Ten-man West Ham stood strong and battled hard to take a point against Leicester City at the King Power Stadium on Saturday evening.
After fending off early pressure from the Foxes, the Hammers took control of the game. Eventually, they took the lead through centre-half Fabian Balbuena. Following a red card to captain Mark Noble shortly before half-time, the second half was incredibly testing for a side that was already massively depleted through injuries.
In the last minute of normal time, a Wilfred Ndidi strike from long range took a deflection off Balbuena and flew into the top corner of the net to make it 1-1.
Analysing West Ham defensively
It was probably the best defensive performance the Irons have put in for an awfully long time. Throughout the last couple of seasons, West Ham looked shaky at the back and had been conceding goals left, right and centre. However, under Manuel Pellegrini, the new look back five has been fantastic recently.
Against Leicester, from start to finish, the defensive line was expertly organised. The defence played the opposition offside seven times, as they executed the Chilean’s high line tactic to perfection.
In the heart of the defence, Fabian Balbuena and Issa Diop were absolute rocks and held the side together. The central defensive duo made four successful tackles, four interceptions, and won four headers. Incredibly, Balbuena made 15 interceptions, three blocks and had 31 more touches of the ball than Diop. He was everywhere for the Hammers, a real leader at the back.
Even though the reinstatement of Arthur Masuaku to the backline was slightly criticised, the left-back did well on the whole. The defensive side of the game is not particularly his forte. However, he did make the most tackles of the West Ham defence with four successful challenges. On the other flank, Pablo Zabaleta put his body on the line for his side and appeared to thrive on the pressure West Ham came under. The Argentine made three tackles, three interceptions, nine clearances, and five blocks.
It was never going to be easy for the midfield once Mark Noble was deservedly sent off, but Declan Rice and Robert Snodgrass did superbly well. Rice continued to show the same form and promise that he has done in recent weeks, while the Scotsman was absolutely everywhere. Snodgrass chalked up a whopping 11.8km in the game, to go alongside six successful tackles. Not bad for a winger.
Analysing West Ham offensively
In reality, you can only really analyse the first half in terms of West Ham’s offensive output. During that half, however, there was some really good football on display.
It was never going to be easy without Marko Arnautovic leading the line. Nevertheless, Chicharito stepped in and deputised well in the Austrian’s absence. Although the Mexican didn’t have a single shot in the game, he slowed the game down and won important free kicks after the sending off. It wasn’t really a day to judge Chicharito on. He had just 25 touches of the ball (the lowest of any starting Irons player), but he gave his all for his side.
Felipe Anderson looked a little bit more like the £40m player West Ham bought in the summer. Against Spurs, the winger really struggled. He looked confident on the ball against Leicester though and did have some creative influence in the final third. The Brazilian even made four blocks, proving he can be a team player when he wants to be.
It was a difficult game for Grady Diangana to make his first Premier League start in. His task became even more difficult once the skipper got sent off. The youngster had some promising moments and nice touches, but unfortunately, he spent most of the game chasing back. He did well to win the free-kick that led to the Hammers’ goal, though.
It was good to see West Ham notch a goal from a set-piece. Pellegrini has clearly been working on a couple of tactics with the side and it paid off for Balbuena’s goal. It was a smart header back into the danger area from Rice, and the centre-back was rewarded for his well-timed late run into the six-yard box. Lovely stuff.
Even though it was disappointing for the Irons to concede such a late goal, after playing with ten men for 60 minutes, it probably wasn’t the worst result in the world. There is a feeling of what could have been. On the other hand, the Hammers defended outstandingly well and showed real team spirit to grind out a result. It will only add to the general confidence of the side.
On a final note, we at West Ham Matters, along with the rest of the football family, would like to send our heartfelt sympathy to all of those who have been affected by the tragic events that followed the match on Saturday. Football has no colours at a time like this.