Hammers Report - February '20
Fixtures: 4 pts.
Draw - 2/1 v Brighton (3-3); 24 points; 18th place
Loss - 2/19 @ Manchester City (2-0); 24 points; 18th place
Loss - 2/24 @ Liverpool (3-2); 24 points; 18th place
Win - 2/29 v Southampton (3-1); 27 points; 16th place
Justin from Chicago back with another monthly blog. To keep in line with me and Steve Mothersole’s monthly show on American Hammers Network - Hammers Report - I’m aptly naming the blog the same. Hope you enjoy these monthly blogs. I plan on doing more match focused blogs as well as other opinions as time goes on.
2/1 West Ham - 3 v Brighton - 3
As we entered February, West Ham were exactly 1 month without a Premier League victory, a 4-0 win over Bournemouth in David Moyes’ first match in charge. With West Ham just above the bottom three, this match against Brighton was a must win for many fans. Before the team news came out, news off the pitch was being made as a large protest against the club’s owners and Karren Brady was beginning just a mile or so away from the London Stadium.
While the protest was finishing up, the match began. Brighton looked the brighter side as they had the majority of the chances in the first 20 minutes, including a free header for Aaron Mooy and a 1 on 1 with the keeper for Trossard. However, it was West Ham that got on the scoresheet first as Issa Diop tapped in a great free kick cross from Robert Snodgrass.
West Ham continued to grow into the game and this time it was Snodgrass with the score, putting West Ham up 2-0 just before the stroke of half time.
However, as West Ham have shown so many times, there is a lack of resilience and killer instinct throughout the squad. A silly mistake by Fabianski resulted in a goal for Brighton as the ball was punched by Fabianski into Ogbonna’s head and back into the goal. All of a sudden, the lead was cut in half.
Another deflection helped Robert Snodgrass score his second goal of the match and West Ham were back up by 2 goals and seemingly on their way to all three points. But West Ham had led the Premier League in points lost from winning positions for a reason and breakdown of the defense began.
Another silly goal caused by miscommunication between Diop and Ogbonna led to Brighton cutting the lead in half once more. Just four minutes later, Glen Murray - of course - equalized for Brighton. You just knew it was coming.
All in all, given the last 15 minutes of the game, one would be glad with the point. Brighton dominated second half possession (they finished with 65% of it for the match) and nearly scored a couple more times. If soccer was played for 100 minutes instead of 90, you’re likely looking at no points for West Ham. All that being said, West Ham received 1 point for their efforts, but it felt like zero. Many fans, such as Dom, believed “we were going down”.
2/19 Manchester City - 2 v West Ham- 0
Besides the calamitous second half performance, another reason the Brighton draw felt like such a missed opportunity was the pair of games to follow. The first being against Manchester City.
As many fans headed up to Manchester in the middle of the week due to the original date and time being canceled from Storm Ciara, David Moyes was busy putting together a starting lineup to be proud of. One that wouldn’t go down without a fight to the two-time defending champions.
Nope, just kidding. Instead, David Moyes put together a meek starting lineup that delivered very few positives to cheer for. Even though West Ham did not collapse at the back and give up 5 goals as they did in the reverse fixture, West Ham did not pose any sort of threat, as shown by the first shot being recorded 75 minutes into the match.
The scoreline also flattered West Ham in the end, as more clinical finishing by Gabriel Jesus in the City box could have made the scoreline four or five nil. West Ham went out with a whimper and moved on to face the champions-elect.
2/24 Liverpool - 3 v West Ham - 2
Another week night game up north could not prevent the West Ham faithful from coming out in droves. In fact, fans filled the away ticket allotment, which was made easier by the fact David Sullivan and Gold did not pay for the extra 1,200 tickets West Ham fans could have had. This was most likely because another protest was planned for inside the stadium.
Hundreds of black balloons came out from the away end and flew up into the night sky. It was quite pleasing on the eye, especially against the backdrop of the claret and blue “GSB Out” signs prominently shown among the away fans.
On the pitch, fans did not expect much. West Ham were facing a Liverpool side unbeaten in the Premier League this season, unbeaten at Anfield in 53 league matches, and within 5 wins of their first ever Premier League title. And it was Liverpool who came out on the front foot with Georginio Wijnaldum scoring on a header that should have been dealt with better by Fabianski.
West Ham did deliver a rapid response. A great header by Issa Diop off of a Robert Snodgrass corner resulted in a goal that also could have been dealt with a bit better by Alisson. The Hammers had equalized as Diop and Snograss linked up for the second time in as many weeks.
