Over the last few weeks, Manuel Pellegrini’s West Ham United have developed a bad habit, one that has affected them in their last three games, all of which have been Premier League outings they’ve not come away from with the desired result.
It is a bad habit that must be nipped in the bud before it has an impact on future results with a vital run of fixtures coming up, starting with tomorrow evening’s Carabao Cup fourth round visit of Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham Hotspur to London Stadium. Today, we are going to analyse the habit, looking at how it has occurred over the past three matches and how the Hammers can fix it, join us.
The Bad Habit
The bad habit in question is one that has involved Pellegrini’s men missing a golden opportunity in or around second-half stoppage time for three games in succession, the last three. This has contributed to them losing two, drawing one and a one-off instance in Brighton becoming a habit.
By taking these guilt-edged late opportunities, which we are going to individually analyse a little later on, the East Londoners would have collected five points and not one point so far in the month of October. Spurning the chances has helped them to become the team to have thrown away the most Premier League points from winning positions, this season.
Brighton & Hove Albion
As aforementioned, it all began in Brighton at the start of the month at the American Express Community Stadium, when the Irons’ run of four matches unbeaten in all competitions came to an end with an agonising 1-0 defeat.
As the clock ticked towards injury time and the visitors still trailed by a single goal, Glenn Murray’s first-half effort on the south coast, club-record signing Felipe Anderson played a short ball into the penalty area for Robert Snodgrass. The below image, along with all the other images in this analysis, have been made possible by our good friends over at wyscout.com and their fantastic match highlights feature.
As we can see below, the Scottish International Snodgrass quickly shifted the ball onto substitute Lucas Perez who was in a much better position, in space on the left side of the box.
The terrific pass puts Perez in a wonderful position as he dribbles the ball whilst assessing his options, he could attempt a shot but his window of opportunity is closing and he has to settle for a pull-back into the path of star striker Marko Arnautovic. Below, the ball is halfway between the two players.
It arrives perfectly at Arnautovic’s feet and few would have bet against him converting a fifth league goal of the campaign from this range, even if he did have to use his weaker foot. If you did, you would have won some money as he sent the ball sailing over the crossbar and into the travelling Claret & Blue Army, beginning the costly habit.
15 days later and the other side of the October International break, West Ham found themselves in a similar position at home to bitter rivals Spurs, who they face in the League Cup this week. Cue another golden late opportunity missed, with Arnautovic at the forefront once again.
A goal down and just inside injury time this time, Declan Rice (far right of the picture) plays an excellent pass beyond Pochettino’s midfield and into the feet of the Austria and West Ham vice-captain, he flicks it skilfully in the direction of substitute Javier Hernandez.
As you can see from the below picture, Chicharito takes the ball in his stride and is immediately looking to return the favour for Arnautovic, spotting the fact that the Austrian reigning Hammer of the Year and club top-scorer is going to make a run in behind.
Cheekily nutmegging visiting defender Toby Alderweireld in the process, the pass is a superb one from the super sub, allowing Arnautovic to get on the end of the ball and steal a march on centre-back Davinson Sanchez.
In this case, when it comes to the finish, the No7 does nothing wrong, he doesn’t snap at it and sky it, he gets as close to Hugo Lloris as possible and tries to lift his shot over him. Unfortunately for the Hammers, they had caught the World Cup-winning captain on a good day in a poor term thus far for him and he was able to make a miraculous save, deflecting the ball out of danger, below is it on its way out.
A week into the future, we reach our third and final late moment of agony for the East London outfit in their first few months under Pellegrini, which arrived just three days ago in Saturday evening’s 1-1 draw with Leicester City at the King Power Stadium.
However, the third in the trio of painful misses came in entirely different circumstances, from a desperate counter-attack under a minute after the Foxes had equalised and shattered a lead held by the away side for the majority of the match. Below, we see substitute Michail Antonio latching onto the pass that started the move from goalscorer and defender Fabian Balbuena.
It’s interesting that a substitute was involved in creating each of these opportunities, displaying that Pellegrini’s substitutes have been a roaring success of late despite the lack of finishing touch. As we can see, Antonio beats his man in Daniel Amartey, the Leicester man tragically breaking his leg in the tussle, and has plenty of options nearby.
The one that he goes with is the obvious one, Snodgrass to his right, setting away the winger, who is already in front of Harry Maguire, but instead of looking for a pass to Antonio across the face of goal, is deciding to pick out another substitute. It’s ex-Italy International Angelo Ogbonna.
With plenty of space, only two fellow defenders in front of him and a teammate in every direction, the chance, even if he does decide to shoot, is undoubtedly the easiest of the three. While you could claim it was always going to fall to a defender as the Hammers had six on the pitch at this stage, they were incredibly unlucky it fell to the wrong man in Ogbonna for him to smash the ball into the stands and continue the habit that is yet to be stopped.
How To Nip It In The Bud
It’s all well and good comprehensively analysing the bad habit, how it started and how it has developed over October, but how are the club going to nip it in the bud ahead of an important run which only sees them face one ‘Big Six’ league opposition in two-and-a-half months?
The answer to this is simple, if Pellegrini and his staff have picked up on how much of a problem it’s becoming, they have to nail down on finishing in training for the whole team. These late misses would have meant nothing if the side had taken the chances they already were given in these three games, in the first place.
In conclusion, our statistical tactical analysis today has found that missing vital late chances has not only become a bad habit for Pellegrini’s men but is costing them so dearly in terms of points in the most competitive league in the world.
To be able to create and be given opportunities to score at a time where the opposition would have very little chance and time to reply, for three matches in a row, means that the footballing gods have been looking down fondly on West Ham. And to make a habit out of not taking them is inexcusable and something that must be nipped in the bud before it causes them more and more damage.