West Ham clinched their first three points of the season away at Vicarage Road yesterday.
A superb second-half performance proved the difference as Watford failed to take their chances whilst West Ham and Sebastian Haller took theirs.
West Ham got off to a flying start with Mark Noble converting his penalty after Manuel Lanzini was brought down in the penalty box. From then, Watford turned the pressure up on the Hammers and their back four came under siege. This eventually told with Will Hughes slipping through Andre Gray to convert his chance with aplomb.
It then became a test of West Ham’s resolve. In the past two games, they have struggled to be defensively solid. However, the return of Mark Noble seemed to galvanise their work ethic as they threw numbers in front of the ball and made it difficult for Gerard Deulofeu and Will Hughes to create chances.
In the second half, it became a story of West Ham’s quality in the final third that clinched the win. Haller and Anderson teamed up on the edge of Watford’s box to elude the three Watford defenders and allow Haller to slot home from two yards.
The introduction of Michail Antonio once again proved the turning point. A Manuel Lanzini corner was met by the powerful Antonio, who saw his header expertly saved by Ben Foster before Sebastian Haller showed why he’s worth £45 million, acrobatically finishing off the second ball.
It was an away day to remember for West Ham, who hadn’t won a game in August since 2016. Here are our player ratings…
Lukasz Fabianski - 6
Sometimes the greatest compliment is to someone who does their job effectively. Fabianski was commanding the back four yesterday. He looked strong in set-pieces and could do little to prevent a first time finish from Andre Gray. West Ham can enjoy not relying on him for the first time this season.
Ryan Fredericks - 5
I feel guilty giving him a low score this week but it would be inaccurate of me to not point out the flaws in his performance. He got forward a few times yesterday but looked to lack end product. He also misplaced a number of passes and put his defence under unnecessary pressure.
Having said this, I believe he will improve with experience and I hope to see him add more to his locker under Manuel Pellegrini.
Issa Diop - 6
The big man was ever-present yesterday and showed why he is our best defender. Strong and quick, he will only get better with more Premier League experience and a capable defensive partner.
Angelo Ogbonna - 6
I gave Ogbonna a hard time last week so it’s only right to give him credit where it’s due. He was a great physical presence in the back four yesterday and cut out many chances created by Watford’s attacking threat.
He also looked less likely to make a mistake. It could be that he is a confidence player and Hammers fans should give him more time with Diop to solidify their partnership and get Ogbonna playing to his best.
Arthur Masuaku - 6
The return of King Arthur was a joy to see yesterday. He didn’t make a huge impact going forward and I do think he isn’t tactically aware to play the left-back berth effectively but I feel this can be developed.
Physically, he looked really strong and made some great tackles. On the ball, he is the best technically in the back-four and I look forward to seeing him develop as the season progresses.
Declan Rice - 7
Declan Rice returned to his ways yesterday as Mark Noble made gis first start of the season. With less pressure on him, Declan can drive through the midfield and support West Ham’s transitions. Not to say that he is a box-to-box midfielder but his energy may be crucial as the season goes on.
The simplicity of his passing is also impressive. He can help dictate the tempo and allow Lanzini and Anderson to find their rhythm.
Mark Noble - 8
How important is this man to West Ham’s season? He makes the midfield tick and his leadership qualities cannot go amiss.
I enjoyed his ability to pick a pass to set the attack on their way. For years, this man has been underrated in terms of his technical ability. However, as he gets older and he is relied on less to make lung-busting, last-ditch tackles, he is showing why he has been a first team fixture for 15 years.
Manuel Lanzini - 7
Lanzini’s involvement in West Ham’s attacking play is the reason why he scores highly. He is showing a level of consistency that made him coveted by Liverpool a few seasons ago.
It was good to see him relied on less yesterday, which only reinforces West Ham’s strength in depth.
Andriy Yarmalenko - 6
He wasn’t as involved as I would have liked to have seen him yesterday but it is easy to forget he has played only a handful of Premier League fixtures. Pair this with his long-term injury, it may take a while for him to start contributing to the team.
This said, he does look threatening every time he is on the ball. I would like to see him start against Newport to gain some match fitness and valuable playing time.
Felipe Anderson - 7
The Samba star proved me wrong as he took to the wing position fantastically after his return from injury. His composure to set up Haller for his first, as well as his overall wing play, showed his versatility.
In a team that has seen over £100 million spent in two seasons, he is showing that the £40 million they paid last summer was a long-term investment with a quick return.
Sebastian Haller - 8
The Frenchman kicked off his Premier League goal tally with two poacher-like finishes.
It is great to see him lead the West Ham front-line. His versatility to run in behind, to hold up the ball and get himself in goal scoring positions is something that Hammers fans have craved since Dean Ashton retired. Expect him to continue his form in next weekend’s visit of Norwich City.
Michail Antonio (Sub) - 7
For two weeks now, I have had to rate a substitute but Antonio’s performances are too difficult to ignore.
He stretched Watford’s weak back four to it’s limits, creating opportunities for Haller and the midfield to get forward and secure the three points.
I anticipate Pellegrini will continue to use him as an impact substitute. Although it is harsh to give him only 45 minutes, he has been one of West Ham’s most influential player in this role. I do hope, however, he will be given more minutes as the season goes on.
Man of the Match - Sebastian Haller (8)
There were a number of players that I could have picked for this accolade but it is only right to give it to the match winner. I feel West Ham would have drawn this game last season but his striker instinct was the reason why they secured the three points.
A fantastic away performance sees West Ham claim 4 points from a potential 9 this season.
Norwich City visit the London Stadium next week as West Ham return from their road-trip. Norwich, despite losing to Chelsea and Liverpool, have looked dangerous on the attack and are more than a match for most Premier League teams.
The key to winning this match is to keep Teemu Pukki as quiet as possible, although no-one has been able to do this yet.