West Ham fans were surely pleased with the way West Ham continued playing. Instead of sitting back and allowing LIverpool to constantly attack, West Ham played crisp and clean soccer throughout the rest of the first half, arguably outperforming the Reds on their own turf.
While Tomas Soucek went off injured within 3 minutes after halftime break, West Ham did not skip a beat and continued to play confident, positive soccer throughout the beginning stages of the second half. This play was rewarded with a well-worked goal by Pablo Fornals - Soucek’s replacement - in the 54th minute. West Ham were LEADING Liverpool, AT ANFIELD, in the second half. Could it be?
Fans were given hope. But so many times, the elation of West Ham is quickly followed with utter deflation. And West Ham fans were not dissapointed. The agony came from an unlikely source - Lucasz Fabianski. His third mistake in two matches was his worst one in a West Ham shirt. A simple 12 yard shot from Mohammed Salah scattered along the ground, through Fabianski’s legs, and into the goal. Liverpool had equalized in the most unlikely of ways.
All the momentum had shifted to the home side. The fans grew louder and Liverpool began to attack and play in our half more and more. Another lucky deflection resulted in Trent Alexander-Arnold getting 1 on 1 with Fabianski, which allowed him to make a simple lob pass to Sadio Mane, who tapped the match winner into an open net. All the hard work and great play was undone. West Ham were going to come away from Anfield with the same number of points they had entered with.
2/29: West Ham - 3 v Southampton - 1
Although there was hope heading into this match due to the positive performance at Anfield, the simple fact was West Ham had lost their last two matches, making this match that much more important. In fact, many considered this a must win simply because the next four matches were against Arsenal, Wolves, Spurs and Chelsea.
An in form Southampton visited the London Stadium. Southampton was not only in form, but had been one of the better teams away from home this season (even GD, more wins than losses).
Led by Hammers United, another protest kicked off outside the London Stadium. This time 8,000 fans took part. As that was going on, David Moyes was putting together a starting lineup West Ham fans had been clamoring to see. Pablo Fornals was set to start for the first time under Moyes, replacing the injured Soucek, West Ham’s newest signing Jarrod Bowen was set for his first ever PL start, and our record signing Sebastien Haller was to be paired up front with Michael Antonio, a tactical decision that would suit both players.
At the end of the day, the only thing that would matter is if West Ham collected all 3 points.
The match started brightly for the Irons. West Ham played free-flowing soccer which nearly resulted in a brilliant counter-attack goal, ultimately ending with a blocked attempt from Bowen. West Ham fans did not have to wait long for Bowen to make another impact. He would get on the score sheet with his first West Ham goal as his run was picked out by Pablo Fornals. West Ham were up a goal within the first quarter of an hour.
West Ham continued to pressure the Southampton back line, serving up a couple of shots saved by Saints keeper McCarthy. But Southampton created a quick and effective counter-attack, finished off by a James Ward-Prowse pass to Michael Obafemi, who equalized in the 31st minute with this fourth goal of the season.
Credit to West Ham, they did not hang their heads in frustration. In fact, they continued to attack with their two strikers, Bowen and Fornals, a quartet that was proving to be formidable moving forward. It was Sebastien Haller’s work rate that led to West Ham gaining the lead again. He headed the ball out of McCarthy’s hands and finished the goal from a very acute angle. West Ham led into the break.
But West Ham had led during matches before, having dropped a league leading 22 points from winning positions. All fans were anxious to see if West Ham could prevent that total from increasing. Confidence grew when Haller headed the ball to Fornals who made a sublime lob pass to an in-stride Antonio who doubled the lead in the 54th minute.
Unlike the Brighton match, Southampton did not threaten too much after that goal and West Ham won a deserved three points, key for their survival hopes. The Hammers were out of the bottom 3.
Four points from four matches, with two of those coming against the best two teams in England. I think West Ham fans would have taken that if you asked them before the month began. No matter your opinion on if we're going down or not, the last two performances have given West Ham fans hope, though the hope is what kills you. Hopefully, this hope will only grow as the last 10 games of the season are played.
The Month Ahead
3/7 @ Arsenal
3/15 v Wolves
3/20 @ Spurs
A difficult March lies ahead, but no more difficult than February. Wolves is arguably going to be the toughest game and that one is at home. The fans will be raucous and loud for that one and Wolves is hopefully due for a loss as they've been fighting on two fronts all season.
The two games in North London will be key. If we can knick a result from one of those matches and/or win one of these three games, my personal hope for staying up will exponentially increase.
Loss @ Arsenal
Draw v Wolves
Draw v Spurs
Total: 2 points
As always, COYI
--Justin Wasik, Chicago Hammers, American Hammers Network