nice to score a wonder goal or walk the ball into the net, and I also like stepovers, fancy moves and the odd backheeler thrown in for good measure – but sometimes the easy/boring pass to the teammate next to or just ahead of you is the better option.

I just don’t think we will actually sign Zaza for the 20 million rumoured as long as that dubious clause in his loan deal remains intact. Zaza seems to need a lot more time to adjust to the Premier League or our style of play. His running, keeping hold of he ball and desire to do well, it’s all there. But a 20 million striker needs to score goals really.
And if it doesn’t happen soon I can see us terminating the loan deal early (what’s the point of keeping him if we can no longer play him unless we buy him outright ?).

Of course we cannot really terminate Carroll’s deal unless we give him a massive payoff, but in all honesty, I am at the point of wanting West Ham to do just that.
Don’t get me wrong: I know that Carroll does not get injured on purpose, it must be utterly frustrating for him as well, but come on: How many appearances in the league did he manage in 4 years at West Ham so far ? About 60 is about accurate. That’s 15 games a season. Not very reliable if you ask me.

It is one the most unintentionally fitting descriptions of Andy Carroll: He is indeed unplayable on his day! Either because he is available and terrorising defenders like no other striker with his heading ability and physical presence alone. Or he is unplayable because the manager cannot use him due to yet another injury.
It is a great dilemma that Andy Carroll is a very good footballer when he isn’t injured – unfortunately his body seems to disagree with his choice of profession.
His legs can’t seem to take the wear and tear of playing football, not at the top level anyway.
I’m not even sure he can do any kind of sports long term that calls for a lot of running or jumping. Which is a shame, but as a club we need to move on at some point I feel.

For the kind of wages West Ham pay him he needs to be available for selection far more often than he actually is. I’d be really surprised if Carroll was still with us next season.
When he actually plays I love watching him play, obviously. But his injury record tells its own story really.

I have read comments that Sunderland are such a bad team that we should have mullered them. I have to say that I still enjoy our wins immensely and I don’t take them for granted – and I hope I never will be expecting wins like Manchester United or Arsenal fans do on a regular basis. As a football fan I grew up on a rather slim diet in terms of watching my team win (West Ham, Hamburg SV, St.Pauli, Concordia). So the joy over celebrating a win is so much more special to me than it must be for those Manchester United or Bayern Munich fans who just chalk up the wins like clockwork and in contrast throw hissy fits whenever a team dares to snatch a point or even a win from them.

So whenever there is a win I am happy and sometimes I frankly don’t care if the game was a scrappy one. It happens. The Sunderland game was such a game.
In this case we tried to play football the right way and our lads looked up for it which is the most important thing – that Reid got us that late win was a very welcome bonus.

I’m over in London again for my longest trip yet, ever since I left Britain after my working experience in Barking 20 years ago. I will be in East London between December 9th and December 18th, nearly ten full days. Liverpool away, Burnley and Hull at home and, oh yes, the development squad will be playing Swansea on Monday Night at the Daggers’ home ground in Dagenham, so that’ll be my pre-Christmas football fix done and over with!

I love meeting and chatting to those who read WHTID (and probably even my column) over a pint or a pie, so feel free to do so. Maybe you’ve never had the experience of speaking to a German in the flesh and wonder what us Krauts are all about. Maybe you wonder why a chap from sausage country would support the mighty Hammers.
Hope to see you all then! And as for Chelsea in the cup on Wednesday ? Easy!

Muller them! COYI!

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Zaman Siddiqui's Match Review

Winston won it

Reid’s late goal in the final minute was absolutely spectacular. You may remember former skipper Kevin Nolan scored an equaliser in injury-time in front of the home crowd against Sunderland back in September 2012. He leapt over a TV camera in his celebration. Likewise, it was great to see another former skipper score late on against the Black Cats.

The goal was slightly controversial, as a player was beyond the last man, but the flag rightfully stayed down, as he didn’t get into the keeper’s eyeline. The decision seems fair enough. Additionally, Danny Murphy on MOTD criticised Sunderland’s defending in the dying embers of the match, as Payet was given a lot of space down by the corner flag, and that there was no one on the edge of the box, which allowed Reid to get his shot away. We had failed to defeat a side managed by David Moyes in 13 attempts stretching back to 2007. 13 wasn’t the unlucky number for us though! Credit to Dan Coker for that stat. But fair enough won’t do for Sunderland. They are only the second team in top-flight history to fail to win any of their nine league matches in consecutive seasons after Bury in 1905-06. Amazingly, they survived.

