The Men of The Match
Author: Emily Pulham. Published: 7 February 2019 at 12:00pm
Written by: @ConorCulver
Following West Ham’s hard-earned draw against Liverpool on Monday, Michail Antonio was awarded fans’ Man of the Match. In truth, all eleven players could have won it but there were four standouts: Antonio, Fredericks, Anderson and Rice – and every single one of them could have won it.
First, let’s start with Antonio. His goal is obviously his biggest claim to the award and what a goal it was. Not even the £67m rated Allisson could get near it; it really was a great finish and a testament to how hard Antonio has clearly worked on the training ground – his improvement this year is great to see. He was also important defensively, tracking the runs of the fullbacks which, against Liverpool, is vital if you want a result. He looked scary going forward and had the better of Robertson for most of the night, but his lack of creation is no knock considering his opposition.
Next, Ryan Fredericks. Not having played a minute of Premier League football since mid-November makes his performance all the more impressive. He matched Mane, one of the league’s quickest players, stride for stride and rarely put a foot wrong. The goal was scored through no fault of his own, however his lack of impact, compared to the other candidates kept him further away from the Man of the Match accolade – although it is nice to know that when Zabaleta decides to leave or retire we are in safe hands.
Third is Brazilian Felipe Anderson’s case. He loves the big games – playing on the break and running at defenders is what he thrives on, especially when those defenders are 33-year-old midfielders. Anderson, like Antonio, also worked hard defensively and this was key considering he was helping out Cresswell on Salah and so the doubling up made Cresswell’s life a whole lot easier. When we had the ball is when his effect was most felt. Knowing that he had the constant beating of Milner, he drew another member of the midfield in (often Lallana) to do to Anderson what Anderson was doing to Salah. This opened more space in the middle and was part of the reason the game was so open. Anderson’s biggest impact came from set-pieces. He put in some delightful crosses and obviously assisted Antonio’s goal while putting another opportunity on a plate for Rice. His chance creation could easily have given us all three points.
They’ve all put in strong performances, but Declan Rice really did deliver a Man of the Match performance with 13 recoveries, 8 tackles and 2 interceptions. The reason he didn’t win it from the fans this week is because we expect this. We see that week in week out he puts in stellar performances by breaking up counter-attacks and winning most ground duels.
The fact we expect this from a 20-year-old is a testament to how good he is and, in reality, he is our MOTM the majority of weeks. What’s most impressive is his improvement from his first game of the season against Liverpool where he looked lost. His discipline for a 20-year-old is superb. When Salah broke into the box with Rice out of position and behind him, he didn’t try and make a tackle – knowing that Salah would drop as soon as he felt contact. It’s the little things like that that make him as good as he is. Yes, he did miss a massive chance that he probably should have scored. But we really shouldn’t be relying on our 20-year-old holding midfielder to score game winning goals for us.
His discipline, composure and all-round impact defensively is why Declan should have been MOTM in that game.