West Ham United 0 Leicester City 2
Saturday, 12th November 2022
by Chris Wilkerson
West Ham followed their League Cup exit at home to Blackburn with a 2-0 defeat to Leicester at the London Stadium this afternoon, heaping more pressure on David Moyes as his West Ham side break for the World Cup.With no competitive football for the club until Boxing Day's trip to The Emirates, West Ham now have to get hard at work to find a solution, and make a decision as to whether that will be led by David Moyes or another manager.
Defeat leaves The Hammers in 16th place after 15 games, accruing only 14 points. They remain out of the bottom three by a point, and have won league win in their last five. Maybe more importantly, they've lost the other four.
What was different to most recent performances was the intent and the performance, both of which were much improved and West Ham can genuinely say they deserved a point from that game.
They were let down by poor composure in the final third, with poor finishing shining above all things as the biggest ill of the day. Paqueta, in particular, wasted decent chances, although it is also fair to say the home side struggled to really create anything clear-cut. There were openings, there were moments, but there were very few chances that absolutely should have been put away.
Leicester, on the other hand, created three or four, and scored two of them. They will feel very justified after recent seasons of dominating the ball against this West Ham team and losing to goals on the counter. Today, they were what West Ham once had been, but it seems this West Ham side is now stuck between what they were and what they feel they need to become, failing at both as they flounder.
The early signs were good, testing goal quickly and looking more positive than they have been, happy to carry the threat high up the pitch and take a few more risks defending in those forward areas, looking for the turnovers that have proven so successful against Leicester in recent seasons.
The pressing structure looked a little different, with Scamacca dropping right often and Bowen doing the harder work in the middle. If it wasn't that, West Ham seemed to revert to a 4-4-2 to defend in high areas, with Paqueta pushing up alongside the striker.
The somewhat bright start was soon forgotten when slack, sloppy defending returned. Leicester scored inside 10 minutes without really having to be good, although a sublime and subtle touch in the move really underlined why you take a player like Maddison to a World Cup.
Leicester caught West Ham napping twice on the counter in the game, to devastating effect. This one was less of a desperate breakaway than the second, but Leicester still pounced fast.
Maddison was central to it, rolling a little flick with the outside of his boot to open up the middle of the park and give Leicester the space to flow into.
And they did, with good and direct play down the left leading to Dewsbury-Hall squaring to Daka inside the box. Whether it was a shot or a pass, the forward sliced what he tried, but sliced it into the path of Maddison, who had arrived late, and free, to smash into the roof of the net and cap off a great week for him. The midfielder was later substituted with an injury, but thankfully that has been described as "precaution."
Five minutes after the goal, off went Zouma, injured innocuously in the warm-up and unable to complete the match. It gave Aguerd his first taste of Premier League football.
Any wind in the West Ham sails had been taken away by the goal. When Rice went down momentarily, he left a hole in the middle of the park that allowed Amartey to wade through from his own half and get to the edge of the box before forcing a good save from Fabianski. That ethereal ?EUR~something' that isn't right just seemed to be lingering again, but this time heads did not go down.
It is to the players' and management's credit that the home side found another gear, found more motivation. As soon as a glimpse of it came, the crowd were up with them. A little dazzling shine of Benrahma on the wing helped. The Algerian, whether you understand the fuss or not, has the skills to bring fans off their seats.
A little dancing movement down the left opened space in the middle, and he laid off to dart into the area. Paqueta found Soucek, who fed Benrahma in the box. He span and fired in a good effort that was well saved from close range by Ward in the Leicester goal.
It was a spark that lifted those in claret and blue, in the stands and on the pitch. It came just before the half hour mark, and West Ham rarely let their control slip for the rest of the match. The problem is that when they did, it was catastrophic.
Paqueta started to get more involved and West Ham made the ball their own. The Brazilian has improved with time for the club, but there is something missing still. Whether it's a glorious moment or a change in the manager's demands, there is something holding the record-signing back.
He missed multiple chances in the first half, a half-volley in the middle of the box the most frustrating, even if it fell to his weaker foot. With a little time and space in the area, better is expected of a player of such quality.
He headed wide from a Cresswell cross moments later in a good position and it does lead to questions about whether this 10 role, so advanced, is really where he best shines. Whilst his passing in tight areas can be good, and he's a creative footballer, he looks better getting involved deeper, and he does not look much good in front of goal.
In the end, his best effort was a hopeful flick from a (poor) Cresswell freekick, and one that Ward did well to get across and save.
With all that pressure, a lot of positivity amongst it, you're waiting for those catastrophic moments, aren't you? They always come, especially this season, and when they do, they often seem so avoidable.
This time, Dawson was easily beaten by a pass into space behind him and Daka got onto the ball in the box. He was ahead of Dawson, but at a tight angle, and turned inside to find space to shoot.
Dawson had no time for that, sliding in right onto Daka's leading foot, crashing into him first and then kicking the ball after. It was a clear penalty, and although the referee played on, it was not too long until he was sent to his little screen to be told what he'd missed. The hand signal went up, he pointed to the spot, and up stepped Youri Tielemans.
The delay may have played a factor, but the Belgian's penalty was not far enough into the corner, and Fabianski flew to his right to save it. It was his 11th penalty save in the Premier League, moving him up to third in the all-time Premier League charts. He had saved Dawson's blushes, the defender caught by the pass, only to then make the wrong decision and make the tackle, and make it badly.
It was the last action of real note in the half, but a goal at that moment really could have killed off West Ham. Instead, they were lifted further by their goalkeeper's heroics and came back out for the second half with confidence. If only it could have brought the ability to go with it.
Again there were chances. Every lovely bit of football seemed to be finished with a bad choice or bad shot. A smart bit of play from Rice to find Paqueta just inside the box on the right was turned into a lovely volleyed pass across goal from the Brazilian, but Jarrod Bowen hit nothing but air as he looked to fire in a shot at the near post.
