Premier League
West Ham United 0 Wolverhampton Wanderers  2

Saturday, 20th June 2020
by Chris Wilkerson

West Ham returned to Premier League football after the pandemic-enforced break with the kind of insipid display that had been all too common before it.

A dull and uneventful game was settled by two second half Wolves goals, giving the visitors another win at the London Stadium.

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With Haller, Snodgrass and Ogbonna out with minor injuries, Declan Rice was pulled into the defence, Felipe Anderson returned to the starting line up and Michail Antonio led the line alone.

There was nothing really to suggest the break or mini pre-season had given the team a chance to learn anything or try anything new.

Instead, the same balls were floated around the back with hope that Antonio might make something.

The build up was slow, the passing unambiguous and lacking any creativity, the team favouring steady organisation over any hint of ambition.

Without Haller to play off, Antonio was a lone figure. Not Bowen, Fornals or Anderson really got alongside him, although the speed of play was so slow that there was rarely a run made at all.

The first half went with little happening. Wolves controlled the ball, seemingly at West Ham?EUR(TM)s behest.

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Once, the chip over the Wolves defence worked. Noble dinked one over as Fornals broke the line. A bouncing ball dropped nicely in the area, but the Spaniard blazed over. You?EUR(TM)d be lucky to find anything else that West Ham actually did.

Realistically, every West Ham fan has seen this game before. Lethargic build up, a deep defence, eventually punished.

The second half followed the expected pattern. Nothing changed. A meandering side were allowed to meander, a passive manager remained passive.

Anyone who had missed the game was slowly being punished for such optimism.

Time ticked away, both sets of fans waiting for the introduction of Adama Traore. Surely his pace would be impactful in such a slow game with tired players?

And as West Ham drifted through the game, creating nothing, the introduction of Wolves?EUR(TM)s flying front man took the game away from them.

Having threatened once or twice already, one of his runs did the damage. With less than 20 minutes remaining, a straight run down the right was followed by an inch perfect cross to the back post. Jimenez had got a step on Diop and headed easily into the bottom corner from inside the six-yard box.

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It was pretty much the punishment they deserved for setting up and accepting a 0-0.

Rice headed a corner directly at the goalkeeper a few minutes later, the only corner that worked in a game of horribly bad corners, and then Yarmolenko and Fredericks came on.

It wasn?EUR(TM)t anything that improved the side, the only glimpse of fight coming from a Antonio shot from distance that at least took some skill to produce. It was only a minute later that Wolves wrapped up the points.

This time Matt Doherty was able to cross from the right to the back post. Fredericks got attracted to the ball, but it then floated over his head and was volleyed in emphatically by Pedro Neto.

And that was that. It had been a slow and comfortable game for Wolves, who have now won all four of their games against us since promotion, without conceding.

The team can say they were organised, but what credit organisation when you make and create almost nothing? It is certainly easier to look solid if you never push forward to be threatening.

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It was so bad, they were lucky not to be booed off even without fans.

As pretty much all the teams around West Ham found a point or more, this was a stark reminder of the trouble this team will have to avoid relegation.

Welcome back, West Ham. Time is running out.

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Player Ratings

Lukasz Fabianski
Did what he could reasonably well. Couldn?EUR(TM)t stop the goals.

Jeremy Ngakia
Made some poor passes in the first half, but was solid defensively, recovering well if Jota got behind.

Aaron Cresswell
It?EUR(TM)s hard to criticise his defending for the goals as he?EUR(TM)s nowhere near as fast as Traore. But with two goals down his side and some poor crossing, Cresswell didn?EUR(TM)t have a good game.

Issa Diop
Not overly concerned for most of the game, but lost Jimenez by a step and was punished.

Declan Rice
Comfortable in the centre of defence. Hard to see he did anything wrong, hard to really think of much he did at all, which isn?EUR(TM)t bad as it shows a level of control.

Mark Noble
Always offered for the ball and was making space constantly, unsurprisingly having the most touches of a West Ham player.

Tomas Soucek
Whilst he made a couple good tackles and interceptions, he was reasonably anonymous and it came to a point where he looked like he might have been selected only for defending set pieces.

Pablo Fornals
Worked hard, as he does, but wasted a good chance and was creatively blunt.

Felipe Anderson
To his credit, he was maybe the only player to show a touch of skill and look up for attacking passes. But he drifted and was easily stopped. Without anyone running forward, he basically become pointless.

Jarrod Bowen
Pretty anonymous. Up and down the flank most of the game but ineffective.

Michail Antonio
Ineffective as an attacking force, although that?EUR(TM)s as much the system as anything else. Passes were just drifted up for him to make something of, not because they were aimed or creating anything.


Manuel Lanzini
(Replaced Anderson) Thrown into a dead team, he couldn?EUR(TM)t lift them. One shot that amounted to nothing.

Andriy Yarmolenko
(Replaced Fornals) Barely noticed.

Ryan Fredericks
(Replaced Ngakia) Involved once, missing the ball for the second goal.

Darren Randolph
Did not play.

Fabian Balbuena
Did not play.

Ben Johnson
Did not play.

Jack Wilshere
Did not play. (Other unused subs: Xande Silva, Albian Ajeti)

Match Facts

West Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Jeremy Ngakia, Aaron Cresswell, Issa Diop, Declan Rice, Mark Noble, Tomas Soucek, Pablo Fornals, Felipe Anderson, Jarrod Bowen, Michail Antonio.

Goals: None.

Booked: Michail Antonio 0          .

Sent off: None.

Wolverhampton Wanderers : Patricio, Boly, Coady (c), Saiss, Doherty, Neves, Dendoncker, Moutinho, Jonny (Traore 64), Diogo Jota (Neto 64), Jimenez.

Subs not used: Ruddy, Jordao,Vinagre, Kilman, Buur, Gibbs-White, Podence.

Goals: Jimenez (73), Neto (84).

Booked: Moutinho.

Sent off: None.

Referee: Anthony Taylor.

Attendance: 0.

Man of the Match: Tomas Soucek.