Burnley 0 West Ham United 0
Saturday, 11th December 2021
by Chris Wilkerson
With the drama of the Formula One peaking, West Ham and Burnley offered a dire alternative, playing out a drab 0-0 today at Turf Moor, surprisingly their first stalemate in 72 games against each other.The Hammers put in an attacking performance not unlike those against Southampton and Wolves, with little idea how to break down a packed and deep defence. With the bulk of possession and often camped in the Burnley half, Moyes and his side will feel this is two points dropped. Whilst they did not do enough to earn the three points, the chance was there to do so and their failures are why they haven't. Conversely, they defended well and that back four, shorn of three first choice players, should be praised for dealing with the unique threat of an away game at Burnley.
As Cresswell remained out of the squad, Masuaku started at left back with Diop and Dawson joined by Coufal. If there were games you would expect maybe Diop and Masuaku were not suited to, it would surely be Burnley away. To the credit of both men, their performances were exemplary and neither proved right any worries the more pessimistic of fans would have had before kick off. With numbers dwindling during a busy Christmas period, youngsters Alese, Baptise and Ashby made the bench.
The game was certainly not one for the neutrals. Were you there to watch anyone but Declan Rice then you will have seen little to entertain you, such was the performance once again of the elite midfielder. There is no better player than him in a midfield in this country and today, in a game of little spark or excitement, he still managed to sparkle.
In the first half, West Ham provided clever passing and pretty football to create space, but never much of an end product. Burnley tested on corners and little else, but The Hammers had moments to inspire the support, even if they rarely concluded with a shot or opportunity.
That was the frustration. The initial excitement at this attractive football soon became frustration as another nice passage of play came to nothing. Lanzini was sharp in the middle, playing forward well and always passing with the right tempo and weight for his target. Benrahma and Bowen floated dangerously, going in and out of moves to dart into space whilst Antonio held the forward line.
On the left, Masuaku was given a freedom to attack and showed himself as the players his supporters always claim he is. One run in the box came from wonderful dancing feet, whilst a volley from a dropping ball certainly caused worry and was unfortunate to drop wide.
The concern at the other end came from corners. The first two or three looked to be a worry for Fabianski, the physical battering rams of Burnley unsettling the goalkeeper. One flew past across the face of goal, another found Wood's head from close range, only for the New Zealand international to head over. The next the Pole got to, but only flapped loosely at. He was lucky to see it deflect off Wood's arm and behind goal.
All that being said, the early scares seemed only to harden him and the goalkeeper was quite exemplary for there on out. They are of little note to describe one by one, but Fabianski dealt with crosses and corners here on out with confidence and dominance, commanding his area and relieving the pressure of Burnley's only real attacking weapon.
For all the pretty play of West Ham's attack, it was a set-piece that offered their first real chance. From the right, Bowen curled in a flat cross and Diop turned it goalwards, only for Pope to be at his best to not only save, but punch his save away to safety too.
Moments later, Dawson was down in the box. West Ham screamed penalty, the referee waved it away. As VAR checked, replays clearly showed McNeil swinging a leg and taking down Dawson. But their advice backed the referee's decision, and that is a debate that will roar on. For some, Dawson is clearly taken down, and as such it is a penalty. For others, Dawson was jumping forward, not in any way in control of a ball that had already gone, and arguably initiated the contact. It certainly felt one that certain favoured clubs would get.
There was little else to talk about as the game got to half time at 0-0. West Ham were dominant but not dangerous; Burnley's aerial threat meant they were always in it.
It was from out wide that they had the first chance of the second half and their best of the game. A low cross from the right found Rodriguez eight yards from goal, the striker guiding it at goal but finding his effort blocked by diligent defending from Craig Dawson.
It was a reminder that Burnley could win this without ever really running the game.
West Ham responded well, mainly through the running of Rice. As Burnley sat deep, the best threat West Ham offered was consistently the driving runs of Rice. Picking the ball up with space to run into, his shift of pace was too much for a defence often standing and willing West Ham on to them. To their credit, each time they were able to stop that final pass from opening them up.
