Havard Nordtveit just had the greatest match of his West Ham United career.
The deadlock against Everton proved to be almost exactly what the Hammers needed. Would it have been better if we converted just one of those 15 shots into a goal? Yeah, absolutely. Still, I was surprised to hear several people moan and groan after the match. For what reason, I cannot fathom.
Seriously, Everton just came back from putting up a three spot against Burnley and four at Leicester City. I’m not sure anyone could have predicted Everton would fail to muster up a single shot on target while visiting London Stadium. Particularly with Romelu Lukaku’s good form is just bubbling confidence. So what can we possibly attribute stopping Everton dead in their tracks to?
At the start of this month, BTH published an article which claimed that in order for West Ham to be successful moving forward, Havard Nordtveit needs to be given a chance. When he suited up almost three weeks later, he did not disappoint.
How good was the 26 year old Norwegian? Well, statistically, outside of Manuel Lanzini, he put up the best midfield performance we’ve seen in a long time. While Arthur Masuaku and James Collins stole the headlines, Nordtveit was the quiet assassin. This phantom seemed to be everywhere on the pitch. Havard channeled his inner N’golo Kante and decided he would invade the personal space of every player in yellow.
With 54 touches, that put Havard second to Manuel Lanzini. For comparison’s sake, let’s take a look at how his midfield partner of the day, Cheikhou Kouyate performed on his heat map:
While we all know Cheikhou didn’t have the best match, you can just see how Nordtveit approached the match, and then, how Kouyate did. Cheikjou seemed content to mostly sit below the half line and fend off attackers with the occasional run forward. That’s his game and what is expected of him. Conversely, Havard needed to be everywhere all the time and it shows. Not only in his heat map and distance covered, but also in his defensive efforts.
Nordtveit also led the team in tackles won with five, while keeping his foul total low. Against an Everton side with almost 70% possession, that’s an impressive statistic.
Still think Havard doesn’t belong in the starting XI? Let’s talk passing percentage. Do you know what the average passing percentage is for West Ham’s midfield on the season? 74%. While 41 completed passes with an 83% success rate is wonderful, the stat that stands out the most is the 8/8 in long passes. The damage West Ham United could cause if Nordtveit was given freedom to pass with the likes of a healthy Andy Carroll looming is a dangerous prospect for opposition.
I love Slaven Bilic as a manager but I am constantly frustrated by his stubbornness. His unwillingness to make the adjustment to bring in Masuaku and Nordtveit earlier in the season is a testament to Bilic’s feelings on change. Hell, remember when we had to keep suffering through Sofiane Feghouli for like 2 months? Yeah, I know.
The questions just seem to continue mounting up. Each week presents a new weak link in the Hammer chain and it’s difficult to know where to start. One week we can’t put together five shots, the next we’re giving up four goals. The only thing Slaven can do is play the hot feet, and that has to include Nordtveit, Masuaku, Collins, and Lanzini.