West Ham on the Up and Up

Over the previous weekend, the Premier League has turned into a division of unpredictability. A six and seven goal haul shipped by teams expected to be defensively sound are the ones that will make the headlines and be talked about until the players return from the upcoming international break.

Just quietly slipping under the radar a little are West Ham Utd, a team torn apart at various quarters with a very abject and lethargic display in their opening game against Newcastle Utd, where Steve Bruce’s team deservedly came away with the points and the Hammers looking like they were still struggling to forget the horrors of last season.

Sunday’s superb win against a Leicester side who had one week previously dismantled Manchester City, handed the Foxes their first defeat of the season and came off the back of a 4-0 home win over Wolves, not often the Hammers put together two scintillating back to back wins.

So, what is the reason for the turnaround from two straight losses and a team that looked devoid on ideas and confidence? A few would point to playing to the strengths of the players you actually have and not trying to get them to do things they aren’t comfortable with, a recipe for disaster and one that normally with the manager in the job centre queue once more.

A lot of teams like to play out from the back through the centre halves, and despite West Ham having the notion and reputation that they are a passing team, risk versus reward for them normally ends up with more risk and a team under pressure, along with that they don’t have the players to press the ball high up the pitch for 90 minutes.

But ask them to defend and then counter-attack their way to three points and they can do, that’s the squad they have and what they can do. In Michail Antonio they have a focal point but trying to play the way the first two games panned out left him isolated whilst they tried to press and play out from the back. 

Despite this, the striker has a return of 10 goals in his last 11 games compared with the same amount of goals in his previous 64 games, a sign that however the Hammers are doing he will find the net, but it won’t always be the winner.

Their back to back wins have come just by doing what’s mentioned above and players obviously have more belief in that system. Before the weekend game, the Hammers probably would have been happy to come away with a point given their hosts performance last time out and also their impressive start to the new campaign.

Getting the likes of Pablo Fornals and Jarod Bowen on the ball is crucial to their way of playing and when both players chip with goals as well as assists you know the game plan has worked and credit should be acknowledged for that, nothing as a coach will give you more satisfaction.

What’s pretty remarkable about it all is it’s been done whilst manager David Moyes recovers from coronavirus and whilst you know it’s input will still be there on a daily basis albeit from home, Alan Irvine and Stuart Pearce have given him a good base to build upon after the international break is complete.

With the small matter of Tottenham to come when the Premier League resumes fresh from their 6-1 mauling of Manchester United, a good test will emerge from that game against their London rivals, but also with the knowledge it doesn’t get any easier the following week with a trip to unpredictable Manchester City.

If they can keep up this kind of form though, the season should have a more comfortable feel to it than the struggle to stave off relegation of last year, there are certainly more clubs likely to find it harder than West Ham United.

Follow Trevor on Twitter @trevk37