It was a game that will again open up a debate about the place of Benrahma in this West Ham side. Today he offered fuel for both sides of the argument. Of the front four, no one else caused Burnley the problems Benrahma did, none of the others really having the guile and fleet feet of Benrahma. Unfortunately, Benrahma's final ball was poor, and he created multiple openings for himself only to use the ball badly.
That has been a theme of his this season, a threat that defuses itself, but looking at what was offered elsewhere, it was a threat only he seemed to carry, Rice excluded. He had a header saved fantastically by Pope, the English goalkeeper the only player on the pitch who could compete with Rice for man of the match, and it was more excellent play by the England midfielder that presented Benrahma with the chance. Another drive into the area and a ball across goal, this one deflected up into the air. Benrahma did well to get force on the header, but Pope scurried from the left side of his goal and across to the right to make a fine save.
Not long after, Benrahma made a turn just inside the box that arguably none of his teammates would even be capable of. Into space, he looked up to see Antonio standing still and no option where he needed one, across goal. On this occasion, it was not the Algerian's fault that he found no teammate with the pass. Antonio's movement, or lack thereof, was appalling, holding a position it was almost impossible to find him in with a pass. He was unlucky too a few minutes later, heading a ball back into the six-yard box from near the touchline, recovering it well but with no-one waiting for the knock down.
Antonio is another who frustrated. In the first half, he had moment combining well with the supporting cast and turned defenders too. But as a striker, he did little to threaten goal and is starting to look again like a man playing up front rather than a natural frontman. It is to his detriment as well as the team's that there is no alternative, a man to share the load or offer more instinctive movement for the creative players to find.
It hurts the side, for Antonio was not playing well yet could not be replaced as they searched for a goal. It is unfair on the man himself too, for he ended today again dead on his feet. A replacement and some time to rest may offer the forward the chance to recover his energy and his best form.
The left side continued to threaten. Benrahma and Masuaku, mavericks if there ever were, combined well and appeared in-tune to the other's game. The left back's influence faded as Benrahma was replaced, although that could well have been the manager wary of the counter and keeping the left back a little more restrained.
Vlasic came on, as too did Fornals soon after, but replacing Benrahma and Lanzini did not equate to an improvement from Moyes's side. This was, however, arguably the best of Vlasic in a West Ham shirt, contributing a third of the side's key passes for the game in just a 20-minute cameo.
They huffed and puffed to find an opening, but the home side were resolute. In fact, as West Ham piled forward with more desperation, it was suddenly Burnley counters that looked most like breaking the deadlock. With just two minutes left, they thought one had given them their chance. Vydra was played into the area through on goal, but Rice was suddenly there to cover and ushered the forward into a poor touch and a loss of possession.
Moments later, Rice skimmed the top of the goal with a powerful effort from range. It was truly his game, if only those ahead of him could offer that winner for his reward. Burnley threatened again, a cross from the left this time, a fizzing low ball just beyond Rodriguez and then through the legs of Dawson, flying across the six-yard box.
And then it was West Ham, tired legs meaning a midfield was basically obsolete in an open finish. Bowen fired at the near post from the edge of the area, but whilst the shot was hit well, it would have been something quite spectacular to beat Nick Pope at his post from that range.
It looked certain to finish 0-0, but it only takes a second to score a goal. Once more, with seconds remaining, Rice darted to the box. He gave it to Vlasic, the Croatian turning under pressure and making space to lay off to Soucek. Right on the edge of the box, the midfielder had time and space to shoot, but with a battling game in his legs, the Czech powerhouse was leaning back and blasted over.
It was the last kick of a wearying game, the kind that steals energy from winter legs in this unforgiving schedule. Come out with a win and maybe the effort doesn't take its toll.
Instead it was a flat 0-0, leaving three days to recover for the trip to Arsenal on Wednesday. You can call it a top-four six-pointer, West Ham coming into it with the likes of Bowen and Antonio barely crawling over the line at the end of this, whilst Arsenal cruised to a 3-0 win over Southampton.