The Black Cats could find themselves near extinction in a few years time if they don’t find someone who can continually improve the club in the long term. There are only so many managers that can do what Big Sam did. And I’m not talking about taking bribes.

We couldn’t have asked for anything better than six points and two clean sheets from our last two games. Though, the last time we got back to back wins in PL matches was back in April. The volatility of our defence is something that has attributed to this. Conceding just the one goal in three matches is very reassuring. A huge improvement on conceding 11 in three matches earlier this season.

The change in formation has allowed our midfielders to be able to pass more accurately, as they can play with freedom to get forward with ease. Wish someone would remind Noble of that. Fernandes and Noble both had 96% passing accuracy, which is terrific. The Swiss youngster Edimilson Fernandes played very well at LWB. He made the second highest number of dribbles (3) on the pitch, so we may have an attacking midfielder in him. We nearly forgot about Pedro Obiang, who is 24, but I’m sure we won’t forget the 20 year old anytime soon. As a matter of fact, all of our left backs or LWB’s have put in terrific performances. They are Masuaku, Cresswell, and Fernandes. Our signing and development of young players has been sensational, and I hope it continues.

We made 17 key passes to Sunderland’s seven. The strength of our midfield was on show in the first 20 minutes when we kept them in their half of the pitch, and a bit throughout. The Black Cats tried to pounce in the second half, but couldn’t score. Khazri should have scored, but he took his shot too early, and Adrián was able to make the crucial save.

Whilst it was great to see the goal, we were very ineffective with our chances. We had 20 shots with only three on target. Sunderland had 10 shots with two on target. Zaza’s timing is the box was poor, though I can’t say much, because he was hardly in the box to start with! I thought that it was rather comical that Lanzini had to do his job. And then Calleri tried to do so when the Italian was subbed off. It’s fair to say this is not why the two Argentinians are in the squad. I have mentioned this in my recent match reviews, but it seems clear to me that we’re not going to see as many goals with Carroll and Ayew out. When they return, we can expect the goals to come eventually, because Antonio has stopped scoring at the far post and Payet can’t score a dozen magical goals a season.

We do put a lot of pressure on certain players to step up, and this can be very damaging. Our problem isn’t creating chances, but it’s converting them. This has been a bit of a trend from the latter part of last season. Payet has created the most chances this season with 29, and he is joint top of assists with four this season alongside Kevin de Bruyne whose side play Southampton today at 13:30. He did doze off a bit in the second half, but in fairness, he had the most dribbles, and nearly scored after passing through a number of Mackems early on. I feel as though the pressure on the creative attacking players has come from a lack of options for a striker, which has meant that they aren’t playing to the level at which they are expected playing having to cover more ground or score headers despite being 5’6’’.

Personally, I never leave matches early, as I want to see the team in action for the entirety of the game. The last time I was with Iain, he left early and missed a goal! Jokes on me though, as I saw our side concede yet another goal to Swansea. To be perfectly honest, I knew we were going to lose, but I really wanted to see how the side would react to it all, so I could maybe analyse it, and look at bounce-back ability even if there are no more goals to see. That’s why I don’t see much point in leaving early. Then again, I only live a few stops along the Overground, so I can’t make much of a case for saving time to begin with.

Our next match is against Chelsea in the EFL Cup on the 26th of October, which happens to be my birthday. This is a huge predicament for me, as I haven’t experienced a loss on my birthday whilst actively following football. The last time the team lost on my birthday was back in 2008. Losing before the day doesn’t mean much to me, but losing having watched the match on my birthday would be terrible.

The last time I missed a competitive match, I was on my DofE expedition in Epping Forest three years ago. If recent history is on our side, we should do well. We beat Chelsea at home in the PL on the 24th of October last season 2-1, so to replicate another win would be swell. The season before that, we beat Man City at home 2-1 on the 25th of October. So in the last two seasons, West Ham have beaten Man City and Chelsea at home. I really hope that the good luck continues for me in the LS on the 26th. Another reason why this date has such significance is because my birthday is one week after Big Sam’s and one week before my mum’s! One of the reasons I felt quite sad when he left is because I couldn’t experience that trio of birthdays. Who would have thought the young, statistical writer had such bizarre feelings about football?

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David Hautzig's Match Report

West Ham 1, Sunderland 0. Better Late Then Never.

