WEST HAM survived a tricky tie in Kent to go into the hat for the FA Cup Fourth Round draw thanks to a second half strikes from substitute Pablo Zabaleta and a late second from Pablo Fornals. Here are five things we learned.
Either or both of manager David Moyes and Chairman David Sullivan want to “give it a go” in the FA Cup.
The side picked by Moyes was pretty much the best available to the Scot with only Pablo Fornals of recent starters on the bench. Aaron Cresswell and Mark Noble both missed out with injury.
Such ambition can come at a cost however and the Third Round tie was the fourth game for the Irons in just 11 days. Under such circumstances the chance of injury rapidly increases and Ryan Fredericks’ hamstring gave out five minutes before half-time.
A back three might well be Moyes’ favoured formation.
For the game at the the Priestfield Moyes picked all three centre-backs Issa Diop, Fabien Balbuena and Angelo Ogbonna. During his previous spell at the London Stadium the former Everton and Manchester United boss chose a similar structure, figuring the Hammers squad were weak defensively in wide positions.
Ryan Fredericks and Arthur Masuaku started at wingback with Robert Snodgrass and Declan Rice in the middle. Up front was Sebastien Haller supported by Felipe Anderson and Manuel Lanzini for what might best described as a 3-4-2-1 set up.
West Ham should make a central midfielder their priority in the January transfer window.
Whether it’s three or four at the back the boys in claret and blue are desperately short of quality and legs in the middle of the park. Declan Rice does a great job sitting in front of the back line but alongside him neither Snodgrass, Noble nor the woeful Carlos Sanchez are up to the job.
A replacement needs to have pace and a willingness to run, pass and tackle. This is hardly a new observation but when a League One side are exposing a top level club in that area something is badly amiss. Captain Noble is too old to be indispensable.
Felipe Anderson is not a player for a relegation fight.
The Brazilian’s performance in the cup was frankly, disgraceful. Sulky, lacking in commitment and with awful body language his game went from bad to worse. His defensive contribution has never been what it should but he needs to learn how to provide nuisance value.
He did improve along with the rest of the side for the second half and assists for both goals were very welcome. But the argument will continue to rage as to whether they are enough to justify a lack of the full commitment required over 90 minutes.
West Ham were rattled by Gillingham’s approach and pitch.
Aided and abetted by referee Andrew Madley (Brother of Bobby, wouldn’t you know) who appeared ignorant to what was going on in front of him the home side pulled, pushed, shirt-pulled and generally shithoused their way through the game.
The playing surface was (probably deliberately) really poor. As ever, the Hammers played the part of mugs perfectly. Good teams should find a way to cope with such tactics. Not every pitch is up to the standard of the London Stadium.