I have rarely looked forward to a first match of the season. It was my first as I was in Edinburgh for the Man City game. We usually have entertaining matches against Norwich. Anyone else remember the match in the 1990s when Matthew Rush scored two corkers? Or Steve Jones netting a couple of seasons later?
I won’t go through the whole game as David Hautzig has done it all already, but when I left the stadium with my Norwich supporting friend, I was absolutely buzzing. Apart from the first twenty minutes this was one of the best home performances I have seen in many a year. It was a real team performance with no real weaknesses on display. To be frank, a 6-0 victory wouldn’t have flattered us. We were that good. My Norwich friend was especially impressed with our central defence – yes, really!
For me, two things stood out. Firstly, the performance of Seb Haller. I thought he was outstanding, ot just for scoring his third goal on this third appearance, but for his all-round game. He won header after header, was dextrous on the ground, ran at their defence, held the ball up, brought others into play and shot whenever he had the opportunity. For the first time I feel we have a striker worthy of the name.
Secondly, our play down the left was simply outstanding and got better and better as the game went on. When we were at Upton Park there was a guy in the crowd who would delight every time Hayden Mullins misplaced a pass. “You’re useless Mullins,” he would shout, at least a dozen times a match. Today, the guy behind me did the same for Arthur Masuaku. “You’re the worst left back we’ve ever had at West Ham,” he screamed at one point. I turned round and said there’s some stiff competition for that accolade. He laughed. A minute later Masuaku laid on the cross from which Haller scored. I turned round, he smiled coyishly so I asked him if he could shout out something derogatory about Yarmolenko… But seriously, Anderson, Lanzini and Masuaku gave the Norwich right back an absolutely torrid time in the second half with their little flicks and one-twos. It was a delight to watch. And a mention for Anderson who was superb in defence as well as attack. I’m sure everyone will remember his mazy run across the pitch having won it and then won it back on the touchline. A goal at the end of that move would have been the icing on the cake.
Mark Noble was also outstanding in midfield and deserved the very loud standing ovation he received when he was subbed towards the end.
But let’s put in a word for the Norwich City keeper Tim Krul. You could easily make a case for him being man of the match, having saved at least three dead cert goals. An outstanding performance by him. Norwich are a nice team to watch. They pass very well and keep possession, but they’re a very small team and seem, well, just a little bit too nice. However, they barely had a shot on goal in the first half and Ogbonna and Diop made it seem as if their talismanic goalscorer Pukki wasn’t even on the pitch. The one shot he did have ended up tamely in Fabianski’s hands.
Finally, a word on Chicharito. Reports are that he is on his way to Seville. If true, this leaves us dangerously short up front. Seb Haller is a player who has had a few injuries in the past and if he gets injured at all, we only have Ajeti in reserve unless we bring in Xande Silva, but he’s injured too, I think. I suspect Pellegrini has told the owners that he doesn’t want unhappy players in the squad. But yet again we seem happy to let a player go on the cheap, at only £6.5 million.
But let’s just rejoice in a superb performance. What a pity we have the international break next weekend. Roll on Villa on the 16th!
PS And a clean sheet
PPS It was great to see Yarmolenko celebrate with the West Ham physios after his goal. And well done to the referee for not booking him.