After I write these reports, I log onto the site and go to an “admin” page to post them. The process includes choosing the category to which the article belongs, and in my case the drop down menu Iain set up includes David Hautzig Match Report. It also includes a category called David Hautzig Column, to which I have posted a grand spanking total of one piece. That singular piece of Claret & Blue prose was on the topic of who should replace He Who Shall Not Be Named after the 2014-2015 season. I gave a passing reference to Bilic, and even discussed why I didn’t want Rafa. I concluded by waxing poetic on the virtues of one David Moyes. I’d include a link to the article, but I figure by just reminding everyone of it I will have the appropriate amount of scorn heaped upon me.

I’m so glad I sell alcoholic beverages for pay.

I genuinely feel for Moyes, because deep in his soul he probably wishes he never left Everton. He’d never say that, obviously. Sir Alex picked me, once in a lifetime, blah blah blah. Well, Dave. You cannot put a price on happiness can you? And here you are, last place in the league, decimated by injuries, coming into a stadium and a club still trying to figure it all out. West Ham’s lack of available fullbacks gave way to the head scratching choice of Fernandes at left wing back, so even the opponents are not at their best. If Sunderland were capable of breaking their own fall, today would have been an optimal time and place to do it. They came close to heading north with something, but in the end thankfully they left empty handed.

West Ham had the first edge of the seat moments starting in the second minute when Lanzini, Payet, and Antonio combined on the right that ended with an Antonio cross intended for Zaza that resulted in a corner. Payet’s delivery was quite good, and Antonio came close to reaching it with a diving header. Moments later, after a touch pass from Noble, Payet tried a curling effort from the top of the eighteen-yard box that went wide. A minute later, Zaza pressured Van Aanholt into a second West Ham corner, which Zaza was able to parlay into yet another corner. That corner should have resulted in a West Ham penalty, when O’Shea held onto Ogbonna without any clue as to where the ball was. But referees don’t give West Ham spot kicks. They give West Ham opponent’s goal kicks.

West Ham should have taken the lead in the 10th minute when Noble sent Payet down the middle into the Sunderland defense. A half yard to the left or right and Pickford was beaten. But Payet sent his effort just a bit to Pickford’s left and he made the save. Five minutes later, Payet sent Lanzini to the races, who then released Zaza. But the man in desperate need of opening his West Ham account had his shot blocked out for a corner by Kone.

I wonder who coined the term “dummy” when referring to letting the ball roll past you, or through a defenders legs, to gain an advantage. Seems it should be called a Smarty. I guess the little candies over here by that same name would take umbrage. Screw ‘em. Let them sue me. In the 25th minute, Payet got loose with a little Smarty to make room for himself. He beat the Pickford, but couldn’t beat the lumber and the ball bounced straight off the post.

In the 30th minute, Sunderland decided it was time to take part in the contest. Van Aanholt fed Defoe in the box. As fear levels rose just because it was Defoe, his shot was blocked by Reid. Moments later, Fernandes allowed Manquillo to get inside him on a run into the box and the natural midfielder showed his inexperience at the back and gave up a free kick right at the edge of the West Ham box. Another step and it would have been a penalty. The wall did its job, but Sunderland stayed on the front foot with another free kick on the left side of the box. The delivery was good, but Rodwell’s header went over the bar. Sunderland continued with their best few minutes of the match by keeping possession inside the West Ham area. In the 35th minute, Defoe made a run into the box but just couldn’t tee up a shot before Reid and Ogbonna converged on him and a weak rolling effort towards Adrian was all he could muster.

I have an uncle who refuses to buy a new car. Every two years or so, he goes to an auction of re-possessed and other less than desirable automobiles and looks for a bargain. He always comes home with something, and that something always has an issue or two. Or three. He fixes it up, drives some more, fixes it again, and then after two years or so junks it and starts again. When we try to explain that he’s actually spending as much on his hit or miss attempts as he would on a new car over five or six years, he brushes us off.

Ok, I’m lying. I have no uncles anymore. They’re all dead, and none bought crappy used cars. One who lived in Toronto actually used to buy a new Cadillac every few years. But that’s not the point here. As I watch for Zaza to improve bit by bit each week, and I talk to people whose football acumen I trust implicitly, I’ve wondered if the market itself says Zaza is a bargain at this point because in a couple of years someone of lesser quality and virtually no upside will cost even more than Zaza will in a month. He has not shown enough as a striker to warrant a permanent signing yet, despite efforts like in first half injury time when he tried yet another bicycle kick that went wide. Is it because he is trying too hard? Is it because he isn’t meant to be a lone striker? Maybe it’s just that West Ham are being forced by some higher power to commit one way or the other on a striker, and until we do Obi Wan or whomever won’t let us off easy.

