West Ham United clawed back a 2-0 deficit to draw 2-2 with Brighton & Hove Albion in an enthralling encounter at the London Stadium.
West Ham were left stunned after two quick Dale Stephens and Shane Duffy goals saw Brighton take a quick 2-0 lead, however, replied with a quick double of their own through Marko Arnautovic.
In this tactical analysis, we will look at how West Ham fought back against a team they had lost to on every previous Premier League occasion before last night.
First-Half Defensive Masterclass
The opening 45 minutes proved to be a horror show in terms of quality needed to open up the defence. The defences were on top for both sides in a less than desirable attacking performance from either West Ham or Brighton.
In such cases where the opposition defence is on top and West Ham are struggling, the Hammers will do well to give the ball to Felipe Anderson, who possesses the necessary quality to unlock strong defensive shapes.
Anderson is highlighted just behind the midfield five of Brighton, however, his true positioning should be in the gap between the defence and the midfield, where he is able to turn and run at the opposition with the two full-backs either side for supporting runs. Brighton’s shape, as shown above, proved a difficult barrier for West Ham to break down as the Hammers struggled in an uninspiring first 45 minutes, however, the attacking players should do more to force chances.
Brighton, despite some good defensive structure from West Ham, also struggled to provide the necessary quality to unlock the Hammers’ defence. In the annotated picture above, West Ham possess a good defensive shape in the centre of the pitch, forcing Brighton out wide. However, in the wide positions, Brighton are afforded too much space. Pascal Gross is given time on the ball out wide on the right, and has two men overlapping in Martin Montoya and Solly March. With better awareness, Brighton could’ve had a two-on-one situation down the right wing against West Ham’s Aaron Cresswell and thus caused West Ham more problems in this particular attack.
Switched Off Irons
Overall, West Ham have improved massively in defence, however, still possess the lack of concentration which saw them struggle last season, and which saw ex-manager Slaven Bilic get sacked. Exactly a year ago to the day of West ham’s fixture vs Brighton, the Hammers had conceded 40 Premier League goals after 22 games. However, that has seen a fall this season with West Ham only conceding 32 goals the same day a year later.
However, on Brighton’s opening goal, both Lucas Perez and Robert Snodgrass were guilty of a lack of concentration as they are caught ball watching whilst the ball lands at Stephen’s feet, after they were both placed at the edge of the box to mark one Brighton man in Dale Stephens. The mistake proved costly as Stephens struck a good effort into the bottom-right corner to make it 1-0 to the seasiders.
The second Brighton goal proved to be just as disastrous for West Ham, as once again a player was caught ball-watching whilst a Brighton player is unmarked to score from a set-piece.
The initial marking from the corner preceding the second goal sees West Ham go man for man, with Angelo Ogbonna, Pedro Obiang and Issa Diop all in a train picking up Lewis Dunk, Shane Duffy and Davy Propper.
Following the defensive train at the beginning of the corner, both Ogbonna and Obiang, highlighted in grey, remain with their men, upholding their defensive duties, however, Diop finds himself ball watching and completely loses Duffy, who scores with a strike from the back post.
Arnie To The Rescue
After a rather tame opening hour to the game in attack, West Ham finally found their feet, and have Marko Arnautovic to thank for that as he terrorised the Brighton defence with his movement as he grabbed himself a brace on his way to rescuing West Ham a point.
The opening goal appears simple on the face of it, as Arnautovic makes a simple run in behind the Brighton defence, whilst Mark Noble finds him with a long ball.
However, the Austrian international does well to both hold off Brighton defender Duffy and maintain his run whilst keeping his eyes on the ball as he slotted in for West Ham’s first of the evening.
Whilst the first goal showed his strength predominantly, the second goal showed how capable Arnautovic is at playing the lone striker role. As Michail Antonio runs to the by-line to pull the ball back, Arnautovic pulls back from his run whilst Duffy, Dunk and Stephens are all ball watching and keep running into the six-yard box.
This allows Antonio an easier pull back to Arnautovic at the edge of the six-yard box, rather than having to smash the ball across the six-yard box.
West ham showed a strong and stable defensive shape and structure against Brighton, with the seasiders unable to carve the Hammers open at any given opportunity. This is in stark contrast to last season, as mentioned above West Ham had conceded 40 goals at the same stage, the joint-second most in the league. In attack, Pellegrini has provided West Ham with multiple outlets, with both full-backs and both wingers providing the key central striker with opportunities to score. This was apparent against Brighton, as the equalising West Ham goal came as a result of a brilliant exchange of passes between winger and full-back Pablo Zabaleta and Antonio.
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