West Ham romped to an impressive three-nil victory over fellow strugglers Crystal palace. The irons scored three late second half goals. It was a testy match that shifted dramatically with the introduction of the 4-4-2 formation, a half time switch from Slaven Bilic that changed the game. But before that, there was the matter of Dimitri Payet.
When West Ham announced their opening lineup, all eyes were on how the hammers would try to fill the gap left by Dimitri Payet.
Bilic went with a 3-4-3, or a 5-4-1, depending on which way you looked at it. The idea was complicated. Antonio would press high, Cresswell would stay back. Carroll would drop in and Lanzini would take his place.
It was a set of high minded tactics that fell totally flat. The players looked confused, and the scoreline showed that. At halftime, the game was scoreless, with next to nothing interesting to report. Bilic picked up on this, and made a bold call. The switch back to the 4-4-2 ran the risk of leaving West Ham exposed defensively, especially with Sam Byram only just returning from injury.
More or less, the lineup got the team back to what they’re good at. Antonio provided speed and hard work up front, alongside the physical dominance of Carroll. Feghouli and Lanzini created chances, and broke in behind to take shots. Mark Noble moved box to box, while Obiang dictated the matches tempo. With room to move on the flanks, Byram and Cresswell bombed forward.
Crystal Palace couldn’t cope with the new tactics, as a newly invigorated west Ham ran all over them. Tactically, there really isn’t much to report. West Ham were simply stronger, faster and more clinical than the opposition. Credit has to go to Bilic for putting the team in that position.
The first goal came from poor defensive play from Palace, and hard work from Antonio. Immediately, the benefits of playing two forwards and two wingers showed. As soon as west ham won the ball, Palace were forced to mark up one against one. In the chaos of the moment, Antonio was able to find an unmarked Feghouli, who tapped in.
The second goal again showed the benefits of two in attack. Forced to deal with too many attackers, Palace had to let one player go free. Unfortunately for them, that player was Michail Antonio, who launched in a fantastic cross for Andy Carroll to scissor kick into the back of the net. Again, numbers in attack overwhelmed Palace.
The last goal was simple counter attacking. With Palace desperately pushing forward, Lanzini found the time and space to break through, and launch a delightful chip over the abysmal Wayne Hennessey.
The message from this game is clear: playing with a back four allows The Irons to play fluid, incisive football. Going forward, especially with Byram now fit, the gameplan has to be a 4-4-2, or some variation. The formation brings the best out of Antonio and Carroll, protects our defense, improves the midfield, and gives wingers more space to attack into.