West Ham 0, Sunderland 0.

The innate fears of not finishing chances almost came back to haunt us in the opening moments of the second half when Khazri jumped on a defensive error and came face to face with Adrian. His shot also came face to face with Adrian, and he made the key save.

Back to Zaza. There are times when a single moment can encapsulate an issue, and right or wrong steer the future in one direction. That moment may have happened when West Ham came back down with a near perfect pass from Ogbonna to Zaza. The Italian made the run and was in on goal. Any striker on any level would have continued the run to freedom. They may not have scored, and they may even have taken a bad shot. But Zaza couldn’t even handle the ball. He slowed down, lost control, and Kone was able to clear. Zaza didn’t look angry. He looked resigned to a likely fate. Unless he goes on a goal scoring rampage, right or wrong that moment may be the determining factor for the board. I’m not passing judgement. I want him to succeed because I believe he has the tools to be a solid frontman for us. If he didn’t, Juventus would not have signed him and clubs like Valencia would not be interested in January. But football doesn’t always follow a logical script, and Zaza might look back on his time at West Ham with pure melancholy.

A few minutes later, Payet sent a cross into the box and it seemed telling that Zaza wasn’t the main target. He may not have been a target at all. Antonio was waiting on the far post but Pickford got their first. The Hammers stayed on the front foot with Lanzini dancing into the box on the left side. After touches by Noble and Fernandes the ball came to Antonio at the top of the box but his shot deflected softly into Pickford.

Sometimes the easier a chance is the harder it is. In the 64th minute, Payet found Fernandes all alone at the top of the Sunderland eighteen yard box. He rolled a pass to the young Swiss international, and his eyes likely resembled those of a cat that spots a deaf mouse with its back turned. But with the kill at hand, and having a very good day overall, Fernandes didn’t even hit the target and skied his effort well over the bar.

Over the summer, a friend of mine who loves La Liga told me how lucky we were to have signed Feghouli. From the moment he came on to replace Antonio in the 63rd minute, he was lively and adventurous. If he had targets in the box to pass to it might have even led to actual opportunities. Unfortunately the next sort of opportunity had nothing to do with Feghouli but came in the 74th minute when Obiang made an awkward run into the box and fired into the side netting.

As the ninety minutes began to wind down, one thing looked to be clear to many but seemingly not to Bilic. West Ham were making runs on the flanks, particularly Feghouli, but each and every time there was one man in Claret & Blue in the box surrounded by a sea of white shirts. And attempts to play the ball on the ground in and around the area were fruitless in terms of attempts on goal. West Ham needed an actual out and out striker in the box, and many have questioned why Fletcher hasn’t gotten more of a look this season from Bilic, especially with strikers as rare as white truffles at the London Stadium. In the 87th minute, Payet sent the young man in on goal down the left and with either a hard strike or a pass back into the box at his disposal, he flubbed his lines and lost the ball.

Deja Vu all over again.

The final, last gasp tactical move came in the 92nd minute…..when I moved from the living room to the kitchen. I changed out of my “inside shoes” into my trainers in order to rush out the door at the final whistle and drive in frustration to get my daughter. As I stood at the door to my garage, Payet took a short corner and fed Noble. Noble then gave the ball back to Payet, who pushed it to Reid at the top of the area. After a lovely bit of skill to backheel the ball to himself, he sent a low left footed effort goalbound. Only the third of our twenty attempts on goal to hit the target. And hit the target it did, rolling through Calleri’s legs and into the bottom corner of the net. Could it have been whistled for offside? Tony Gale thought so. Me, I think the heavens owed us that one bit of fortune.

Final Score.
West Ham 1, Sunderland 0.

Winning is certainly better than either drawing or losing. And if one side deserved three points more than the other, West Ham were that side. Fernandes did far better than expected in the wing back role, and Feghouli may require more of a look from Bilic going forward. Perhaps at the expense of Noble. But as useful as the three points are, there isn’t as much to feel chipper about as I, and I’m guessing many of you, had hoped for. Up front we lacked….everything. With the clock ticking on Zaza one way or the other, it’s probably time to see if Calleri or Fletcher can partner with him. Or even partner with each other. Without exploring every option, starting Wednesday against Chelsea, then even the loan fee will be wasted because of the “what ifs”. I’m not trying to sound too damp. I am, however, trying to avoid reading too much into a third consecutive one nil win at home over Sunderland.

