West Ham United 2-0 Wolverhampton Wanderers
Saturday, 1st October 2022
by Chris Wilkerson
West Ham United recorded their first home win of the Premier League season this evening, beating a poor Wolves side 2-0. The game was decided by a first Premier League goal for Gianluca Scamacca and a first league goal of the season for Jarrod Bowen.David Moyes, possibly feeling a little pressure after a poor result before the international break, made three changes, bringing in Cornet, Dawson and Scamacca for Fornals, Coufal and Antonio. It moved Kehrer to right back, where many will have seen him play well recently for Germany.
Many also hoped for a change of formation, notable differences to the system, but it appeared Moyes sent his team out in the trusted 4-2-3-1, with Soucek and Rice holding that midfield and continuing in there with the responsibility to get West Ham passing out from their own half.
What did appear to change was some of the intent. West Ham were far from scintillating, often sitting very deep and allowing Wolves to control possession and territory, but there were little glimpses of change in there. Soucek appeared to be free to roam down the channel and making surging runs up the right wing.
The Czech midfielder has faced heavy criticism in recent weeks from West Ham fans, some fair, some not, but his performance improved in all areas today. The energy levels kept him working hard up and down the pitch all game, the embodiment of a box-to-box midfielder.
While West Ham ended the game with a comfortable victory, they can thank the visitors for failing to punish any of the poorer elements of their display, of which there were many in the first half.
The neutral certainly won't have enjoyed much from the opening 45 minutes, with West Ham regularly camped deep inside their own final third, allowing Wolves to play in front of them. It can be effective, dragging teams forward and using the counter, but this was not a performance full of smart defensive play and moments to pounce.
Wolves made it through the West Ham defence too easily on too many occasions, but made poor choices with the ball. When they did make the right decision, the quality was nowhere to be found.
And The Hammers were far from calm defending these moments. It was only five minutes in when Kehrer lost his man in the area and flew across the ground with a leaping slide tackle to try block the shot he thought was coming in. It was quite the risk, and the tackle didn't even work. He was lucky Nunes's shot was abysmal.
The positives for West Ham were Bowen and Scamacca. The England international looked on it, reacting well to the disappointment of his international break, and helped his team progress up the pitch with good direct dribbling.
Scamacca was left isolated, with West Ham far too deep to make any use of him, but his play when he did get near the ball and into moves was very good, showing quality on the ball and a crispness to his play. Although the less said about a first-half freekick the better.
While Wolves had the territory, it was starting to become clear that they had neither the confidence nor quality at the time to make it count. It stayed that way throughout the game, and Bruno Lage must hope this is a lack of form due to injuries, rather than any malaise setting in.
Bowen's energy was starting to lift others around him, and West Ham finally started to spring some passes together. Good play from Rice and Kehrer set up and opening for Bowen, who shifted his body on the move to fool a defender before squeezing in a shot. Had Scamacca been on his toes, he might have had a tap-in from the rebound.
Just as we approached the half-hour-mark, both teams had dangerous crosses that the attackers should have done better with, but there was little in the way of goalmouth action.
But Bowen and Scamacca had started to threaten, and the Italian's class with the ball at his feet was starting to enable Bowen even more.
It was his lovely curled pass inside the Wolves half that got Bowen into the area for a decent opportunity. The winger got a shot away that he saw blocked, but the ball fell nicely to the edge of the Wolves area. There stood Scamacca, who had waited in space as Bowen tried to force a shot, and got his reward as the ball bounced nicely to him.
If he had earned that bit of luck, he would only get more as he took his shot on the bounce. Struck cleanly, the ball was arrowing at goal, but not into the corner. But it glanced off the head of a Wolves defender and diverted wide of Sa's desperate dive, smashing into the back of the net for the Italian's first Premier League goal, and to give West Ham a 1-0 lead, their first lead at home this season.
Minutes later, Cornet was forced off by a nasty little tackle when defending his own box, with Fornals introduced to take his place. The introduction of the Spaniard helped the passing improve, and whilst West Ham were far from good in the first half, there were signs of what could be. The odd attractive passing move that fell short of end product, the moments where the team clicked and it all worked well with Scamacca. What needs to come now is sustained improvement and consistency.
That wasn't in today's game, one in which West Ham went back to some Moyes basics, suffocating play, grinding it out and making the moments count. It was rarely pretty, and whilst some genuine moves did break out, it was a game focused on being effective, rather than in any way entertaining.
Wolves, on the other hand, were neither pretty nor effective. Even terroriser of West Ham minds Adama Traore couldn't inspire anything, other than a big tackle from Dawson in the first half, which the home fans enjoyed greatly.
It was West Ham who picked up momentum as the half went on, and they went in at half-time with a spring in their step. Wolves, lifeless as they had been, trudged down the tunnel with clouds above their heads.
But it was Wolves starting brighter again as the second half began, and Traore came close to levelling the scores after a cross was cleared only to the edge of the box, and the winger tried to pass in the bouncing effort. Fabianski was beaten, but it bounced just wide of the post.
The pattern looked set to continue, but West Ham had their goalscorers growing in confidence. After a strong first half performance, Bowen was not only motivated and determined, he was confident, too.
As West Ham built a nice passing move in the Wolves half, space opened up for Kehrer moving forward. From 25 yards out in a central position, the German international tried his luck.
The shot was poor and easily blocked, but the ball spat up and dropped to Bowen in the area. The use of his body as the ball came down was excellent, working the space and manoeuvring himself into a position so that when the ball dropped, he could take it down and shoot quickly. The Wolves defenders didn't react with him, and Bowen fired off a powerful low drive into the bottom corner that Sa had no chance of saving to give West Ham a 2-0 lead.
