Blind Hammer reports on a crucial victory.
What a difference a victory makes. Just a week ago the hostility and vitriol of Board Haters was so vehement that recollections of the ill-fated Bond protest was inevitable. The protest against the then Board created such a toxic atmosphere that a team which should never have been relegated declined amidst pitch invasions and protest. The ferocity of this latest hostility was alarming given that the Brighton reverse had been suffered after a sustained period of unbeaten improvement, in the league if not the cup. , This improvement was achieved by Moyes, honestly prioritising League over Cup, despite having a paper thin squad depleted by injuries. The rush to condemnation, gloom and despair after a single defeat gave me real fears that we were about to shoot ourselves in the foot again and that we were to create such a toxic atmosphere that history was about to repeat itself.
It was an immense relief them for me to attend the London Stadium and experience positive support in a tough hard fought encounter which was never easy for West Ham. The important fact is that Moyes was able to prepare a team able to surmount the wave of last week’s negativity to bounce back to reclaim some belief in the Moyes project.
The Watford challenge was never likely to be straightforward. Last year we surrendered a 2 – 0 lead to eventually lose 2-4. Earlier this season, in the reverse fixture Watford, then under Silva’s leadership had thoroughly outplayed West Ham in a convincing demolition of our defence. Whilst many would have predicted Bilic’s unemployment at that time, few would have expected Silva to be also jobless. Despite this Watford had convincingly thumped Chelsea 4-1 only 5 days ago. So Watford came into this match with impressive form and confidence.
For large periods of the second half they showed the quality which had put Chelsea to the sword, but West Ham’s defence did not crumble, and thanks to the efforts of Zabeleta and Collins in particular, Adrian was only sporadically called upon.
Zabeleta is convincing me more and more that he is the real deal, still with sufficient legs, as the season progresses. What is really pleasing is that despite many assumptions following his signing, he has thoroughly disproved the belief that he could not play the wing back role with a back three
There is no doubt that the combination of Arnautovic, Antonio and Hernandez was part of the dream team planning with which West Ham entered this season. It is unlikely however that few would have predicted Antonio making his contribution at left wing back. However it was from that role that Antonio provided the crucial cross and assist for Hernandez’s header spearing low into the net.
This was a deserved goal for Hernandez who must start to be now recognised as a genuine big gun. Not only was this his third goal in 4 games but he was the winner of the crucial equalising penalty against Crystal Palace. Here today he was extremely unfortunate to have another goal disallowed for offside. According to my in stadium commentator Hernandez only had his arm and hand in advance of the last defender, and you should not infringe offside rules if only non-scoring parts of your body are deemed not in line
The recruitment of Mario and the recovery in form from noble is important factors in recent league games. This has enabled the midfield sufficient progression necessary to reduce reliance on the long punt up field and take advantage of Hernandez’s proven goal scoring talents. Mario is still adjusting to the pace and energy of the PL but there seems much more to come after his promising start. Antonio also flickered only briefly but 90 minutes today would also have done him the world of good.
West Ham’s lead at half time was thoroughly deserved and there was no doubt that their biggest gun was that inspired most of their threat. Before the game I wondered if Moyes could set up [a team which suited the talents of both Arnautovic and Hernandez. After all Arnautovic’s best performances had arguably come from leading the line in Hernandez’s role. Today gave reassuring evidence that both could flourish in the same setup. Both left the pitch after making match winning, crucial contributions, and receiving standing ovations from the adoring fans. This is the stuff of positive feedback which can only make these players grow more in confidence.
Arnautovic’s match clinching second was probably the result of the scrappiest passage of play he had been involved in. Despite this he was a constant thorn in the Watford defence’s side and made telling contributions in both halves. In the first half he was the main architect of menace for West Ham in their periods of dominance. In the second half he was the crucial outlet when Watford executed an extreme high press. He help West Ham ultimately frustrate Watford’s attempt to encamp the Hammers in their own half and force an equaliser.
West Ham of fairly recent vintage would probably have crumbled under this pressure but there is increasing evidence that this new Moyes defence is made of sterner stuff. Adrian did everything required of him and despite Moyes claiming Hart would get game time Hart must surely fear for his World Cup place. Personally I would immediately Reassure Collins by providing another 12 month extension to his contract. Despite Reid’s undoubted qualities I see no way back in for him currently.
With 3 points in the bag, a 2 week break for players to recover fitness, and the approaching return of Lanzini, the situation seems unrecognizable from the gloom and despair of only 7 days ago. Football is an emotional game but with Moyes steering a steady tiller we should achieve the 3 wins in the next 11 games that we need to ensure safety.