The words most associated with West Ham’s last two performances were ‘defensive organisation’, slightly trailed by ‘fitness’. In the twilight of the Slaven Bilic era, the Hammers lacked both, and here we are with four points and consecutive clean sheets against Chelsea and Arsenal. Encouraging signs.
The unheralded David Moyes seems to have transformed the club and signs of recovery are present. Last night’s gritty 0-0 draw with Arsenal was the sort of solid rear-guard action the club needed. Fans might not be happy zero shots on target every week, but the result was far more important. Despite the positivity, the club are still 19th in the Premier League and need to continue the good run against Stoke City on Saturday.
Most impressive about the Arsenal game was how we restricted the North London club’s attack. The solid defensive unit limited Alexis Sanchez to 78.6% pass completion, third lowest for the team, the Chile star coughed up possession 21 times and was substituted after 82 minutes.
For all of Arsenal’s dominance in possession and their 22 attempts on goal; they never looked like scoring, with only 3 shots on target for the game. West Ham were good value for their point, locking down a potent attack of Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, Olivier Giroud and Alexandre Lacazette.
An interesting defensive development is Aaron Cresswell’s new role to the left of the back three. The more attack-minded Arthur Masuaku has taken over at left back, bombing up the wings while the mobile Cresswell can mop up defensively. This new system is working thus far, the two players have a good chemistry invigorating the Hammer’s left flank.
This is a new role for Cresswell, he told the Evening Standard:
“I’ve never played there before in my career but when the gaffer asked me to play there at Manchester City, we were low on numbers,
“I’ll always work for the team and our aim has to be to get as many points on the board and if that means playing people out of position, then that’s what will happen.
“The way we’re set up means Arthur Masuaku plays further up the pitch and he likes to get forward. Playing left side of the centre three means you’re not in an advanced role but there are still times when you can push in.”
The eye test reveals a more confident West Ham United, but hard work is still needed, we now face a run of four games in 11 days. The bottom half of the Premier League is super-tight, we are one point off the bottom and four points off 11th - fine margins will make the difference this season. We don’t want to the Irons in the relegation zone at Christmas, now is the time to make the extra confidence count.