West Ham: Bridging Success From Burnley to West Brom

West Ham defender Craig Dawson. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)
West Ham defender Craig Dawson. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images) /

West Ham’s recent string of clean sheet success has trends of positivity that can be linked between matches. Here is what the Hammers can look to continue doing for a win against West Brom.

A few misnomers to get out of the way:

  1. Continue not allowing any goals.
  2. Continue scoring more goals than the opposition.
  3. Continue having a higher score than the opposition once the final whistle blows.

Now that those are out of the way, there are three very real aspects of West Ham’s success that they have done extremely well in 2021 thus far. Two of the three are defensive and the other was the key to unlocking the tight defensive unit that Burnley boasts.

Rely on Dawgbonna

The celebrity name merge that has taken West Ham supporters by storm is not just flashy in appearance. Both Angelo Ogbonna, the frontrunner for Hammer of the Year, and soon-to-be permanent Hammers centre-back Craig Dawson have been elite since pairing up in a flatback four.

It is no coincidence that West Ham have yet to concede a goal with Craig Dawson on the pitch.

The no-nonsense defender has suited stalwart defender Angelo Ogbonna perfectly in the duo set up, clearing his lines and not dawdling on possession. Dawson, instead, incorporates Tomas Soucek and Declan Rice more into the back portion of the possession passing formation, getting the ball off his boots as quickly as possible.

Dawson also endeared himself to the Hammers supports this past match by showing his edgier and more physical side in retaliation to a late push out of bounds by Burnley’s Ashley Barnes. Dawson wasted no time jumping elbow first into Barnes’ head on the next aerial dual to exact payback.

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Cede Possession, Pack the Midfield

Not only did Jarrod Bowen and Pablo Fornals collapse back for wide support extremely well against Burnley, but Michial Antonio, Said Benrahma, and the holding duo of Rice and Soucek also combined to make a nearly impenetrable midfield.

This version of West Ham is a counterattacking team, so holding possession isn’t the highest priority in the game script under David Moyes. That being said, opposition possession is oftentimes wasted as a jam-packed midfield anchored by the best defensive pivot in the league is so hard to get through it often causes turnovers.

By continuing to drill defensive responsibility in the attackers’ minds, Moyes has added a relentless consciousness to his team which adds flanking pressure to opponents’ attacks. The best bit of offence Burnley has was by adding Dwight McNeil on the wing and whipping in wide crosses, why? Because they had to abandon the middle of the pitch.

Flood Forward and Pack the Box

The final theme and only attacking aspect of West Ham’s recent string of success has been all about supporting Michail Antonio and getting the attacking-minded players committed forward to flood the opposition’s box.

With playmakers like Bowen, Fornals, and Benrahma, both wings and the middle of the pitch have players who can spark a chance, by sending Tomas Soucek and the attackers off the ball into support Antonio, the Irons create strong primary chances and a flurry of secondary and tertiary chances, too.

Antonio’s goal against Burnely was the perfect example of this tactic. A diagonal run by Bowen was picked out by Benrahma who had retreated into his own half to help turn over possession. Fornals supporting Bowen out wide kept defenders spread out, creating an opening for a cross to Antonio. The spread defensive coverage (and awful communication between the defenders) gifted Antonio the space he needed to tap in the only goal in the game.

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Overall, there is a lot to like about the Hammers’ game right now, at both ends of the pitch. Defensively the team effort has elevated the results by giving the offence the ability to stay committed forward and press possession. Finishing can always improve, however, and West Brom are perfect for the Irons to break out of their shell against.