West Ham are top four contenders
Earlier in the week Alphonse Areola let slip that David Moyes had told the players that a challenge for the top-for was a realistic ambition this season and the team responded to their manager in style.
This was not a one-off, it was not lucky, it was a fully deserved win against a team unbeaten in all competitions in 25 matches, and in the Premier League since March. West Ham went out to win this game in the second-half after fighting hard to remain in it during the first period.
The Hammers had to dig deep with Liverpool dominating possession after falling 1-0 behind and, even if it were with the fortune of a referee call, deserved their equaliser. The West Ham of old may have capitulated in the second half but instead, Moyes altered things slightly and the team came out all guns blazing after the break.
West Ham were the far superior team as the game wore on and created a number of chances. Had Virgil van Dijk not been on song the Hammers could easily have scored more or at least worked Allison when Jarrod Bowen and Michail Antonio bore down on goal.
To beat Liverpool is impressive but to do so and deservedly so is just a mark of how far this Hammers team have come. And according to the manager, there is still room for improvement, if he is correct then the sky really is the limit for this West Ham team.
Defensive pecking order
Following Angelo Ogbonna’s early injury Craig Dawson was the man Moyes turned to. So far this season Moyes has generally used Kurt Zouma and Ogbonna in the league and Dawson and Issa Diop in the cup competitions.
Diop is usually the left centre-back so it was notable that Moyes did not turn to him when Ogbonna required replacing. Instead, he moved Zouma to the left and brought the experienced Dawson on to play on the right.
The move worked perfectly, Dawson put in a fantastic shift and Zouma was in football.london’s opinion the standout performer, even if the sponsors chose Michail Antonio as their man of the match for some unknown reason.
Zouma and Dawson had only ever played one match together before, the Europa League clash against Dinamo Zagreb but the pair looked instantly at ease with one another. Strength in depth will be key going forward and with Diop also performing well this season centre-back seems to be one area the Hammers are well stocked in.
Following their early goal, West Ham moved away from the regular 4-2-3-1 formation that Moyes has favoured in almost every match so far this season. Against Genk, the manager began with an unfamiliar 5-4-1 formation that actually had Michail Antonio starting wide and Manuel Lanzini as an almost false nine.
Arthur Masuaku was used on the left but failed to shine and after falling 1-0 behind Moyes opted to go back to his usual 4-2-3-1 formation and saw a vast improvement in the Hammers performance.
From the start against Liverpool Moyes went to his regular formation but with a 1-0 lead to protect and Angelo Ogbonna being replaced after just 22 minutes the manager made a tactical switch.
Kurt Zouma moved to left centre-back and Craig Dawson came in as the right-centre back, only the second time the pair had played together as a two.
With Liverpool having the bulk of the possession Moyes dropped Rice into a more defensive role and ordered Pablo Fornals into the heart of midfield alongside Tomas Soucek. Said Benrhama went wide left as a result and was tasked with a lot more backtracking than he is used to. It showed a flexibility in the Hammers team they have not had to use so far this season and worked to perfection as they ran out deserved winners.
Johnson over Coufal
The only major selection issue Moyes had to face prior to kick-off was at right-back. Vladimir Coufal for so long has been the nailed on starter and now he is back to full fitness the Czech international will want his spot back.
However, in his absence, Ben Johnson has been fantastic and not just usurped Coufal but also seen Ryan Fredericks drop to third choice right-back.
Moyes went with the youngster once more and his decision, as they all seem to do at the minute, paid off. Johnson had another excellent game, barely putting a foot wrong he held his own against Sadio Mane and Diogo Jota, even having the confidence to have a shot at goal from 30 odd yards.
Coufal said prior to the Genk clash that he welcomed the competition for his spot and it is a good thing he does because he has some serious work to do to get back into the team. There are enough Hammers matches coming up that both players will see plenty of game time but for now Johnson is the man in possession and Coufal will have to wait his chance to prove himself once more.
West Ham ambition
Compared to last season in the matches against the ‘big six’ West Ham are a totally different outfit this campaign. Whilst Moyes will never admit it, at times last season it seemed against the traditional European qualifiers West Ham played as though a draw would be enough and altered their tactics to settle for a point right from the start.
This has not been the case this season. A last-minute penalty miss was all that cost the Hammers against Manchester United and in the Carabao Cup Moyes has gone for it against both Manchester teams. His substitutions against City in particular were notable for how much he believed his team could progress.
Against Liverpool West Ham were under the cosh for much of the first period but instead of going defensive and trying to eke out a 1-1 draw in the second half Moyes altered things.
His team came out after the break and went for it. They took control of the game for large periods of the second half and got their rewards with a fantastic counter-attacking goal and a trademark set-piece.
Even Divock Origi’s goal could not unsettle the Hammers who saw out the game with relative ease in the final few moments. By showing this ambition to win and not settle for a point Moyes has laid down a marker for the remainder of the season. West Ham are going for it and why not?
Source by Football London