Leicester were penned in, The Hammers pressing well. Soon, Rice missed a golden chance from a corner, meeting his header in the six-yard box. He should have scored.
The fine margins were mattering again. Now it was Kehrer charging down the right, found once again by Rice, but his low cross between goalkeeper and defence was just too far ahead of Scamacca.
Rodgers made changes, a lot of changes, in an attempt to find energy and a grip on the game. Ndidi and Vardy were just two of a raft of changes, and now there really was little else in their plans than to defend and counter when gifted the opportunity.
A slip from Bowen gave them one such chance, but Barnes's shot from an angle was saved well.
With 15 minutes to play, the manager turned to his bench. Off went Soucek and on came Fornals, and we were lucky this time not to hear any of the sarcastic cheers and jeers of the week before.
What happened next does not change the decision the manager made. With 15 minutes to go, on top at home but not creating the chances required, bringing on a player like Fornals for a player like Soucek is a perfectly reasonable substitution. It was one fans have called for.
But Fornals came on with a little too much eagerness and a little too little composure. It was his cross-field ball that was intercepted in the Leicester half and saw the visitors break,
One quick pass and it was into Ayoze Perez, another off the bench, who moved from the left flank and into the middle with the ball, before reversing it back to the left and into the path of Barnes.
The winger beat any defender to the ball and, just before reaching the area, tucked it under an on-rushing Fabianski to settle the contest with just over 10 minutes remaining.
The Hammers were dejected, the crowd emptied, and the game may as well have ended there. Boos rang out when it did, although stifled by the vast empty spaces in the stands.
If you're looking for good news, West Ham do not play again until Boxing Day. In that break, football has been whored out to Qatar for a month, so you might prefer to reflect more deeply on West Ham's struggles than any other serious footballing matter. A real collection of choices.
Manager's RatingDavid Moyes 6/10
Hard to know how to judge him, here. The team he put out was the better of the two, but it made sloppy errors and couldn't come close to scoring. Slow with the sub, but then his fears were realised as Leicester broke into a Soucek-sized hole. Frustrating that he had no ideas at 2-0, when defeat is probably certain with 10 minutes left. May as well try something bold, or a new piece.
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Player RatingsLukasz Fabianski
Made some crucial saves, even without the penalty stop. Would be a 9/10, but his decision to rush out to Barnes made the scorer's decision easier.
Kehrer is a really enjoyable footballer to watch. You can tell he's got good technique, there?EUR(TM)s not a lot it appears he cannot do, and he adds things to his game the more you watch him. Unfortunately, he usually adds one or two mistakes, too, but he's undoubtedly entertaining.
Cresswell's passing was snappy and he put in the odd good cross, but nothing to really stand out.
All the bad sides to his game, all the parts you were worried about when he signed, they were on show today.
Off injured after 14 minutes. Looks like he needs a rest anyway, but he does always seem to look like that.
The most consistent attacking passer, although the odd shot was poorly chosen. His driving runs were vital, once more, and he cleared up a lot of Leicester's promising attacks by just being in the right place to stop them developing.
Quietly effective defensively, involved in some good moves going forward. Soucek is playing relatively fine, neither excelling nor playing anywhere near as bad as some demand you believe.
Like Paqueta, he was a little bit "close but no cigar" in that he could have had a really good game if those moments, those openings or chances, went the right way. He got involved, but he seems lessened with Scamacca in the side. Antonio drew figures in, created space and chaos. With what you could call a more cultured and controlled approach, it isn't clicking with Bowen.
It's difficult to describe the game Paqueta had. He was creative but wasteful, dangerous but blunt. There were chances, both in terms of shooting and final passes, that just needed a better touch or a bit of luck. Neither were found. He was involved and passes well, but it didn't click into gear.
A generous 7, especially as he flitted out of the game at times and didn't really produce anything too tangible, but he threatened, came in off the flank well and had a verve and drive that others lacked. It was his play that awoke the crowd and his teammates.
From the outside, he looks frustrated and demotivated. He has admitted this week that he has found the speed and size of Premier League defenders a surprise, but that didn't look a problem early on. Today he was the final piece that couldn't be found, the chances all dropping for other players. Whilst Fornals, Paqueta, Bowen and Benrahma all produced two key passes each, Scamacca had none. He didn't look a player who would score or create anything.
(Replaced Zouma 14) Passed well, and you can tell he?EUR(TM)s a step or 10 above Dawson and Zouma on the ball. Looked a little short of sharpness, which is to be expected, and looked to be tiring when Vardy came on and ran around like an energy drink.
(Replaced Soucek 75) It wasn?EUR(TM)t the worst error of the game, even the worst pass. In fact, it was a pass a few in the team had tried and failed with on the day. But at that moment, Leicester countered and scored. He was wayward with his passing, looking too eager to impress.
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Match FactsWest Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Thilo Kehrer, Aaron Cresswell, Craig Dawson, Kurt Zouma, Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek, Jarrod Bowen, Lucas Paqueta, Said Benrahma, Gianluca Scamacca.
Booked: Craig Dawson 40 Lucas Paqueta 60 Gianluca Scamacca 85 .
Sent off: None.
Leicester City: Ward, Castagne, Faes, Amartey, Thomas, Soumaré (Mendy 68), Maddison (Praet 25), Tielemans (Ndidi 55), Dewsbury-Hall (Pérez 68), Barnes, Daka (Vardy 69).
Subs not used: Iversen, Evans, Albrighton, Iheanacho.
Goals: Maddison (8) Barnes (78).
Booked: Ndidi (62).
Sent off: None.
Referee: Jarred Gillett.
Man of the Match: Lukasz Fabianski.