West Ham United 4-0 Nottingham Forest
Saturday, 25th February 2023
by Chris Wilkerson
With all the pressure back on David Moyes and his team, they responded at the London Stadium with an emphatic 4-0 win against Nottingham Forest.With all the pressure back on David Moyes and his team, they responded at the London Stadium with an emphatic 4-0 win against Nottingham Forest.
In what would be suitably described as a relegation six-pointer, The Hammers responded magnificently, with Moyes's decision to revert to a back four proving to be the right one.
The manager got all the big calls right, making four changes as Johnson, Paquet??, Benrahma and Ings came in for Emerson, Kehrer, Downes and Antonio. In what was closest to a 4-3-3, the midfield balance worked well and the defence comfortably managed the Forest threat.
After controlling the first half, West Ham had little to show for it, but a late blitz of three goals in seven minutes and 13 seconds - with two on his first start for Danny Ings - saw Moyes's side get their just rewards, and a fourth was added only seven minutes later.
It was the kind of result West Ham have often deserved but rarely delivered, a drubbing that Moyes's side doesn't hand out. It goes some way to making up for the loss at the City Ground earlier in the season, a game that they should have won, let alone not lost.
The team sheet alone was enough to lift Hammers fans, although Emerson may have been the one to feel hard done by, although there were some reports of illness in the week.
They could have scored early, a loose clearance from the Forest defence falling to Bowen, who immediately played to Ings's feet in the box, but the striker stumbled when trying to take the ball away from nearby defenders and the chance was lost.
Forest lined up with Gibbs-White and Brennan Johnson supporting Chris Wood up front, but struggled to make any inroads. They weren't seen for most of the first half, with West Ham in control.
There were openings and half chances, plenty of corners won, but little to show for it. Ogbonna, Bowen and Paqueta all had openings, but none could find anything to truly threaten the goal. In fact, if anything, Navas was more concerned by dipping corners arrowed in on goal, testing him. He duly passed.
But without any goal to show for this pressure, the game remained in the balance. Forest were not truly good enough to have won in the reverse back in August, yet they did, and it is the converting of chances that matters most at the final whistle, not the creation.
The visitors created little, but they were able to test Fabianski and the West Ham defence. A Felipe header was tipped over by Fabianski when he could have caught it, but luckily the resulting corner was wasted.
Whilst Coufal had a less than convincing first half performance, he did create the best chance of it.
Clipping in a cross from the right flank, his ball flew over Soucek in the middle but dropped perfectly for Ings inside the six-yard box, but the striker fluffed his lines, failing to make solid contact and only really deflecting it softly wide of goal. Whether he didn't expect the ball to come over Soucek or lost flight of it, he should have done better.
It was frustrating to watch West Ham play somewhat well but struggle to break down their opponents, and then finish so badly in the moments they did.
It led to a half that started well but ultimately faded. By the end, it could have finished with a Nottingham Forest penalty.
Not that it was deserved, for even though Brennan Johnson was caught dribbling into the West Ham box, his delayed drop to the floor was an abysmal example of the art of diving. He only proved the contact was not enough to impede him.
And with that it was 0-0, and fears that The Hammers had wasted their time on top came once again.
The manager was proactive, replacing Coufal with Cresswell, not quite as attacking as the change to Emerson would have been, but improving the use of the ball as Johnson moved over to the right.
He quickly offered a threat, finding Soucek with a fast and flat corner, but too far ahead of the near post, so much so that it was too difficult a chance for the Czech midfielder to convert.
It was an assured start, but it was followed by a shaky performance. With that said, ball retention from full back improved with a Cresswell and Johnson partnership, over the initial Coufal and Johnson pair.
Soon Bowen had driven a shot off the inside of the post from 20 yards out, earned from nice play by Paquet?? and Benrahma, but West Ham were running out of steam. For the 10-15 minutes that followed, it was the away side who had their best spell of the game.
It was in this spell that Soucek and Ings looked lost, Forest looking to get the ball to the attack much quicker.
In this period, the game opened up, and Forest found some of West Ham's vulnerabilities. However, they did little to find chances, and all they really achieved was injuring Fabianski, a stray knee from Felipe as the goalkeeper collected a low cross. It was innocuous, the defender had tried to move out of the way, but probably had never really needed to go in for the ball in the first place, and was chased half the pitch by an angry Aguerd.
