West Ham missed several key chances as they fell to Manchester United 3-1. My five post-match thoughts below:
West Ham United surely are frustrated after a tough loss to Manchester United, who won their club-record ninth straight away match in the Premier League. The Hammers rode their luck after missing several key chances in the first half but were still ahead at halftime. But Manchester United, led by Bruno Fernandes, scored three goals in the second half to win. My thoughts below:
1 – Haller has improved:
Sebastien Haller has improved since his poor showing against Liverpool, the first match where he was the replacement for the injured Michail Antonio. With Antonio likely out for at least the next few games, it is even more important Haller continues this good run of form.
Haller completed the most successful dribbles out of any player (3) and also won the most aerial duels (16). His hold up play was key in a lot of the big chances West Ham created and he will need to continue being effective for West Ham in order for the team to continue creating those key chances to score goals.
2 – West Ham Rue Missed Opportunities:
Speaking of chances to score goals, West Ham had plenty. They created twice as many big chances as United and easily should have been up 2-0 at half time. Bowen should have made it 3-0 early in the second half before United even had a sniff on goal.
I’ve written about similar thoughts in the past and, up until now, West Ham have continued to ride out their luck, not fully regretting the missed chances they have had due to results going their way.
But against a team like United (and let’s be clear, it’s still Manchester United), you simply can’t miss that many great chances and expect everything will be ok. West Ham must be more clinical in the final third moving forward.
3 – Said Benrahma should start:
What can help West Ham be more clinical in the final third is to begin starting Said Benrahma. While I have been one of the bigger supporters of Pablo Fornals, I think it’s time for Benrahma to start. Fornals has been a bit too inconsistent and Benrahma has looked lively and confident when on the pitch.
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It’s a shame because I like Fornals and I think most West Ham fans do as well. He works his socks off 100% of the time and has contributed two goals and two assists so far this season. I also think the wing position is not Fornals’ natural position as he is suited to a more central role. Overall, it’s not entirely his fault.
But Benrahma has already matched Fornals’ assist totals with only four substitute appearances to his name. He brings an added dimension and I’m excited to see him and Bowen go at it with Haller for a majority of the game. However, Benrahma must match Foranls’ effort and work rate, otherwise, I’d rather have Fornals on the pitch.
4 – Bruno may be the most important player to any team in the Premier League:
Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford coming on the pitch at halftime changed the complexity of the match. Once Bruno settled in for 10-15 minutes, United were the superior team. Fernandes is truly world-class.
In just 45 minutes of play, Fernandes created nine chances and provided an assist to Paul Pogba, who delivered a world-class strike. He picked apart West Ham, making passes that cut through the defence like a hot knife through butter. While I don’t blame Moyes for sticking with a back three, in hindsight, he may have done better by putting on an extra midfielder to match Fernandes.
Bruno is a world-class player that is most likely the most valuable player to his team. Without him, United looked like a mid-table team devoid of ideas and spirit. With him, they look like Premier League contenders.
5 – Positivity must remain, response to Leeds will be important:
I was pleasantly surprised at West Ham Twitter for being generally positive after the loss on Saturday. I love my fellow West Ham supporters, but we are known to be a reactive bunch, myself included.
Overall, fans realize how good we were for a majority of the game on Saturday and for a vast majority of the season. If we simply put some of those chances away in the first half and if VAR did not remain incompetent, then we may have gotten something out of the match.
However, we were not clinical enough. But West Ham fans know it’s all about how you respond. Leeds will be a tough match as Marcelo Bielsa’s men never stop running. Leeds leads the Premier League in shots on goal and total duels, meaning they will be in our player’s faces and intense for 90+ minutes. West Ham must be ready to respond.