But at least we can bask in glow of Lady Luck for a week, which is preferable to wallowing in the darkness of despair.

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Match Report

Ten Talking Points from West Ham 1 Sunderland 0

Today I took my friend Jenny to her first ever football match. She loved every minute. The pre-match food at Formans, the walk to the stadium, soaking up the atmosphere. The singing. West Ham’s first half performance. She was hooked. All she hankered for was to celebrate a goal. As we walked out of the stadium and headed through the Olympic Park she asked me…

Iain, have you ever left early and then West Ham have scored?

And with that, a huge cheer emanated from the Stadium, a mere twenty yards behind us! Come on You Irons!!! Jenny decided she wanted to come again…

So here are the talking points…

1. We battered them in the first half. I haven’t seen the possession statistics, but three corners in the first five minutes tells its own story. We were fluent, we were great at speedy passing, but we just couldn’t get the ball in the net. The second half was less convincing, but we kept trying to walk the ball in the net rather than shoot.
2. Sunderland weren’t at the races for most of the game. They had one solid chance, but Adrian was equal to the task. Defoe threatened once or twice, but each time he flattered to deceive.
3. I do like this three at the back formation. We rarely looked troubled. Kouyate was again superb, and Reid and Ogbonna were at their most confident. Late in the second half they got caught, but Sunderland failed to ram their advantage home.
4. Michael Antonio put in a strange performance. There was a delicious moment when he kicked the ball twenty yards beyond a Sunderland defender, then proceeded to run past him, but the resulting cross was disappointing. He saw a lot of the ball, but each time he failed to deliver a dangerous ball. I wasn’t surprised when he was replaced, although I suspect he will have been none too impressed.
5. Zaza put in another good shift. His superb overhead shot at the end of the first half was unlucky not to hit the target. Although he had a couple of chances which he should have done better with, he is showing some much more positive signs.
6. Quite why he was subbed for Calleri in the 68th minute only Slaven Bilic can answer. Why on earth isn’t Fletcher put on first. He always plays better than Calleri and if he was given more game time would undoubtedly score more goals than Calleri ever would.
7. I thought Mark Noble had his best game of the season. He covered every blade of the pitch. He had several driving runs forward but I do wish he’d give up with the Ray Wilkins impression. Far too often he passes backwards or sideways.
8. Edimilson Fernandes looks to be a real find. He did really well in a position which is not natural for him. He’s a tough tackler and also showed great promise in attack. He combined well with Payet, and was my man of the match.
9. Payet could have had a hatful, but too often his crosses or passes around the box didn’t come off. In some ways Lanzini eclipsed him. Again, Lanzini was playing in a different position, but he did very well, especially in the first half.
10. Why were there so many empty seats? A friend of mine rang the club at lunchtime and was able to buy two tickets on the spur of the moment. I thought we were told every match had sold out.

We needed to win this match. Bizarrely we remain in 15th place, which shows how much needed those three points were.

I take a lot of encouragement from this performance. We played as a team. Edimilson fitted in like a hand in a glove and he can provide excellent cover for Kouyate, Noble and Obiang. Many more performances like this and he will be pushing to be a regular.

Adrian 8, Kouyate 8, Reid 7, Ogbonna 7, Edimilson 8, Payet 7, Lanzini 7, Obiang 7, Noble 8, Antonio 6, Zaza 7, Feghouli 6, Fletcher 6, Calleri 5,

MATCH STATS courtesy of the BBC

  • West Ham are now unbeaten in their last seven Premier League fixtures against Sunderland.
  • The Hammers won back-to-back league games for the first time since April.
  • Only Mesut Ozil (19) has provided more Premier League assists than Dimitri Payet (16) since the start of last season.
  • West Ham have kept more home clean sheets against Sunderland (10) than any other opponent in Premier League history.


“It was a dramatic end. The first 25 minutes it was by far our best 25 minutes, including last season… We were good, sharp, created chances and we deserved to be two up. Then they came back. And in the second half they had great chances and were dangerous on the counter attack but in the last 15 minutes we pushed more and we were looking to score. I cannot say it was a goal from the training ground. You expect Winston Reid to score a header but it was a great decision to come in on the edge of the box.”

PS: Listening to the report of the match on 5 Live on the way home, the reporter must have been watching a very different game. He seemed to think Sunderland deserved a point.

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