Lady Luck not with West Ham
This is not an excuse for giving up a three-goal lead but the officiating definitely went against West Ham throughout the second half.
Most obviously in the build-up to Arsenal’s second goal. As Alexandre Lacazette quickly took an extremely debatable free-kick the ball appeared to still be moving yet VAR did not apparently feel the need to review it as they had done for a similar query on Jarrod Bowen’s goal.
The referee John Moss also pulled back a clear West Ham break away for a ‘head injury’ to Thomas Partey. Had the referee blown instantly there might have been less argument from the West Ham players and coaching staff.
The fact he waited for a second or two when the Hammers were away led to a huge sense of frustration. One that was exacerbated by Partey instantly getting back to his feet once the game was halted.
Other minor calls went against the Hammers with Michail Antonio fortunate to escape a booking following a foul-mouthed tirade at the official for being denied a clear free-kick.
Moyes admitting his mistakes?
Following the defeat to Manchester United Moyes was adamant he had selected the correct team and had not set his side up in a defensive manner.
He might not have said he made a mistake but his team selection against Arsenal certainly suggested he knew he had got it wrong at Old Trafford.
Of course, the availability of Jesse Lingard was something he was denied in Manchester but the return to a back four and the inclusion of Said Benrahma certainly sent a message out that he wanted his team to ‘go for it’ more than they had done a week ago.
The three-goal lead was deserved and a reward for the fast attacking start to the game. On the flip side, you could look at the result and say the attacking line-up led to his side being unable to hold onto the lead but with the attacking players on the field West Ham had their chances to score more and seal the win.
Antonio hitting the post when stretching for a Said Benrahma cross following his brilliant run being the most obvious example, but not the only one. Antonio and Bowen were also both denied by last gasp blocks from Kieran Tiernay with the scoreline at 3-2.
West Ham looked devastating on the counter-attack and here’s hoping Moyes sticks with this philosophy for the remainder of the season.
Signs of progress
Glass half full or half empty?
There are positives to take away from the game and the season in general. After three-quarters of the season, West Ham are fifth just two points off the Champions League spots.
By sheer coincidence West Ham’s 29th Premier League match of last season was also against Arsenal, it was also the last time the team played in front of a full crowd, the Hammers lost 1-0 and were sat in 16th place mired in a relegation battle.
It came towards the end of a ten-game run where Moyes’ team won just one match. Yesterday West Ham scored three goals from 15 shots, last season they scored none from 14.
Of course there are huge frustrations with giving away a 3-0 lead but to race into that position saw the Hammers play some of the best football they have played in a long long time.
Sure some of the defending could have been better, the players could have stayed on the front foot and gone for a fourth or Moyes could have brought Ryan Fredericks on earlier or Ben Johnson to help the struggling Aaron Cresswell out.
In hindsight, I am sure the manager might have tweaked one or two things but credit where it is due he chose an attacking line-up yesterday.
Moyes was heavily criticised for the way he set the team up against Manchester United, none more so than by football.london. Yesterday he set the team up to attack Arsenal and go for it as media and fans had requested and boy did it pay off in the opening thirty minutes.
Moyes teams very rarely conceded three goals in fact during his 973 games as a manager it has happened less than 70 times. When you factor in he has managed West Ham, Sunderland, Everton and Preston North End during relegation battles to have a record of conceding three goals less than three times a season is pretty remarkable.
It is actually the sixth time this season West Ham have conceded three so statistically at least, it won’t happen again this campaign!
The return of Lingard to the West Ham team was the huge difference between the performances at the London Stadium and Old Trafford. Tactics and team selection of course played a part but the inclusion of Lingard instantly makes West Ham a better team.
The attacking-midfielder provides the Hammers with a direct running threat and the speed at which Lingard carries the ball upfield makes West ham’s counter-attack so much more dangerous than it is in his absence.
His quick thinking led directly to Bowen’s goal not to mention his own fantastic strike to open the scoring.
In the space of seven games, Lingard has transformed West Ham’s attack, reminded the world of what a wonderful footballer he is, and got himself back into Gareth Southgate’s England squad.
West Ham must do everything they can to sign Lingard on a permanent deal, it would not just keep an excellent player at the club but act as a marker to other potential new signings that this club means business and want to be regular European contenders.
A player of Lingard’s quality needs European football it is up to West Ham to provide it for him next season otherwise there will be plenty of others in Europe willing to offer it to him.
Injured players to return
In Angelo Ogbonna’s absence, West Ham have kept just two clean sheets and conceded seven goals in six games.
Issa Diop has deputised well, one goal-line clearance against Arsenal was particularly impressive, but the Craig Dawson/Ogbonna partnership is a better platform for the team.
This is not to say Diop will not be involved upon Ogbonna’s return, he could of course make up part of a back-three if required or even challenge Dawson for his starting spot. But when the Italian is ready for action, something the manager said would be after the international break, he is expected to come straight back into the team.
If all goes to plan Moyes could have a few selection headaches after the international window, but ones he will welcome.
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Arthur Masuaku and Andriy Yarmolenko were involved for the U23 team on Friday evening as they stepped up their recovery. Pablo Fornals only missed out at the last minute after failing a fitness test on Sunday and Ryan Fredericks was fit enough to come off the bench for the final 15 minutes against Arsenal.
Yarmolenko and Fredericks are unlikely to be starting but add options as substitutes if required, Ogbonna, Masuaku and Fornals will all be pushing to get into the XI from the off.
After the international window, West Ham have nine league games over the remainder of the season, that is just one game every seven days. Fatigue should not be an issue, and as long as all players return from national duty fit Moyes will have some huge decisions to make as he prepares for the final quarter of the season.