We are only four games into the season, and I’ve already seen some West Ham fans predicting our final league position and who we may or may not finish above! The opening day hammering from Man City is the exception to what has been a positive start for Pellegrini’s men, and there is definitely reason to be optimistic.
After the first weekend of Premier League football, we were rooted to the bottom of the table with a -5 goal difference but since then we have drawn one and won two conceding only twice and netting six times. While I think our defence this season might at times be slightly unconvincing, I have no doubt Issa Diop will continue to improve. The former Toulouse defender is integral to the back four, and has been a mainstay ever since coming into the side early on last season away at Arsenal. While he might have his defensive frailties, Arthur Masuaku was brilliant against Norwich achieving an assist for Haller’s first home goal and an 8.8 rating on ‘WhoScored.com’ earning him a place in the team of the week. There’s definitely room for improvement in both Masuaku and Frederick’s games, and I have no doubt that both players are working hard to get better. The more games we play with a consistent back four will certainly help both full backs, and they will hopefully contribute to more clean sheets as well as providing added impetus on the right and left flanks.
It speaks volumes about the performances of the team in recent weeks that £25 million pounds worth of talent in Pablo Fornals can hardly get a look in. The Spaniard has admitted he needs time to adapt to the intensity of the Premier League, but the competition for places is fantastic and must please all fans. Manuel Lanzini has started the season in wonderful form accruing 2 assists and has created 14 chances which is only two behind Kevin De Bruyne, not bad company given the Argentinian spent the majority of last season out injured. Pellegrini often praises Wilshere as well, so Fornals will have to ensure he takes his chance when he next features.
The only real negative for the club and fans so far this season is Michail Antonio’s hamstring injury. Antonio looked to be in good form after coming off the bench in both the Brighton and Watford games, and making a really positive impact particularly at Vicarage Road. Whilst it’s unfortunate that the former Nottingham Forest wide man will be out for a reported three months, a positive is that Andriy Yarmolenko appears to be returning to form. With more game time we have to hope that the Ukrainian will continue to get better and chip in with goals and assists because if he’s firing we’ll be very dangerous on both wings.
After his performance against Norwich, Felipe Anderson deserves his own paragraph! He worked really well down the left side with Masuaku and when he plays like he did against the Canaries he’s an absolute joy to watch. The pace, skill and effectiveness of our Brazilian winger was tremendous to see. I was on a train from Hemel Hempstead back into Euston while we were playing Norwich, and I checked Twitter to see one of his nutmegs and I laughed at loud it was that good (probably looked a bit weird to other passengers). Anderson was inspiring and I have no doubt that most Premier League teams would love to have him, but fortunately he’s all ours!
In terms of other players so far this season and particularly against Norwich, I’ll briefly mention them. I feel very safe with Fabianski in goal and he’s just a very good keeper, and by all accounts he put in a stellar display the other night against Arnautovic’s Austria! Declan Rice continues to go from strength to strength and while some fans from other teams might criticise him in an England shirt, he’s still only 20 and very rarely puts a foot wrong. I thought he did his job very well against Bulgaria, nevertheless he’s loved by West Ham fans and that’s all that matters. Mark Noble puts in his trademark performances and leads in exemplary fashion, is it a coincidence we’ve won two games since he’s been back in? I think not! Let’s not forget our new talisman, Sebastien Haller. I already love the Frenchman to be honest, he’s scored three so far but he offers so much as well as goals. It’s actually amusing watching English pundits who know very little of him describe him. The likes of Shearer describing him as a big target man on Match of the Day after the Watford win, but he’s far more than a big lad. Haller can hold the ball up, but he’s also very skilful and brings the likes of Anderson, Lanzini etc. into the game. While hopefully scoring a lot of goals for us, I firmly believe he’ll be one of the most creative forwards in the league.
A positive start overall for us and in my last article I predicted a win against Norwich, I think we should leave Villa Park with three points as well. I saw a statistic that Aston Villa have allowed their opponents the most shots per game so far this season with 19.25. We will need to defend well as Villa will be desperate for their second win, but I think we’ll have too much for them going forward. Haller hat trick maybe, let’s hope so!
Hope everyone is well, have a good week.