It left Fabianski unable to continue, a nice shiner already showing on his face as he left the field to be replaced by the Frenchman Alphonse Areola, which at least gives him minutes ahead of Wednesday's Fifth Round FA Cup tie against Manchester United.
As Forest maybe thought that they'd found the grip of the game, West Ham struck.
It started with Declan Rice, holding the ball as he moved towards his own goal and pinned to the left flank. Others would have panicked, but Rice showed composure, looking for a good pass before turning into the gap he'd created in frustrating his opponent. He played it down the line to Ings, who spread play with a long ball to the right.
Bowen collected well and moved at goal, taking his time before driving at his man and delivering a low ball across goal.
The man meeting it? Danny Ings, not admiring his pass, but instead bombing on into the box. The ball was a little behind him, but the striker dug out a first time finish and left Navas only as a spectator as it bounced into the corner and Ings scored his first West Ham goal with twenty minutes of the game remaining.
The London Stadium had erupted, but they'd barely had time to settle back down in their seats before The Hammers were at it again.
This time, the creative magic in midfield was Paquet??'s, flicking a ball over a Forest head just inside their half, bullying his man to get onto the ball and then finding Benrahma on the edge of the box.
Here, Sa??d finally kept it simple, bursting into space between two defenders and into the area before clipping it square towards the six-yard box, the kind of wily, direct run he should make more of. In close quarters, Ings did just about enough, opening his body up to make sure some part of his leg could guide it in, the ball bundling in off his knee and a defender before bouncing over the line.
The noise from the first goal came once again, the manager celebrating like a man relieved of so much pressure. It was a relief shared by 60,000.
But the goals weren't done. Five minutes later, the captain got one, making that cut inside and shot from the left finally pay off again, about 100 attempts since the last time.
It was Rice who led the charge forward, Soucek winning the ball in the middle and laying it across to Rice. He glided forward and played left to Benrahma, who danced with multiple stepovers until a second defender was drawn over to double-up on the tricky Algerian.
It created the space for Rice, who had stayed on the edge of the area. The pass was laid back to him, and Rice took a touch, opened his body up and curled it delightfully into the far corner, out of Navas's reach and into the back of the net. With just over 10 minutes to play, West Ham had wrapped up the three points emphatically.
Both managers made changes, Steve Cooper resorting to just throwing on any players he had that once played for West Ham. There was little reaction for Andre Ayew, but resounding boos for Jesse Lingard, whose time teasing West Ham fans seems to have turned that relationship sour.
Moyes brought on attacking changes of his own, with Antonio, Fornals and Lanzini getting the remaining seven minutes of allotted time, replacing Ings, Benrahma and Paquet??.
Lanzini and Fornals looked energised and with a point to prove, immediately adding a real sharpness to the short passing and stopping their teammates sitting on their prize.
It was rewarded with a fourth goal.
Some of the passing in the final third was wonderful to watch, and the fourth goal was lovely for the composure shown. After a cross from the right went too deep, Fornals chased after the loose ball and looked to make something happen.
Exchanging passes with Cresswell, Fornals was sent down to the byline, but chopped back onto his right foot and then clipped a perfect cross to the far post.
It was sat up delightfully for Antonio to attack, his marker bundled to the ground as the strength of Antonio's chest was too much to handle. The forward nodded into an empty net from inside the six-yard box and a couple of minutes after their introduction, the substitutes had put the cherry on top.
4-0 it remained, and with it West Ham moved up out of the relegation zone to 16th, two points clear of 18th-placed Everton, but only two shy of Nottingham Forest in 13th. With 14 games remaining, the margins will remain tight down there, but this win was more than just the points.
It was more than beating a possible rival in this relegation battle, too. It was the kind of psychological boost the players needed, not just to take some pressure off them, but for them to get some reward for good attacking play and show them they can absolutely outplay teams around them.
For the manager, he became the third in Premier League history to win 250 games, bettered only by Wenger and Ferguson.
The pressure is still on, but it feels a little brighter in east London this weekend.
David Moyes 9/10
Trusted a 4-3-3 finally, made all the big calls and showed bravery in returning to a four at the back and putting a little more faith in his attack. Ings worked, the midfield three worked, the back four worked. He even made the proactive half-time change, and got a fourth goal from energetic and incisive play by his late substitutes.
