Fans' Opinion

The Good Run Continues, But Are We Missing Our Star Man?

Author: . Published: at 9:42pm

Written by: Angus Waters

Hammers fans go into the international break inspired by results against some of the top sides in the Premier League thus-far. After seeing off Wolves and current league-leaders Leicester, draws against City and Spurs meant a far greater points tally than expected. After narrowly falling to Liverpool at Anfield, a late Tomas Soucek winner on Saturday continues our good run.

Despite this, performances over the last two gameweeks have seemed slightly more mundane. At Anfield, we struggled in parts and allowed Liverpool to put the ball in the back of the net twice in the last 15 minutes with only VAR coming to the rescue before Diogo Jota ruined our hopes of a point on Mersyside. The first 10 minutes against Fulham were very positive, and we were unlucky not to score on several occasions, however we allowed them to work their way into the game, with Lookman’s pace causing havoc. They pressed us into our own box after the goal, nearly resulting in a last-minute equaliser, something David Moyes was furious with after the game. Perhaps most concerning, however, was that despite majority of the possession, our chances were limited for 70 minutes. Having perhaps stolen two points considering the penalty miss, why have our performances dropped off slightly?

The last few games have highlighted why we thought we’d miss Antonio so much. Haller has been far less involved and provides an easier task for a Premier League defence to manage, due to his lack of raw pace. He’s appeared isolated as many expected, and playing him as a like-for-like replacement for Antonio should no longer be considered as a best option. The most successful goalscorers in recent Premier League history are ones that can leave their men in the dust. Vardy, Aubameyang, Son and Wilson are a few good examples of this. There are definitely exceptions to this rule though, Harry Kane being one of them. The reason he’s able to succeed is due heavily to the ball carrying midfielders Tottenham have. This is why, if Antonio isn’t fit after the break, Benrahma has to be considered ahead of Fornals.

Fornals is a quick passer and doesn’t spend a lot of the time with the ball at his feet, slowing down our build up play. This means that defences are usually able to keep Haller at bay, and passes to him usually come from a distance, meaning instead of getting a shot off, he’s trying to nod the ball on. In a player like Benrahma however, you get a quick and agile dribbler, known for keeping the ball close to his feet when he can and driving at defenders. He’d try to play the ball forward, and if there isn’t an option available, he’ll back himself to go the whole way. Defenders have to keep an eye on him at all times, and he’s able to drive closer to the box giving Haller a better chance of taking a shot should he receive the ball. The reason Fornals and Antonio work well together is because you can afford to give the ball to Antonio further from goal due to his pace. You simply can’t do this with Haller. Antonio is a chance for the Sheffield game, so it’s just a waiting game to see if Moyes gives Haller another shot.