A lifeless West Ham side were overrun by Chelsea on Monday, as yet another London Derby devolved into into an exhibition for the Blue’s. Another limp and tactically inept showing was numbed somewhat by Manuel Lanzini’s late consolation, but make no mistake, West Ham were thoroughly outclassed by a diligent and talented Chelsea side. It was yet another disappointing result against top level opposition.
West Ham started in a simple 4-2-3-1, with Andy Carroll up front, supported by the attacking trio of Snodgrass, Lanzini and Feghouli. Behind them, Obiang and Noble. The back four was unchanged.
Tactically, this game was nothing. The attack was static, the defense was helpless in possession, and Chelsea were allowed to totally dictate the game. A loss against Chelsea isn't a particularly disappointing result, but fans expect something approaching an even match.
Chelsea clogged the middle, Pedro and Hazard dropped deep alongside Kante and Fabregas, and this entirely predictable tactical ploy seemed to bemuse the hapless Iron’s midfield. It wasn't so much that Chelsea overran West Ham’s midfield, or even outworked them. The truth is that this Chelsea side are simply better, on every of the field.
The Hammers opened the game with a lot of hard work and defensive movement, and did well to keep the Blues from scoring. And then, on the twenty fourth minute, the games was cut open. A misplaced pass allowed for Eden Hazard to run straight at the Iron’s defense, with Pedro in support. In a single moment of brutal quality, the Belgian ruthlessly exposed the backline, broke past Randolph and slotted home.
It was a reminder of just how hard playing against the league’s top clubs is. It would be harsh to put too much blame on any one player. Frankly, Hazard and his Spanish partner in crime are just absurdly talented players. In a match against some of the finest athletes in the world, they managed to make West Ham’s defense look statuesque. That is not so much a condemnation of the Irons as it is a mark of the impressive work Antonio Conte has taken to improve his side's fitness.
A goal down, and without any real grip on the game, it’s somewhat difficult to analyze West ham’s Tactics for this match. In games like this, sometimes the only option is to sit back and react to your opponents.
That isn’t to say there was no game plan. West Ham were far more static positionally than in past matches. Snodgrass and Feghouli stayed wide. Lanzini was more or less central. Carroll was set up top. In defense, the lineup was much closer to a standard back four than the hybrid three/four we’ve seen in the past. Kouyate pushed a slightly higher and Cresswell was more conservative when compared to past games.
The result of these changes was, frankly negligible. At the risk of sounding one note, it simply must be reemphasized: Chelsea dominated this game. Antonio Conte had an iron grip on the match, and his team strolled through leisurely. As the game progressed, more and more chances were created, and a brief second half resurgence was quickly extinguished. After Diego Costa tapped in from a corner kick, the game was effectively over.
There are, quickly, some lessons to take from this match. Firstly, Cheikhou Kouyate is tactically hamstringing the team. He is clearly uncomfortable at right back, and with each passing game, the board’s failure to address that obvious issues grows more perplexing.
Another thing worth noting is Robert Snodgrass’ underwhelming performances. With West Ham practically drowning in wide players at the moment, the new signing should not be assured a starting spot. With Antonio returning from suspension and Andre Ayew looking bright off the bench, perhaps a change is in order.