Premier League
Chelsea 3 West Ham United 0

Monday, 21st December 2020
by Chris Wilkerson

An early goal and a late capitulation saw West Ham soundly beaten by Chelsea 3-0 at Stamford Bridge this evening.

In a slow and balanced game, West Ham spent swathes of it controlling the ball, but a toothless attack and a lack of ambition eventually saw them punished. The score flattered Chelsea, a game they could claim marginal superiority in, but their sharper attack and a defence who enjoyed heading away a barrage of West Ham crosses gave them a comfortable win.


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David Moyes brought Fabian Balbuena back into the defence at the expense of Issa Diop, whilst the notable inclusion of Mark Noble provoked plenty of discussion about the captain's role in this squad.

A tentative start saw Chelsea in control, and they opened the scoring inside ten minutes. Both teams came into the game as the top scorers from set pieces this season and Chelsea showed why as a Mason Mount corner from the right was met by Thiago Silva and headed beyond Fabianski to score. Replays showed him drifting towards goal completely free and he was unchallenged as he powered it into the goal. It was the first goal the Hammers had conceded from a set-piece this season.

It was hard to see what West Ham had planned to do. Noble sat ahead of the midfield two, patrolling a space around Haller to put pressure on Chelsea's defenders playing from the back. It was ineffective, and not only were Chelsea comfortably bypassing him, they didn't find it particularly difficult to play against a deep and cautious West Ham defensive setup.

Rare moments of relief were often thwarted by Haller's lack of pace, with the forward finding that even if he did get behind the defence, he was easily caught. 16% possession in the opening 25 minutes for West Ham was a good sign of how poorly the side was functioning.

That 25-minute mark seemed to trigger some action from West Ham, and for all the questions about his selection, the more influential Noble was, the better the side played. Soon he was playing a touch deeper and Bowen, Fornals and Haller led the pressing. Their work-rate caused Chelsea problems and turned the game in the away side's favour. One moment of promise came from such work, retrieving possession turned into an attack that Soucek and Haller could not combine to force at goal.

Moments later, Bowen scored. Thiago Silva got himself under a ball over the defence and fell, Bowen pouncing on the chance and squeezing it past Mendy. Unfortunately for him, the referee had already blown for a perceived foul on Silva. Replays could show no touch on the defender by Bowen, so Chelsea can thank two poor decisions by the referee for their clean sheet: first he thought Bowen had fouled the defender; second he blew before Bowen could score, thus making it so that VAR could not intervene.


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But scrapping for possession and creating little openings was not enough to really threaten the Chelsea goal, whilst the home side always had the attacking prowess to keep West Ham worried. The counter-attack was dangerous, although West Ham can thank the increasingly floundering Timo Werner for remaining only one behind, the German forward hitting straight at Fabianski when one-on-one after a flick by Abraham and pass from Pulisic.

All-in-all Chelsea deserved their lead, whilst West Ham had recovered well to feel optimistic in the second half.

Early in the second half, West Ham started well. It was only ever a sliver of an opening, this time Haller getting up very well to meet a Cresswell cross but heading wide when he really should have done better.

It was the ugly parts of the game that West Ham were doing better, and they should look back at this game as a hugely wasted opportunity. The opening 20 minutes of the second half were all West Ham's, but they equally created so little that could constitute a chance.

With control of the game, Moyes kept his side the same. The possession and pressure was constant, but Chelsea were never worried. The game ended without Mendy being forced into a single save.

When Moyes did act, it was like-for-like, Benrahma introduced for Fornals. Noble had become quiet, and was starting for the first time since the opening day of the season, but remained on throughout. The attack were blunt, Chelsea allowing positions for Cresswell and Coufal to force in crosses which they dealt with mostly with ease. The substitution did little to change how West Ham played, and eventually Chelsea found themselves more comfortable and threatening once more going forward.


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Soon they were two goals ahead and Moyes and his side were punished for creating nothing with their control of the game.

Any edge to West Ham's play disappeared and Chelsea were allowed to flow forward. When Werner's shot from the left was blocked, the West Ham defence were standing still. Abraham wasn't, following the shot in and passing the rolling ball into the net as hands went up to ask for offside. The replays showed Cresswell about a metre behind his counterparts, keeping the striker onside for his first goal of the game.

His second came two minutes later.

