West Ham’s four-game unbeaten run came to an end following defeat to Watford at the London Stadium on Saturday.
The Hornets started the game the better of the two sides and looked to cause the Hammers defence problems from the outset. As Manuel Pellegrini’s men struggled to gain a foothold on the match, Watford continued to press forward and eventually took the lead through a Troy Deeney penalty on the half-hour mark.
After the break, the Irons huffed and puffed but they struggled to break down their opponents’ well-organised defence. Michail Antonio came closest for the hosts when he saw his close-range header thunder back off the crossbar with time beginning to slip away. Watford continued to stay strong and, with just three minutes left on the clock, Gerard Deulofeu found space in the area and slotted home to seal the victory for his side.
Now, let’s analyse where it went wrong for the Hammers and take a look at the stats.
Analysing West Ham defensively
It was a difficult game for the West Ham backline, who had been looking much more solid in recent weeks. Watford were afforded far too much space in and around the box on far too many occasions in the first half, which led to Fabian Balbuena giving away the penalty for the visitors’ opener.
It was a shame to see Balbuena have to be taken off through injury after giving away the spot-kick, with the Paraguayan has appeared to have formed a decent partnership with Issa Diop over the last couple of months. However, the pair did seem to struggle with the physicality of Deeney during the first half, and the pace that Deulofeu provided playing off the centre-forward.
After coming on for Balbeuna, Angelo Ogbonna dealt with the threat of the Watford captain a bit better than his fellow centre-halves, as the Italian clearly enjoys a physical battle. Ogbonna won seven aerial duels during the game, with Diop and Balbuena coming out on top in the air on just four occasions combined. Elsewhere, Diop made four tackles and seven clearances, while Balbuena made two blocks in his short time on the field.
Pablo Zabaleta didn’t have a bad game at full-back, as he looked to build upon his recent good form. The Argentine made four tackles, three clearances and one block during the match. It was another mixed bag performance for Arthur Masuaku, who continues to divide opinion amongst the Hammers’ fans. The left-back lost possession on three occasions but made six tackles, six interceptions and four blocks – so he can’t have been that bad, can he?
Analysing West Ham offensively
All the fluidity West Ham have been showing in recent weeks in front of goal appeared to go out of the window on Saturday, against a strong and organised Watford side. During the first half, the Irons carved out a couple of opportunities but nothing that really caused the visitors too much of a problem. In the second half, chances came and went for Pellegrini’s side, but it looked like it just wasn’t to be for the Hammers on the day – and so it proved.
Michail Antonio was one of the brighter sparks across the frontline, following his excellent performance at Fulham last weekend. The versatile forward looked to get in behind the Watford defence on a number of occasions and was unfortunate to see his header come back off the bar. Antonio put a lot of miles on the clock for his side and during the game, he had four shots and made two successful dribbles.
It was quite a disappointing afternoon for Chicharito, who struggled to get involved in the game and fluffed a big chance in the second half. The Mexican had just 27 touches of the ball before being brought off in the 75th minute. Fellow forward Andy Carroll probably didn’t have as much of an impact as he would have liked after coming on with just over half an hour to play, but the target man won three headers and had three attempts on goal.
West Ham really lacked a creative edge throughout most of the game, with Felipe Anderson and Robert Snodgrass both struggling to replicate their recent impressive outings. Anderson lost possession on four occasions, while Snodgrass gave the ball away eight times. Although the effort was there from the Scotsman, as it always is, perhaps expectations may have risen following his recent exploits off the right wing.
Meanwhile, Anderson just didn’t do enough, in terms of effort or being a creative influence for the East Londoners. The Brazilian is, no doubt, a brilliant footballer on his day but when he’s having an off day, it seems to seriously hamper the Hammers’ chances of winning the game. The fact that Masuaku had 17 more touches than Anderson, says a lot about the impact that the winger had on the match.
It just wasn’t good enough from West Ham on the day, they were outfought by a strong Watford side and probably didn’t deserve to get anything out of the game. The defending was a bit concerning at times, but this is still a backline that is a work in progress, so instances such as this are going to happen.
On another day, the forwards would have taken their chances and the Irons would have got something out of the game, so that isn’t something that Pellegrini is going to worry about too much. However, this is the Premier League and you can’t afford to miss some of the opportunities that they were gifted on Saturday. Improvements must be made with the winnable games that lie ahead.
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. Get your copy of the FIRST of two December issues for just £4.99 here or preorder the SECOND of the December issues with an annual membership right here.