Thursday 30 November 2023

Player analysis: West ham vs Backa Topola

It was a tough night in Serbia, but the Hammers came away with an important win to keep them in pole position to win their Europa League group. 

Tomas Soucek again underlined his importance in the side, creating chaos at set pieces and popping up in the role that had been given to Declan Rice last year to seize the winning goal.

Soucek is not always pretty to the eye, but he has a knack of scoring goals when it counts. At times ugly, but effective. Every top side needs one.

Ben Johnson had a great game and was probably our MOTM. Strong in defence, he was cheeky coming forward - like the kid who shot out of our youth set up 3 years ago. He earned a series of corners going forward despite a pretty predictable partnership with Fornals down the right wing.

Benrahma and Fornals did their usual thing - capable but not potent.

Mubama struggled up front alone and his lack of awareness as a target man showed. Lots to learn, hopefully at West ham, but he needs time to develop his positional awareness.

Cornet looked lacking in confidence and persistently turned in instead of testing their right backs speed. We've never seen the real Maxwell Cornet.

Mavropanos was slick in possession and solid against a lightweight attack. The jury remains out as to whether he can really cut it in the Premiership cauldron but he has plenty of potential.

Cresswell is coming to the end of a great career but the lack of game time was evident. With Ward Prowse on set piece duty his star is fading.

Danny Ings needs to drop down a level to a club that plays two up front - a rare beast in modern football.

We move on, it's a harsh wheel that keeps on spinning.


Soucek steals it at the death

Poor Backa Topola! The plucky Serbs had worked their socks off for a result and in all fairness deserved at least a draw.

But just before the 90 minute mark Tomas Soucek stole into the box and thumped in a crucial goal to snatch an ill-deserved win for Moyes' men.

Football can be so cruel at times.

On to Sunday and the visit of Palace. Let's hope Bowen et al are fit in time for an encounter that will require a much better performance from an out of sorts Hammers.

That said, four wins on the trot!

Impotent Irons lurch towards play offs

It's all gone very drab out in Serbia as the hapless Hammers have failed to impose their tactics on the game and allowed a determined Topola to coast along with hardly a save for their keeper to make.

Moyes has brought on fresh 'firepower' in Ings (no goals this season to date) and Cornet ( who has never scored for West ham).

Backa will see a result as their finest European achievement and look the more likely to snatch a win than the Hammers.

It's looking like the scenic route for Moyes men where if they don't beat Freiberg will have a two-leg knockout with a side dropping from the Champions league.

On the plus side, it would make for a cracking finale to the group in a fortnight.


Hammers making hard work of Topola in Serbia


It's been an intriguing first half - with high intensity cheered on by a typically passionate home crowd in Serbia. 

Backa have been impressive, with plenty of energy and neat interpassing, while the Hammers are also moving the ball quickly but without any clear openings so far. 

Johnson has made a number of key blocks and tackles to keep the Serbs at bay. Up front Mubama has looked an isolated figure, trying to live off long ball scraps.

Benrahma is doing his usual 'almost' act out on the left, while Paqueta and Ward Prowse have been busily probing through the centre.

Aaron Cresswell had an almost howler with a misplaced pass across the back on the half hour mark as Backa have looked hungry but Fabianski saved the day, albeit after an initial fumble.

All to play for in the second half, but with Freiberg an impressive 4-0 up at home to Olympiacos, Moyes men will need to uo their game if they want to top the group.


Big night ahead for on the edge Hammers

The last time David Moyes reached into the depth of his squad for an away European match the Hammers came up well short of the mark with a tepid performance away to Olympiacos in Athens.

He'll be hoping for a much better performance tonight in Serbia as he is forced to again field a weaker side due to an outbreak of niggly injuries that keep Antonio, Bowen and Kudus out of the matchday squad.

Despite that, he has still been able to field a strong starting side with Divin Mubama starting up front. It's another big chance for the almost man that is Said Benrahma, with rumours of an end of season (or even January) exit growing.

Mubama is looking to nail down a new contract and will need to impress in what is probably his biggest test yet at the club. Similarly, Ben Johnson has been handed a start ahead of Thilo Kehrer and needs to remind Moyes that he has a significant contribution to make at full back or will likely exit in the near future.

Pablo Fornals has been a superb servant at the club but has slipped well down the pecking order and will relish the opportunity of a starting berth tonight.

The bench is pretty youthful but also includes Cornet and Ings as attacking options if needed.

A win would all but seal the group for Moyes' men before the final group fixture against Freiberg. 

Kick off is 5.45


West Ham United: Fabiański, Johnson, Mavropanos, Aguerd, Cresswell, Fornals, Ward-Prowse, Souček, Paquetá, Benrahma, Mubama

Subs: Areola (GK), Anang (GK), Emerson, Scarles, Kehrer, Zouma, Ogbonna, Orford, Coventry, Chesters, Cornet, Ings

Sunday 12 November 2023

Hammers back on track after thrilling victory

Phew! Today's clash with Notts Forest certainly was a lively affair. The sides traded blows and thankfully at full time the Hammers had nosed ahead having trailed 2-1 at one point.

Forest wanted to play, which allowed for an enjoyable spectacle. David Moyes played a Paqueta-Bowen-Kudus attack which relied on fast counterattacking but ironically, it was two set pieces that delivered the crucial goals!

MOTM James Ward Prowse was at his best and grabbed two assists to underline his suitability for international duty. 

The Czech mates had their best performance in ages, with the marauding Coufal cleverly managing an early yellow card while Soucek was dominant at set pieces and scored the winner.

But at the end of the day it still took a sensational save from Areola in stoppage time to seal the win. Back to mid-table as we enter yet another international break. 

Moyes will sleep better after a gutsy performance in which the team looked much more coherent with Zouma back to steady the defence.


Moyes Brings in the Changes

Despite all the talk about giving Divin Mubama his chance up front, conservative Mr Moyes hasn't even given the young star a place on the bench for today's visit of Nottingham Forest.

It's back to old ways for the Hammers with both Soucek and Alvarez in the midfield and no natural striker up front as Antonio is on the bench.

We can expect Paqueta to move further forward (and probably to the left) with Bowen centrally and Kudus on the right of the attack. 

In good news, Kurt Zouma is back and starts. The Hammers will need to pass well out of defence as the long ball looks like a poor option with such a short attack, unless Soucek pushes forwards.


West Ham United: Areola, Coufal, Zouma ©, Aguerd, Emerson, Álvarez, Souček, Ward-Prowse, Paquetá, Kudus, Bowen 

Subs: Fabiański (GK), Antonio, Cresswell, Mavropanos, Kehrer, Ogbonna, Fornals, Benrahma, Ings