A cross from the left was headed at goal from a few yards out, Fabianski saving and then knocked to the floor by the jumping Pulisic. The goalkeeper couldn't get back to his feet before Abraham hit the rebound into the back of the net and finished the game.

Many will point to the positives, a grip of some control on the game for about 40 minutes. But they didn't threaten the goal. Moves often failed at the feet of Haller, although the forward can point to poor service and being used as a head to hit from long clearances. Antonio's importance was underlined.

The manager's cautious streak was on display too, many will rightly question why his version of chasing the game was Noble and Rice playing deep and Soucek making runs from a midfield three, whilst keeping the captain on the field to keep his rigid shape and protect the defence. Moyes needs to take some blame for allowing the inevitable Chelsea goals late on, at least without really pushing to change what we were doing.

In the end, the scoreline flattered the hosts, but West Ham were punished by a more potent attacking side, a side who were allowed their poorer parts of the game. That the referee was so poor in decisive moments didn't help, but nor does it excuse what happened.


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Player Ratings

Lukasz Fabianski
Whilst probably escaping judgement on any of the goals, there were moments where he could have eased pressure and he made no notable saves either.


Vladimir Coufal
Comes out of the game with credit. Not only did he support Bowen excellently, as ever, but he was defensive solid once more and is by far the best full back at the club.


Aaron Cresswell
Effective going forward and it's harsh to criticise success rate of his crossing when there was often only one target to hit. Defensively poor, caught out for the goals, making mistakes it feels like he doesn't make when part of a back three.


Fabian Balbuena
Solid, unspectacular and reasonably solid.


Angelo Ogbonna
As above, really. Never particularly troubled, but will be disappointed to miss the header for the first goal.


Declan Rice
Couldn't say he did anything wrong, there were moments in the game where he shone, but it was definitely a quieter one for him and he seemed a little restricted by the spaces Noble took up.


Tomas Soucek
Fought well and was able to support both defence and attack. Nothing decisive and it did become difficult for him to cover the ground required.


Mark Noble
Criticism of his selection should not be taken as criticism of his performance. He played well in the patches that the side played well, and it felt like he took control to change the play in the first half and improved the side. But the second half did pass him by a bit, and introducing Benrahma in the role behind Haller would have helped turn a rather unimaginative attack into something more dangerous as the side controlled the ball.


Jarrod Bowen
Deserved a goal and threatened Chelsea, especially the way he runs from out to in with the ball. Of the front three, he is the one performing.


Pablo Fornals
A willing runner, as ever, and he did the job to protect Cresswell. He lacks pace out left and that is more obvious when Haller plays. But he drifts into dangerous pockets and links well, probably coming closest to scoring with a shot blocked as it looked to be going in.


Sebastien Haller
It was not for his lack of trying, but it appears to be that he is just a tall person to fire balls at, and especially hard for him to deliver when the majority of crosses have him standing alone in the box as a threat. He fought for the ball and won a lot of headers but offers nothing in behind the defence and can be contained by defenders who are willing to throw themselves at headers.



Substitutes

Said Benrahma
(Replaced Fornals, 67) Ineffective when brought on, poor on the ball (completing only 4 of 9 passes) and doesn't work as hard to protect his full back (a must in this side). Nothing since the Sheffield United game to show he needs to be starting.


Ryan Fredericks
(Replaced Bowen, 90) I don't know why this happened.


Darren Randolph
Did not play.


David Martin
Did not play.


Ben Johnson
Did not play.


Issa Diop
Did not play.


Craig Dawson
Did not play. Other unused subs: Robert Snodgrass, Andriy Yarmolenko.



Match Facts

West Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Vladimir Coufal, Aaron Cresswell, Fabian Balbuena, Angelo Ogbonna, Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek, Mark Noble, Jarrod Bowen, Pablo Fornals, Sebastien Haller.

Goals: None.

Booked: None.

Sent off: None.

Chelsea: Mendy, Azpilicueta, Zouma, Thiago Silva, Chilwell (Emerson 9), Kante, Jorginho (Kovacic 66), Mount, Pulisic (Havertz 84), Abraham, Werner.

Subs not used: Kepa, Rudiger, Christensen, Gilmour, Hudson-Odoi, Giroud.

Goals: Silva (10), Abraham (78, 80).

Booked: .

Sent off: None.

Referee: Chris Kavanagh.

Attendance: 0.

Man of the Match: Vladimir Coufal.