Manuel Pellegrini’s West Ham United bounced back from last weekend’s Anfield humiliation in the worst possible fashion on Saturday, losing 1-2 to Eddie Howe’s AFC Bournemouth in the Premier League at London Stadium, today, we look back at five of the entertaining game’s Massive Moments.
With an hour to go until kick-off in East London, our first Massive Moment occurred, the starting Xl Pellegrini had named for his first home game in charge of West Ham was revealed, and it included three changes from last Sunday’s PL opener.
Coming into the side was veteran Argentine Pablo Zabaleta, Scottish winger Robert Snodgrass and Mexico striker Javier Hernandez, they replaced new signing Ryan Fredericks, youngster Declan Rice and 2016/2017 Hammer of the Year, Michail Antonio, all three were harshly dropped from the entire matchday squad.
These decisions were, to put it mildly, surprising and led to a complete change of formation from the ex-Manchester City boss, something we didn’t expect to see so early in his spell.
As for the players that came in, they hardly set London Stadium alight, leading many to ponder, if the original stars had been left in the team from last Sunday, would the result have been better?
Zabaleta, Snodgrass and Chicharito all worked hard and in spells, impressed, the latter of the three winning the penalty for West Ham to opening the scoring in the 33rd minute, but should Fredricks, Rice and Antonio been given another chance against weaker opposition?
West Ham’s Opener
On the day in East London, Howe’s Cherries made the better start, dominating the first ten minutes, however, after that, it was all one-way traffic in the favour of the home side.
Having threatened for the best part of 15 minutes but failed to conjure up a goal, the Irons finally struck first blood just after the half-hour mark, last season’s top-scorer and Hammer of the Year Marko Arnautovic opening his account from the penalty spot.
This came after Nathan Ake brought Hernandez down in the area as the Mexican looked to pick his spot past Asmir Begovic, his Austrian teammate being given the nod to step up, at the expense of usual penalty-taker, captain Mark Noble.
When the ball hit the back of the net, things were looking very bright for Pellegrini’s men, they would hold onto that lead and head for the changing rooms at half-time with it, knowing that they could have and probably should have had more.
What followed, few could expect, a complete collapse, reminiscent of either the Slaven Bilic or David Moyes era at London Stadium, but regardless of the second-half calamity ahead, one of the few positives to take away from that match forms our second Massive Moment.
The Cherries’ Levellers
Like they had the first period, the side from the South Coast enjoyed a bright start to the second and could have been level within the first few minutes, had summer signing David Brooks taken a big chance.
After this, AFC continued to enjoy the better of the play and you could easily argue that their 60th-minute leveller had been on the cards for a while, although it was the manner of the goal that would have frustrated the Claret & Blue Army the most.
Callum Wilson, who has now notched in five successive appearances against the East Londoners, picked up the ball in midfield and was able to dribble past four players in Claret & Blue, Noble, Fabian Balbuena, Zabaleta and Angelo Ogbonna, before sliding the ball underneath Lukasz Fabianski.
This qualifies as one of our Massive Moments for countless reasons, one being the fact that it was the breakthrough that the away outfit had been searching for and probably deserved, making the scoreline 1-1.
Another being the fact that it was the trigger for a real loss of momentum, fight and spirit from Pellegrini’s players, nothing short of a total collapse, the heads dropped and the confidence evaporated, it could only ever result in one thing, from here on out.
Cook’s Second-Half Winner
Once Wilson had equalised for the Cherries, the floodgates of the Hammers had well and truly opened and with them, a real opportunity for Howe’s plucky team to go forth and win the game.
It was one that they were able to seize with both hands, taking the lead just six minutes later from a well-worked set-piece, thus netting the final strike of the, at times, pulsating clash.
After Ogbonna had fouled Brooks on the right side of the penalty area and got himself booked in the process, it would turn out to be a double whammy for the Italian defender.
Not only did he give away the free-kick, he also lost his marker Steve Cook in the box, allowing the centre-back to head into the ground and consequently, the roof of the net past Fabianski, clinching a second three points on the spin for Bournemouth.
This Massive Moment really knocked the stuffing out of an already-defeated West Ham team, if it didn’t already look like they had rolled over, they certainly had now and in many ways, were fortunate that the score remained at just 1-2.
Pellegrini’s Late Tactical Decisions
The way that Pellegrini responded to the Cherries raking the lead with under 25 minutes remaining in Stratford, was always going to be key, and as was evident, his substitutes and tactical changes didn’t exactly go to plan.
The most glaring error that the South American made was to substitute Hernandez off in the seconds following Cook’s header, a mistake that’s roots started before kick-off.
It is well-documented that Mexico’s all-time leading goalscorer is better deployed as an impact ‘sub, the perfect player to bring on in this kind of situation, not to take off, when your team needs a goal, he is the man that you look to.
His replacement Andriy Yarmolenko, making his second cameo in a row, was one of the better players on the pitch after his introduction but still couldn’t impact the encounter in any major way, other than a few threatening crosses that came to nothing.
The other two players to make their way onto the field were Deadline Day arrivals Carlos Sanchez and Lucas Perez, taking the places of Noble and Snodgrass, the story was very much the same for them, there is little doubting that players Pellegrini left out of his squad could have been valuable to him in this Massive Moment.
So, now that we’ve analysed each of our five Massive Moments from yet another afternoon to forget if you’re a West Ham fan, will we be looking back over some slightly more positives moments come this time next week, once Pellegrini’s men have paid a new-look Arsenal under Unai Emery a visit at the Emirates Stadium?