West Ham won their second straight match as they moved up to the 8th in the table. My five thoughts on the victory against Sheffield United.
West Ham travelled to Bramall Lane and collected all three points against Sheffield United, the first time since 1968 the East Londoners won away to the Blades. A solid defensive effort on top of a great Sebastien Haller goal led the way for West Ham, who moved up into the top half of the table with the win. My five post-match thoughts:
1 – Haller Shows Improvement
Sebastien Haller scored the only goal in West Ham’s 1-0 victory at Bramall Lane, and what a goal it was. Haller took a deflected shot from Pablo Fornals and rifled it into the net. Blades goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale‘s hand could not deter the ball from going in the back of the goal.
Haller has improved since he was forced into the starting lineup due to Michail Antonio‘s injury. He has done better at holding the ball up, providing key passes to teammates and has run down the channels more effectively as the season has gone on, something sorely missing with Antonio out
I do believe that Antonio should start once he is fit too, but since he didn’t even make the bench this weekend, we should see Haller start the next match. And even though Haller is still the second choice in my eyes, it is nice to know we have a good striker like him on the bench.
2 – Yet Another Clean Sheet
West Ham won their second straight Premier League match. The win also resulted in the Hammers’ second straight clean sheet and their fourth overall of the season. The defence has been a revelation this season, with Angelo Ogbonna and Fabian Balbuena leading the charge from the back.
Ogbonna was a Hammer of the Year candidate last season and he certainly is one so far this season. He was the Sky Sports Man of the Match and has been such a key factor in West Ham’s strong performance in front of goal.
Currently, the Irons have given up the joint-second least amount of goals so far this season and if West Ham are to continue this good run of form, the defence will need to continue these solid performances at the back.
3 – Starting Lineup Should Remain Intact
The Sheffield United match was the third straight in which the starting lineup and formation were unchanged. It makes sense given West Ham’s performances so far this season as the three at the back system has led to strong defensive performances and swift counter-attack goals.
Many fans, however, still have called for some players to be removed from the starting lineup, specifically Pablo Fornals. Fornals did not have a great game, the second straight match where he didn’t contribute much in the attack.
However, I still believe the starting lineup should not be changed as this team is currently playing very well. Yes, Fornals and Bowen did not play well. It is obvious playing on the wing is not Fornals’ natural position and Bowen’s decision making was very poor. However, they have played well more often than not and they should be given another opportunity against Aston Villa to show improvement.
4 – Better Play Required in Final Third
As mentioned, Jarrod Bowen‘s decision making was very poor in the final third. In fact, there were multiple players who made the wrong decision when given the choice of shooting or passing, some very obvious.
In addition, West Ham missed a couple of really good chances. Declan Rice was unlucky with a header off the post and Tomas Soucek missed a sitter just a few yards from goal. West Ham’s defence bailed out the attack in providing yet another clean sheet, but clean sheets won’t come every week. West Ham must be more clinical and make better decisions in the final third.
5 – Declan Rice is the Future
Declan Rice has continued to improve, not only as a player but as a leader. Declan Rice has taken over captaincy duties this season with Mark Noble not making the starting lineup. David Moyes has pointed out Declan Rice is West Ham’s future and that his leadership role will grow.
Rice had a great match against Sheffield United, controlling play in the midfield, making key interceptions, and launching swift counter-attacks. He truly makes West Ham tick and losing him in January must now be totally off the table. Who knows? Maybe Rice is enticed to stay at the London Stadium if West Ham kick on and challenge for Europe this season.