Derby Day Blues
Saturday 9th December, London Stadium – It was derby day again! West Ham faced off against Chelsea FC at the former Olympic Stadium in Stratford. It was the visitors’ third of a crowded nine-game December fixture list.
Chelsea had held off Liverpool and Arsenal so far, to stay third place in the premier league, but West Ham were almost bottom of the table in nineteenth place.
Their new manager David Moyes hadn’t been able to make an impact on results yet – West Ham’s recent form was the exact opposite of Chelsea’s – four losses and one draw in their last five, versus four wins and a draw for Chelsea. But the Hammers’ narrow defeat to Manchester City will have boosted their spirits – there were signs that the team were better than they’d been showing so far. And the last time Chelsea lost a league game, was their last London derby versus Crystal Palace.
David Luiz was still out for Chelsea with a knee injury, and Daniel Drinkwater was also absent through illness. Alvaro Morata was in the starting line-up, despite rumours he’d gone off injured during a midweek training session. West Ham had Winston Reid and Javier Hernandez back from injury. Reid started and Chicharito was on the bench for the game today.
Line-Ups & Ratings
Courtois 5.5, Zappacosta 6 (Willian 6), Azpilicueta 7, Christensen 6, Cahill 6.5, Alonso 5 (Moses 6), Kante 7, Fabregas 6, Bakayoko 5.5 (Pedro 5), Hazard 6, Morata 6
Subs Caballero, Rudiger, Moses, Ampadu, Willian, Pedro, Batshuayi
Adrian 7, Zabaleta 7, Ogbonna 7.5, Noble 7.5, Reid 7.5, Obiang 6.5, Cresswell 7.5, Masuaku 7.5, Lanzini 7.5, Antonio 8 (Ayew 6.5), Arnautovic 8 (Sakho 6)
Subs Hart, Fernandes, Rice, Sakho, Ayew, Hernandez, Carroll
Good Atmosphere, Great Goal
The form they were in, West Ham desperately strong support from their twelfth man. And the home fans didn’t disappoint; they created a good game atmosphere from the very start.
David Moyes might have seen video of Chelsea’s games against Newcastle United, Liverpool, Crystal Palace and Manchester City, because he set up his team perfectly to take advantage of their weaknesses.
Chelsea are typically slow starters, and this season especially, they’ve struggled to cope with pressure on their back five – simple clearances being a little bit beneath them. Well, pressure was exactly what their defence got from West Ham in the first half, and it didn’t take long for them to crack.
Just five minutes in, ex-Manchester City full back Pablo Zabaleta passed to Michail Antonio in midfield, and Antonio moved the ball along to Marko Arnautovic. The Austrian striker exchanged passes with Manuel Lanzini to get past Andreas Christensen, before drifting left of last man Cesar Azpilicueta and finishing with a curling shot just inside the far post. Arnautovic got booked for jumping into the crowd to celebrate, but he probably wasn’t that upset about the yellow card.
A Little Bit of Pressure, Very Little End Product
As expected Chelsea piled forward looking for an equalizer, but West Ham didn’t just sit back and defend. They continued to get forward and create pressure almost every time they regained possession.
In many instances when Chelsea tried to build out from the back, Arnautovic, Antonio and Lanzini sat on their back three, creating uncertainty and forcing errors. Even when West Ham had to put numbers behind the ball, Antonio and Arnautovic remained effective threats when their team cleared for a counter.
On one of Chelsea’s early chances, Fabregas found Bakayoko in the box, but both Cresswell and Ogbonna combined to shut his shot down. Then Marcos Alonso set up N’golo Kante on the edge of the area, but Adrian put his shot out for a corner.
Azpilicueta put the first of many early crosses into the box, but Morata’s header was wide. Fabregas lobbed into the box for Hazard, and the ball came off a West Ham defender to Morata, but Winston Reid blocked his shot.
More Pressure, Still No End Product
Conte swapped Pedro for Bakayoko at the start of the second half, but it didn’t make much difference. Early on, Arnautovic tried to claim a penalty for a ball to hand incident with Christensen in the Chelsea box, but the referee didn’t give it.
On 55 minutes Victor Moses came on for Marcos Alonso, who had been poor, and Zappacosta switched from right to left wing back. The swap almost paid dividends when Zappacosta dribbled inside and attempted a shot to the far post, but the ball flew just wide.
West Ham were sitting back and wasting time a little bit now, but even with more possession Chelsea were finding it hard to penetrate. And even when they did, they overplayed, or wasted their chances.
Eden Hazard had a golden opportunity to score when Morata set him up on the edge of the box, but his shot went over the bar. Morata had an even better opportunity himself late on, courtesy of Cesc Fabregas and N’golo Kante, but even unmarked, his shot was off target.
The final score was a fair reflection of the game. West Ham had a full week’s rest while Chelsea played a big game midweek, and it showed – the Hammers were buzzing like killer bees from the opening whistle. Chelsea may have tried nineteen shots to West Ham’s five, but both sides had just two shots on target each.
Perhaps Chelsea could have done with two strikers in the second half, as they were chasing the game. Maybe Michy Batshuayi might have worked West Ham’s defenders a bit more than Pedro. Maybe Chelsea’s midfield and attack overplayed it a little bit, passing up simple opportunities to shoot the ball. And maybe all their players need extensive finishing practice.
Whatever the root causes West Ham defended magnificently today, and outworked their opponents at the other end. They were the better side this game, credit to them. And Chelsea… well, they gave another struggling side a reprieve. As is their wont.
Final Score West Ham 1 – 0 Chelsea
Thumbnail image courtesy of: Metro
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