Teams and Tactics
Moyes side was bizarrely leaked on Twitter mid morning with a couple of significant changes and significantly two out and out strikers selected. Anichebe’s aerial ability in defending set plays and hold up play got him the nod ahead of Naismith with the Scot unfortunate to find himself benched.
Anichebe and Jelavic played quite wide looking break into the channels and to pull the Hammers centre backs out of their positions and enable Osman and Pienaar to exploit the space in between. Jelavic generally put in a shift but his runs were often ill timed leading to a succession of offside decisions.
Defensively, Coleman and Hibbert’s injuries meant Heitinga came in at centre back with Jagielka moving to right back. Neville came back into the midfield after injury with Osman moved out to the right but for the bulk of the game Osman would pick up the ball centrally with Neville picking up the defensive duties behind him and out wide.
Passing / Territory
We had the bulk of possession (62%) and a better completion (81% v 63%) which was to be expected. Our passing where it counts (in the final third) was particularly good with completion of 92% compared to our host’s 44%. Allardyce is more concerned with territory which was pretty even with us shading it 50.9% to 49.1%.
Allardyce post match felt that the Cole red card was crucial in shaping the game as it occurred with the scores level at 1-1, but with the exception of a 15 minute spell before the break when West Ham pinned us into our own half they created little. Generally we were more positive on the ball as the above visual shows which was reflected by us crafting 12 chances to the Hammer’s 5.
Hammers direct play
The Hammers played Nolan off Cole with wide support from Jarvis and Taylor in a 4-4-1-1. Like ourselves, West Ham had injury troubles with Carroll, Diame and Demel all out and O’Neill playing even though he was un-fit. Most of our host’s attacks were started from Jaaskelainen kick outs aimed towards Cole with Nolan looking to pick up second balls and build pressure. Cole was positioning himself onto the hapless Heitinga and got plenty of joy in the first half, culminating in the opening goal after Taylor came off our left flank unmarked to play him through. Cole was given too much time but his finish was admirable. Tactics wise, prior to our equaliser O’Neill couldn’t continue so Maiga came on forcing the Hammers to go 4-4-2. With the game having swung our way and the Hammers started to chase the game and Spence came on and Allardyce went to a back three but it was to no avail.
Pienaar was the game’s stand out performer with only the influential Osman running him close in terms of outputs. The diminutive South African schemer made the most attacking third passes on the pitch with 88% completion from the 27 passes he made in the final third. West Ham’s approach to combat him wasn’t particularly sophisticated, preferring the tried and tested Big Sam method of volleying him up the arse as soon as he crossed the half way line.
As a consequence, Pienaar was the most fouled player on the pitch, gaining 5 free kicks and it was from one such situation that our comeback began. Pienaar ran 25 yards, dribbling past a couple of players before being hacked by Maiga. Baines and Pienaar combinations were again a feature; the duo combined 37 times, in comparison West Ham’s most was Tomkins / Noble who combined 12 times.
From the resulting free kick, Baines played it to Pienaar who picked out Anichebe to expertly head home. Baines, Pienaar and Osman were again at the heart of the winner with the pint sized trio buzzing around and culminating in Osman ghosting past Noble to tee up a muddled goal that went in via Pienaar and the keeper.
This was a well earned and dogged victory given that it was against a side with an enviable home record and in the face of some comedy officiating. We’ve now fallen behind 10 times this season but only lost one of them which is a sign of the spirit and determination in this group of players. It was also the first time in Moyes 10 years at the club that we have come from behind to win a game we have been trailing in at half time on the road. Four points from six at tricky places like Stoke and West Ham is a good return and has seen us return to the top four and sets us up nicely for the home fixtures against Wigan and the tantalising tussle with Fatty Benitez’ mob who for now at least sit behind us in the table.