Positives in defeat
Despite suffering just their second league defeat in 13 there are a number of positives for West Ham from Saturday afternoon against Manchester City.
For one they scored at the Etihad, the first time an away team has managed that in the Premier League since Youri Tielemans did so for Leicester City in September. Since then City have hosted ten Premier League opponents, none of whom have found a way past Ederson in the City net.
Michail Antonio did just that and arguably should have done so twice in the first-half alone. Issa Diop also had a decent chance with the final attack of the match but seemed caught in two minds as to whether to go for goal or set-up Tomas Soucek.
The fact that West Ham were still in the game at that stage speaks volumes for their effort and defensive display throughout the 90 minutes. Manchester City dominated possession but created few clear-cut chances.
In fact, in the first-half the Hammers had more shots on target than City had shots in total and by the end of the game, Pep Guardiola’s men had only managed one more effort than the visitors and the two were equal one three shots on target apiece.
This is not to suggest West Ham were robbed but as Hammers boss, David Moyes said post-match: “If we had got a point there would have been no complaints.”
And he was right, a draw would not have raised many eyebrows and that is not something that can often be said about Manchester City’s opponents.
A defeat against the Champions elect will not define West Ham’s season or their European ambitions but next week’s game against mid-table Leeds might.
Ben Johnson’s day to forget
Johnson was brought in to give West Ham added defensive stability with Moyes setting his team up with a five-man defence.
However, in doing so the team looked slightly lopsided with Lingard playing through the middle and leaving Johnson incredibly isolated on the left. City looked to exploit the youngster’s inexperience at this level and were constantly playing down his wing, on the rare occasion Johnson got forward he was often wasteful in possession with Antonio twice telling him exactly what he thought of his pass.
In fairness to Johnson, he was often one-on-one against the excellent Riyad Mahrez, and Kevin De Bruyne also drifted to his wing on occasion.
City’s two goals came from Johnson’s area of the pitch and on both occasions, the young defender could have done better. He should have been closer to De Bruyne when the Belgium curled in an excellent cross and he was turned inside out by Mahrez before the Algerian cut back to John Stones.
Johnson is an excellent young player and he will no doubt learn from his 83 minutes at the Etihad but Saturday was a tough afternoon for the 21-year-old. Luckily for him few other teams possess the quality of players that City do and he won’t have to face opponents of this calibre again for a while.
Johnson’s poor game leads us nicely into the next talking point of why Moyes waited so long before making any changes to his team.
The two substitutions he did make did not come until the 83rd minute and were attacking ones as West Ham chased a second equaliser of the afternoon. Jarrod Bowen and Said Benrahma were asked to change the game with only seven minutes of normal time remaining.
Now, I am not suggesting that Moyes should have thrown two attacking players on with half an hour to go and leave the Hammers open at the back, but from the 70th minute onwards you could see there were tired legs on the field.
Understandably so as well, City two-thirds of the possession and West Ham were putting in a fine effort to close them down and keep the game tight. Moyes could be heard on the sideline directing Pablo Fornals to conserve energy “not the centre-half Pablo, stay on De Bruyne” when the Spaniard set off on two extended sprints to chase Stones and Ruben Dias down.
Johnson was struggling throughout the game and it was a surprise to see him emerge for the second half, Fabian Balbuena has not let the Hammers down this season when called upon and could easily have replaced the 21-year-old with Cresswell moving to full back.
Even if Moyes wanted to keep Johnson on it was a curious choice not to call upon Bowen and Benrahma earlier than he did.
Vladimir Coufal hates losing.
Earlier this month West Ham lost an FA Cup tie at Old Trafford after extra-time. Coufal was the last player to leave the field, hiding his head in his shirt, shoulders slumped, his frustration clear for all to see.
For the second time in a month, the Hammers have tasted defeat in Manchester and once more Coufal did not take it well. At the final whistle when all around him were shaking hands or in the case of Benrahma and Mahrez have a good old chin wag, the 28-year-old Czech was on his haunches visible angry at the result.
Moyes was asked about his right-back’s reaction after the game, he said: “He is a great character Vladimir and thinks we should be winning all of the games,” said Moyes. “It doesn’t really matter who he comes up against he is going to try and do the best he can.
“He has been great for us and he is a terrific player but also a terrific boy to have around and that is the sort of thing that goes through the squad and through the players is a great self-belief.”
It might not seem much but it is this hatred of losing that can help build a winning mentality at the club and I for one love to see it just hopefully not too often.
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West Ham win xG battle
Love it or hate it xG is part of the modern game. xG stands for expected goals is a statistical measurement of the quality of goalscoring chances and the likelihood of them being scored.
For example, a penalty has an xG rating of 0.76 meaning that historically 76% of all penalties have been scored.
At the Etihad Stadium, West Ham ended the game with an xG of 1.93 compared to the home side’s 0.76, this is only the second time all season that City have had a lower xG than their opponents. The 5-2 home loss to Leicester City being the other occasion.
Whether you like the xG metric or not, one thing it does show is that West Ham created some good opportunities and had the Hammers grabbed a late point they would have deserved it, both statistically and conventionally.