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Player RatingsLukasz Fabianski
Did his job under reasonably little pressure, before taking a knee to the face that saw his eye start to bruise and swell.
Back to right back, but struggled on the ball. Became a bit of a hindrance as the side dominated, and it was a good proactive change by Moyes.
A little limited, but gets credit for being adaptable enough to each full back role without fuss. Very reliable defensively, really only making one misstep against Brennan Johnson.
Worries about Ogbonna in a back four were not completely answered, with Wood being maybe the ideal opponent for him, but he is looking very secure and was the better choice over Kehrer, even with the two left footers together.
Comfortable without excelling. A solid pairing with Ogbonna, but one that will have harder tests, especially as Wood's movement isn't great. Strong and decisive in the air.
With a player as good as Rice anchoring your midfield, there really is no need for a back five. Rice did his defensive work with his usual simplicity and class, but not only added a goal - finally getting that shot from the left right - but made the first with calm and assured play in his own half. Whilst the more lazy pundits may focus on his lack of goals, it is his confidence in his own half that makes him such a key player for club and country.
After a busy start, his influence waned a little in the middle period, although he grew defensively again later. He's a bit of a conundrum, because his aerial work is important and he does defend well, and whilst you want him in advance areas to make those runs beyond the striker and into the area, he also lacks the guile to be more than a battering ram. As he drifts to the right, it makes him and Coufal an awkward pair, and a better attacking full back might allow you to cover the worst of Tommy and still keep the best.
He doesn't really run a game like you would hope, but the price tag probably gives a different impression than the player he is. It was the moment with the second goal, where he calmly beats a man by flicking it over his head, takes it down and then plays the right pass. He's also a better defender than he's given credit for, which means the manager could play Fornals or Lanzini over someone like Soucek and not be an obvious risk.
Before the goals came, Benrahma was having a very frustrating game. Extra touches when he needed to be quicker, bad decisions or execution when he'd made space. The burst into the box for the second goal, and the ball being the obvious and right choice, were everything he wasn't doing and brilliant.
Even before the goals, Bowen was the threat and his recent form has really been much better than the team and those around him. His drive on the ball and then use of it for the Ings goal was sharp and whilst Benrahma may have the skill, it's the more simple and direct play from Bowen that consistently bothers defences.
Like Benrahma, it was generally a poor performance before the 70th minute. Then he gets the ball on the left, spreads it to Bowen far right and follows his run into the box. The finish was very good, considering how the ball was behind him. Both were goalscorers goals, knowing the space, knowing where to be, knowing when and where to make those runs. The payoff is why you play these players, even if he can't quite play the one man frontline that Moyes has had in Antonio and Arnautovic.
(Replaced Coufal 45) Quite a wobbly performance, he didn't settle quickly and it really felt like Forest should have got Brennan Johnson at him more. Instead, their period of ascendancy didn't really end with much production, and after the goals, he settled. With Fornals on, he looked a bit more sure of himself.
(Replaced Fabianski 68) Came on cold but did well, one good save and one nice claim.
(Replaced Paqueta 82) Came on with energy and moved into space for the ball in the way he does, always an option, always happy to move play on.
(Replaced Benrahma 82) Looked really sharp, came on with a point to prove. The delay, touch and then cross for Antonio's goal was perfect. Deserves more time.
(Replaced Ings 82) Come on, cause chaos, score a goal. What else can you ask for in 10 minutes?
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Match FactsWest Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Vladimir Coufal, Ben Johnson, Angelo Ogbonna, Nayef Aguerd, Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek, Lucas Paqueta, Said Benrahma, Jarrod Bowen, Danny Ings.
Goals: Danny Ings 70 Danny Ings 73 Declan Rice 78 Michail Antonio 85 .
Sent off: None.
Nottingham Forest: Navas, Williams, Worrall, Felipe, Lodi (Toffolo 77), Freuler, Shelvey (Ayew 67), Colback, Gibbs-White, Johnson (Surridge 86), Wood (Lingard 77).
Subs not used: Hennessey, Mangala, Danilo, Scarpa, Dennis.
Sent off: None.
Referee: Jarred Gillett.
Man of the Match: Declan Rice.