Angelo Ogbonna’s ACL injury has ruled him out for the season and the Italian was always going to be a big loss, but if any reminder of just how big a loss he will be, it was provided at Molineux.
After his substitution against Liverpool, his replacement Craig Dawson had a fantastic game but he was unable to replicate that form versus Wolves. For a fee of just £2.5million Dawson has been a wise investment but he is not as reliable as Ogbonna and is prone to a poor performance on occasion and Molineux was one such day.
His heading ability was undimmed with the defender clearing a number of dangerous Wolves corners and a threat at set-pieces but his passing was way off. The centre-back too often gifted possession straight back to the home team and visibly annoyed Moyes with this.
Dawson was also caught by the Wolves attackers running in behind and was lucky to see Raul Jimenez chip wide on one such occasion. The defender was also fortunate not to be booked for a clear foul on the Mexican when he smashed his shoulder into him when well beaten.
All in all, it was a poor match for the defender and his place must already be in jeopardy, with Issa Diop pushing for a start in the near future. Whether Moyes looks to recruit a defender in the transfer window is yet to be decided but on yesterday’s showing it could be a wise move.
Michail Antonio was one of a number of poor performers for West Ham at Molineux but with little in reserve, the striker played the full 90 minutes whilst offering little threat.
By injury time Antonio was drifting so far wide, substitute Andriy Yarmolenko was more central than the No.9 with the Jamaican international’s only influence coming by the way of a long-throw in that fell well short of his intended target Dawson.
After trips to El Salvador and Jamaica and a superb start to the season, Antonio cannot be expected to perform at his very best every week but it was just another indication of how little West Ham offer when he is not firing. The striker now has only one goal in eight for the Hammers but due to the lack of options he is an almost guaranteed starter.
Fortunately, the January transfer window is not far away and this clear weakness in the squad can be addressed. Moyes has admitted in the past he would like to sign another striker but will only bring in the right player. Rob Newman and Moyes have no doubt been scouting potential players for some time but this needs to ramp up now and another goalscorer is essential in January.
Rice suspension looms
Declan Rice did his best to get West Ham back into the game and for the final 10 minutes was closer to his usual self but by his high standards, this was a poor performance.
The captain’s day got worse when in the 86th minute when he hauled back Nelson Semedo in the most cynical of fashions and was rightly shown a yellow card. With the defender running into trouble it was a needless foul and one that could prove costly.
It was Rice’s fourth Premier League booking of the season and with the team tally only standing at 14, the England international is out on his own in the discipline stakes. Five bookings before the 19th match of the season equals a one game suspension and with only 12 played, Rice is walking a disciplinary tightrope over the next six matches.
Currently Rice is picking up a booking every three matches, so to go six without one is a tall order for the midfielder.
Pablo Fornals is usually Mr. Reliable in possession but had a rare off day against Wolves. The Spaniard gave the ball away on a number of occasions and struggled to get into the game, the only surprise with his substitution was it took until the 60th minute to come.
One moment in particular summed up his match when in the first half he gifted Wolves possession and a chance on goal right on the edge of his own penalty area.
Rice immediately aimed a rocket at his teammate and Tomas Soucek had words with him as well. All the while, Moyes stood on the touchline with his head in his hands looking on with an expression that can only be described as despair.
Fornals is a popular and important player for West Ham and one poor performance is just that – a one off. He is sure to bounce back when given the chance but he may have to wait for that with rotation likely against Rapid Vienna.
Wolves are one of the clubs that have been given permission to be part of the safe standing trial starting on January 1 and the barriers in front of the seats at either end of the pitch are already in place.
Currently, it will mean moving the away fans from the lower tier of the Steve Bull stand to behind the goal in the Stan Cullis stand. The trial is not set to begin until the New Year but the vociferous home fans clearly have not been told. The core Wolves support stood to a man, woman and child throughout and created a great atmosphere that the away fans responded to in kind.
The acoustics at Molineux are superb and the two sets of fans chants echoed around the stadium. Whether that is improved by having the fans standing or not is debatable but with the home and away support set on standing, allowing them to do so in a safer manner is clearly the right decision.