With 10 minutes gone in the second half, a lifeless Wolves had nothing to offer. Diego Costa was thrown on for his first appearance, but the away side never found any fluidity or form. In a quite ugly game, West Ham knew how to make the moments matter. Wolves did not, wasting much that they were offered. They had not been forced to be particularly good to get into these spaces, but they were far too low on quality and confidence to ever make any of them matter.
After a brief stoppage as Jarrod Bowen dislocated a finger - quite nastily, too - Costa did have a chance. For a man with limited football in recent times, he probably showed more in his 30-minute cameo than any other Wolves player. He came very close with a good header after Traore picked him out with a lovely cross, and then set up what could have been an equaliser, only for the Brazlian to have moved too soon, falling victim to the offside flag.
The only real entertainment for the remaining half hour was Michail Antonio, brought on around the hour-mark for Scamacca, who gave Moyes exactly what he would have wanted from a substitute performance. The striker was full of running and energy, winning long balls and becoming a much more physical presence for the Wolves defence to deal with. Scamacca has all the class, but Antonio is going to push the Italian every step of the way for that starting place.
He just couldn't quite get the goal his cameo deserved, failing on more than one occasion to beat his man in the penalty area after cutting in from the right onto his left foot. All he lacked was a little guile.
In the end, it was a comfortable win for West Ham. A good performance? Not really, but it didn't need to be. Wolves were awful, akin to a horse that pulls up because the rest of the field are just too good.
David Moyes and his side can move on, a result in their back pocket to help them find the extra gears they need to really get going. A first home league win of the season is sure to help.
David Moyes 7/10: A tricky one, with a comfortable win but a performance that didn't remedy too much. The changes all worked, and the team never looked like conceding once they took the lead. So, he gets the credit for making sure his side could counter Wolves, now he just needs to show that he can keep getting more out of them.
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Player RatingsLukasz Fabianski
Made a couple good saves from range, but was rarely bothered. Strong command of his area.
A couple moments that were less than stellar - boy does he commit to some big tackles in dangerous areas - but he was pretty good out on the right.
Kept his side secure and did his defensive work effectively. Didn't offer an attacking threat very often.
Wolves' lack of a real striker made it an easy day for the central defensive pair. Will be disappointed to have been so easily beaten when Costa headed just wide. Not sure bringing Dawson in helped the progression of the ball from defence at all, but he is a good defender to have if you're going to sit deep.
Quietly got through some work, a bit more than Dawson, and it feels somewhat a surprise after such an easy game to see he made eight clearances. Very secure.
Typically assured performance from Dec. Improved his forward passing, handled the midfield well and did his job. Nothing spectacular, and he can be disappointed in his yellow card which was a poor tackle.
Marauding about the pitch, Soucek added some life to a very flat West Ham team in the first half. He pushed down the right flank a good few times and made good choices with the ball. Kept away from the build-up a touch, you get the best of him. Focusing on those strengths and trying to hide his weaknesses is something the manager needs to recognise is on him, as much as the player.
Very hard to judge, on first viewing. This is one where I await what our tactical minds and analysts see from a second watch, because he seemed to be a part of some of our best passing moves, but still not quite in the spaces he operates best in.
This was last season's Jarrod Bowen. Full of energy, driving runs and a goalscoring threat, Bowen looked to really appreciate some of the class Scamacca added up top. But, really, he just looked fresher and motivated. Disappointment about his England place may benefit West Ham.
Skied a half-chance on the volley and then got injured. A shame for Cornet, who has earned his chance to impress.
An interesting contrast was offered when Antonio came on, and you can see the questions in Moyes's mind. Scamacca is clearly the more gifted technical footballer, and he was brilliant with the ball at his feet today. The goal was well taken, he'd been a nice part of our better moves and the pass to Bowen in the move for his goal was a delight.
(Replaced Cornet 34) Probably a change that would have happened anyway, in the long run, as Pablo's presence did help us control and pass the ball better. He wasn't in full flow, but he still makes the best forward passes and helps the team control the ball and use it so much better (and more interestingly).
(Replaced Scamacca 66) Following on from Scamacca, what Antonio did was come on and offer his strengths. Running, relentless energy, nuisance and physicality. He made the surging runs that Scamacca didn't, which opened up the spaces as Wolves tried to force something further forward. But a touch more class and composure were needed when opportunities opened up for him. A combination of both men would make the perfect striker.
(Replaced Paqueta 74) Another one who had a good cameo. Came on with direct running and used his pace well.
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Match FactsWest Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Thilo Kehrer, Aaron Cresswell, Craig Dawson, Kurt Zouma, Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek, Lucas Paqueta, Jarrod Bowen, Maxwel Cornet, Gianluca Scamacca.
Goals: Gianluca Scamacca 29 Jarrod Bowen 54 .
Booked: Declan Rice 51 Aaron Cresswell 83 .
Sent off: None.
Wolverhampton Wanderers: Sá, Semedo (B.Traoré 72), Jonny, Kilman, Aït-Nouri, Moutinho, Neves, Nunes (Campbell 72), Guedes (Costa 57), Neto (A.Traoré 24), Podence.
Subs not used: Sarkic, Mosquera, Toti, Ronan, Bueno.
Booked: Neves (14), Moutinho (21).
Sent off: None.
Referee: Paul Tierney.
Man of the Match: Tomas Soucek.