Manuel Pellegrini’s West Ham United welcomed Sean Dyche’s Burnley to the London Stadium. West Ham were coming off an impressive point away to Leicester City, a game which they had to hold on with ten men for almost fifty minutes but which was later overshadowed by the unfortunate death of Leicester owner, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, in a helicopter crash. Sean Dyche’s team were coming off the back of two humiliating defeats away to Manchester City and at home to Chelsea, conceding nine goals while scoring none in that time. Manuel Pellegrini had earlier labelled the encounter a “must win” for his side but it was curious to see how his team would cope without their captain Mark Noble who was sent off in the previous game against Leicester City.
WEST HAM: (4-3-3) Lukasz Fabianski; Pablo Zabaleta, Fabian Balbuena, Issa Diop, Aaron Cresswell; Pedro Obiang, Declan Rice, Robert Snodgrass; Felipe Anderson, Diangana, Marko Arnautovic
Manager: Manuel Pellegrini
BURNLEY: (4-4-1-1): Joe Hart; Matt Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Chalie Taylor; Aaron Lennon, Ashley Westwood, Stephen Defour, Johann Berg Gudmundsson; Matej Vydra, Sam Vokes
Manager: Sean Dyche
West Ham coach Manuel Pellegrini continued with the 4-3-3 which has served the team well in recent weeks, with the ever-improving Declan Rice at the base of the midfield, Obiang found himself playing more as a box to box midfielder with Snodgrass in the #10 position. Sean Dyche stayed with his usual 4-4-2 / 4-4-1-1 formation with Westwood and Stephen Defour as the central midfielders, the game was in many ways a contrast of styles and made for an interesting battle but West Ham’s superiority in the attacking phase proved key as Burnley were under pressure for the majority of the ninety minutes.
Playing in a 4-4-2 against a 4-3-3 meant that Burnley were already outnumbered in the middle of the pitch, and it was here that the absence of Jack Cork proved key as West Ham made use of their extra man to good effect. With the extra man in midfield, and the dropping propensities of Marko Arnautovic from the #9 position, West Ham were able to progress up the pitch relatively comfortably and release their wingers to cause problems. Man of the match Felipe Anderson and Diangana were electric on the day and caused Lowton and Taylor no end of problems with their direct dribbling and trickery, the latter should have even had a penalty after being tripped in the box.
Apart from their patient build up, West Ham sought to hit Burnley on the break with the pace of their wingers and with this they were greatly aided by Burnley’s sloppiness on the ball as they gifted possession in dangerous areas repeatedly and West Ham gleefully capitalised on their mistakes. The first of these came ten minutes into the game when Arnautovic latched on to mishit back pass by Tarkowski before finishing coolly past Joe Hart. Jack Cork’s absence for the Clarets continued to haunt them with no one in the team who possessed his assured and consistent passing ability. Westwood who was drafted into the starting lineup as his replacement was guilty of giving up possession to easily too often and Burnley paid the price. First, he misplaced a pass that led to the chance for Anderson that required a goal line clearance by Ben Mee and then he was also robbed of possession for the counter attack that led to Felipe Anderson’s first goal of the game, though it could be argued that his midfield partner, Defour had put him in a difficult situation.
In the moments when Burnley went forward, they stuck to their usual attacking patterns and focused more on direct wing play, seeking to use the pace of Aaron Lennon to cause problems for Cresswell. However, the winger did not have the best of games and was largely quiet. Gudmundsson on the other hand behaved slightly differently from his counterpart on the right side as he sought to come infield and get involved in the game. His presence helped Burnley in their moments of possession as he offered an extra body in midfield.
In the end, West Ham made what should have been an easy win look difficult as they were on top throughout the game and forced Joe Hart into several saves. However, their frailty from crosses was evident once again as Chris Wood equalised for Burnley and then hit the cross bar late on after Anderson had scored and this is something that Pellegrini will have to work on. The match gave us a glimpse of what life might be like when Mark Noble finally retires and on this evidence, there is not much to fear as Rice and Obiang completely overran Burnley in midfield with the former running things from the base of the midfield.
The result moves West Ham up to 13th in the standings, two place and three points above Burnley who remain in 15th place. This was a great result for the Hammers, and with winnable games against the likes of Huddersfield and Fulham coming up, theirs is every chance that they will break into the top half of the table come December.