Moyes can be cheered by the defence adapting to the difficult task of replacing first-teamers and finding rhythm together. As well as that, Vlasic showed in this performance that there is an option there, a badly needed one with Benrahma inconsistent, whilst Bowen and Antonio struggle to fire across 90 minutes. Lanzini was sharp on the ball too, all credit to the Argentine for getting his place back in this team and showing that the injuries of years gone by have not put an end to his first team career at West Ham.
Others questions need to be answered too, some that will only come with a transfer window, and others how the squad is managed over this tricky period. Wednesday is a big game, huge if the fight for a top four finish is truly realistic.
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Player RatingsLukasz Fabianski
A bit shaky to start with, although it must be said his side did not protect him particularly well, but he recovered excellently and stamped out the Burnley threat from corners and high crosses. Actively commanded his box and did it excellently.
Defensively solid and his attacking work down the right is much more appreciated since it was missing. He is always an option and that helps the side use the ball far more effectively.
Defensively very sharp, reacting quickly to loose balls and tackling with strength. On the front foot, Masuaku added a layer to the attack and the forward play looked poorer when the left back stayed back and protected the defence more.
Will feel he did his job today, one notable block aside it was done how you want it done too. The best performances mean the centre backs don't have to be good, so he can be pleased that he wasn't needed at his best today.
The point above about defenders not being noticed is an even bigger positive today for Diop as people would have been sharply watching him, many expecting the worst. Hopefully, those same people will praise the defender who was sharp today and showed no weaknesses that Burnley could look to exploit.
Rice was magnificent today. The best defensive contributions, the best attacking contributions. He's gliding through defences, nearly picking out top corners, covering round the back when they're through on goal, making interceptions to stop counter attacks. Not far off the final ball that wins the game today and really the only man who looked like he could. There isn't a midfielder in the league that can compare.
His work this year does not catch the eye, but the value of him today should not be left underappreciated. Won 7 headers, more than any player on the pitch, and held his position well to allow Rice to maraud forward. Is showing himself as a very good defensive midfielder this year, especially getting stuck into battles well.
Some will be harsher, but at least Benrahma was causing issues. His final ball was lacking, but you might well argue that the chaos he caused was bothering Burnley, and that eventually he would get it right. When he went off, some of that threat went from the team, and others were tired where Benrahma seemed still sharp. He is going to frustrate, but the bits of magic in his feet are a unique trait in a sometimes workmanlike team.
Ran out of steam, but was very good in tight spaces and moving the side forward. Ran with the ball centrally better than Benrahma has been for a good few months, and is a very good progressive passer from deeper in midfield. With Lanzini in the side, there is much more quick passing and movement, sharp and short passages of play to open up difficult spaces. Deserves to keep his place.
Looked bright again and it also looked like the link with Lanzini helped Bowen to play. Delivered a great ball for Diop and was the most dangerous passer in the team. By the end, he was out of gas but had to be kept on as the search for a goal was desperate.
Worked hard - and those saying he didn't are throwing lazy criticisms - but also looked to do too much in areas where he couldn't be dangerous. Needs to work on making runs into better areas, and maybe focusing on his simple central role when tired or things aren't working. Had he made the right run when Benrahma made it into the box, this could have been a 1-0.
(Replaced Benrahma, 69) Maybe his best performance for the club, especially in the Premier League, getting involved and looking dangerous. Presented Soucek with a wonderful chance, looked smart on the ball and threatened dribbling too.
(Replaced Lanzini, 80) Tough for Fornals, coming into a game that was floundering with tired forward options.
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Match FactsWest Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Vladimir Coufal, Arthur Masuaku, Craig Dawson, Issa Diop, Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek, Said Benrahma, Manuel Lanzini, Jarrod Bowen, Michail Antonio.
Booked: Craig Dawson 90 .
Sent off: None.
Burnley: Pope, Lowton, Mee, Tarkowski, Taylor, McNeil (Lennon 88), Westwood (Brownhill 70), Cork, Gudmundsson, Wood (Vydra 60), Rodriguez.
Subs not used: Hennessey, Pieters, Bardsley, Long, Collins, Thomas.
Booked: Taylor (33), Mee (45+3).
Sent off: None.
Referee: Graham Scott.
Man of the Match: Declan Rice.