It’s no secret that the Hammers were strong underdogs travelling to Stamford Bridge today, yet Premier League fans stood surprised as Manuel Pellegrini’s team upset the odds and beat Frank Lampard’s Chelsea 1-0 ending a seven-game winless streak.
The Blues started with the key opening chances despite top goalscorer Tammy Abraham being sidelined, it did however show. Pedro and Reece James troubled Premier League debutant David Martin in-between the sticks with looping crosses, yet lone striker Olivier Giroud was unable to connect.
Chelsea’s superb passing continued to pressure the away side, but they were unable to punish, with Reece James’ deflected cross hitting the outside of the post and Zouma heading just over from the following corner. West Ham’s notable chance early doors was through Michail Antonio, whose header failed to trouble Spaniard Kepa Arrizabalaga.
From this the Irons really grew into the game, with the away support strongly behind them they responded with a spark of magic going into the second 45. West Ham’s wing-play finally paid off, with Fornals switching it to left-back Aaron Cresswell who cuts inside brilliantly past Cesar Azpilicueta and smashes it to the far corner of the goal.
Antonio missed a massive chance to make it two at 60 minutes and would later have a goal correctly disallowed for handball, it wouldn’t have affected the result however as they gain a vital win and move to 13th in the league.
Here are four findings from the match.
The Formation Changed Everything
West Ham looked like a totally different team to last weekend and it was down to this. Their midfield and full backs covered every blade of the pitch today and even though Felipe Anderson didn’t provide the best technical ability across the match showed why having a man behind the striker works so well with this squad.
Looking forward to Wolves and Arsenal you should expect no changes to this side and system, Pellegrini would be mad to.
A Defence Made In Heaven
Three men who dictated the defensive approach for the Hammers today deserve tremendous recognition. Rice, Ogbonna and Balbuena provided the away fans almost complete solidarity for David Martin and kept France’s number 1 striker quiet until he was subbed.
It’s still difficult to believe that Diop was starting ahead of the Paraguayan after today’s performance as he won practically everything, and Ogbonna who seemed to be playing with a knock replicated this.
Declan Rice put in a world-class defensive display this afternoon and will be questioning whether the likes of Dele Alli should be replacing him in the England squad for the future.
Martin's the Man
David Martin has staked his claim to continue starting for the Hammers, and Pellegrini shouldn’t resist. The fans get behind him, he showed how much today meant to him at the final whistle and managed to keep a top 4 side from scoring for 90 minutes.
The question now is could he even keep Fabianski out of the side. He’s expected to have a month or so to prove himself whilst the Polish ‘keeper recovers from surgery, which is a good amount of time to do so and let’s be honest crazier things have happened in football.
Can't Always Rely on the Full-Backs
It wouldn’t be fair to not address the one issue from the game.
Nobody can take away from Antonio that his job as a striker since returning has been a breath of fresh air for the London side, but he was substituted for a £45 million forward today who theoretically should fit West Ham’s cross-play system better.
It’s clear that Pellegrini’s choice to start Antonio was to pressure Chelsea’s backline but his chances today came from situations where you’d expect a bigger, more accomplished striker to get his head behind the ball.
You also must address the former Forest attacker’s injury record, even today having to be brought off. Questions need to be answered sooner rather than later.