For putting in one of their worst team performances of the season according to most Hammers fans, Manuel Pellegrini’s West Ham United got what they deserved on the south coast on Saturday afternoon.
This was, of course, a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Eddie Howe’s AFC Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium in the Premier League. Two days after the Irons’ fifth game in succession without a win against the Cherries, we analyse Five Massive Moments from the relatively even clash which ended in the home team collecting three points for the first time since 22 December.
Nasri inches from firing West Ham ahead
Given the dull nature of the first half as a whole in Bournemouth, it’s little surprise that we would have to wait until the 25th minute for our first Massive Moment. And even then, it was hardly comparable with some of the drama after half-time.
Neither side could manage a single shot on target before the break, but this was the closest the visitors would come in the 45 minutes they would spend most of as the second-best team.
A throw-in on the right flank from a blocked long-range drive by club-record signing Felipe Anderson was worked into the Bournemouth penalty area by a combination of club captain Mark Noble and Michail Antonio. Before the ball pinballed into the path of Samir Nasri just inside the box.
The new signing who registered his first assist for the club in the last match, a 1-0 home victory over Arsenal only his second start since joining on the final day of December, was looking to add his first goal and was inches away from doing so. And firing West Ham ahead.
The former France international took a shot on first-time as the ball came his way, on the slide, it whistled past the right-hand post of Arthur Boruc, making his first league start since May 2017, and behind for a goal-kick. The East Londoners, in the Moment, were ever so close to breaking the deadlock and taking the match down an entirely different path to the one it followed.
Carroll fluffs his lines from point-blank range
If West Ham were ever so close to opening the scoring the other side of half-time, words could not describe the margins that stood between them and achieving the same feat they almost accomplished in the 25th minute. In the 48th minute.
Much like our first Massive Moment, our second Massive Moment involves a player in the grey and blue of the Irons’ third kit missing an opportunity. But this was no ordinary opportunity, it was one of the simplest a striker could ever be gifted. And one that would soon be described as “miss of the season.”
Ahead of the trip to the south coast, Pellegrini decided to leave wantaway striker Marko Arnautovic out of the squad, believing his head wasn’t in the right place to play. He was replaced by Andy Carroll, making only his second league start of the season and without a PL goal since April 2018.
That wait is partly down to more long-term injury problems for the tall striker, nevertheless, however, it was about to be extended another match, from 11 to 12. Few in the stadium would have believed this when his header allowed Michail Antonio to tee him up for a tap in from half-a-yard out.
Carroll did have the veteran Boruc to contend with on the goal-line and several defenders in close proximity, but there could be no excuses for him fluffing his lines from point-blank range, blazing the ball high into the stands after it had popped up at the last minute. Many knew at this stage, that it just wasn’t the away side’s day and they weren’t going to find the back of the net against Bournemouth for the first time in their history.
Wilson smashes Bournemouth into the lead
As has been the case with Pellegrini’s West Ham on most occasions, it wouldn’t be long before they were punished for their missed chances, just five minutes, in fact. And that was all down to our third Massive Moment.
Ironically linked to a move to East London as Arnautovic’s replacement in this transfer window, it was always going to be touch-and-go whether England striker Callum Wilson would return from injury in time for the game for the Cherries. As it so happened, he passed a late fitness test and returned to the starting Xl.
This twist of fate was one that would come back to haunt a Hammers team searching for their first win since January 2016 and the days of Dimitri Payet in Bournemouth, and only their third ever. The brilliance of Wilson helped to ensure they weren’t going to get it.
With 52 minutes on the clock, the Premier League’s ninth-placed team at the start of the day had a cross into the Cherries danger area cleared, allowing the hosts to break through Ryan Fraser as he got beyond centre-back Issa Diop. The 21-year-old eventually caught back up with his fellow youngster, though could only deflect his attempted cross into an area just outside the West Ham box.
Whilst Howe’s men could count themselves lucky that the ball fell perfectly for a free Wilson after the first bounce, there was no fortune in the emphatic finish from the 26-year-old, smashing a perfect volley into Lukasz Fabianski’s right-hand top corner. It was the silky front man’s tenth PL goal of the season and a huge blow to Pellegrini’s men on the afternoon three points would’ve taken them seventh.
Stunning Fabianski keeps Hammers in it
From here on out, with little over half-an-hour of proceedings remaining, the Irons were always going to have to throw everything they had at the Cherries in hope of clinching an equaliser and or more. The increased attacking play would leave them open at the back and create our penultimate Massive Moment.
Pellegrini introduced the likes of returning poacher Javier Hernandez, attacking midfielder Robert Snodgrass and bright young winger Grady Diangana to the fray, in the end. All very attacking options.
By the final 20 minutes, it was a game of attack against defence. With the hosts proving equally as threatening on the counter-attack as the visitors were in their quest to avoid a second successive PL away defeat after a run of four unbeaten on the road.
Taken off for protection reasons on 73 minutes, Wilson was a huge threat until the moment he was replaced by Academy of Football product Junior Stanislas. As proved by nearly scoring a second just two minutes prior to being substituted off.
This time, however, the stunning shot-stopper Fabianski could deny him, from an effort on the edge after Josh King’s wonderful run and assist, to keep the Hammers in it. The mesmerising stop from the four-clean sheet ‘keeper would ultimately be in vain, with his teammates unable to make the most of staying in the game so long because of him.
King seals the deal for Cherries
Fabianski’s heroics would mean nothing due to our fifth and final Massive Moment, which saw Bournemouth quite literally put the Cherry on the cake. Of an afternoon of the like they haven’t enjoyed for some time during their poor run of form, under Howe.
Bournemouth will argue that the margin of victory could have and should have been more than two after King, often the creator for his partner Wilson, put things beyond all doubt by finding the second in the 91st minute.
Prior to that, the Cherries had seen a Nathan Ake header disallowed because of a very tight margin in the first half, Wilson’s strike tipped onto the post just after the 70th minute, Fabianski somehow keep out an accurate Steve Cook header. And more.
For all their possession, Pellegrini’s side simply couldn’t match this number of openings in front of goal for the afternoon. Therefore, it was no shock and no injustice when the Norwegian international sealed the deal on a tenth PL loss of 18/19 in added-time. From a trademark quick break-away.
Ex-Hammer Stanislas found himself with the ball just inside his opponents’ half and picked out an exemplary through-ball to David Brooks to latch onto and simply square it past Fabianski for King to sweep home into the empty net. 2-0 and a knock to West Ham’s goal difference of -3 and UEFA Europa League chances.
So, now that the Five Massive Moments from a rare afternoon to forget in the recent history of the east London club have been well and truly analysed, will there be slightly more positive Massive Moments to reflect on come this time next week? After the Hammers have paid AFC Wimbledon an Emirates FA Cup fourth-round visit? Join us once again, then, to find out.
If you love tactical analysis, then you’ll love the digital magazines from totalfootballanalysis.com – a guaranteed 100+ pages of pure tactical analysis covering topics from the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga, Bundesliga and many, many more. Buy your copy of the January issue for just ₤4.99 here, or even better sign up for a ₤50 annual membership (12 monthly issues plus the annual review) right here.