West Ham United 1-1 Bournemouth
Thursday, 1st February 2024
by Chris Wilkerson
The disappointment went from the back pages to the football pitch this Thursday evening as West Ham escaped with a point at home to Bournemouth. A Ward-Prowse penalty was all The Hammers could muster as they stumbled to a 1-1 draw.In a performance as uninspiring as those against Bristol City and Sheffield United, The Hammers were second best all over the pitch, outplayed, outfought and outrun by a Bournemouth side going from strength-to-strength under Andoni Iraola.
As fans of the club were left shocked by an inability to sign further reinforcements, all whilst weakening our own squad in attempts to move out Benrahma, Fornals and Cornet, they were treated to a performance from their team that seemed to match the stagnant indecision above them.
Benrahma was in France, attempting to finalise a move to Lyon. It appeared he had, but news late into the evening now seems to suggest that a clerical error on West Ham's end may have scuppered the transfer.
Fornals stood at pitchside, not on the bench, removed from it 90 minutes before kick-off as news of a confirmed fee with Real Betis came through. It is as yet unclear whether the Spaniard has been reunited with former manager Manuel Pellegrini.
And so it was left to Cornet, a player who looked close to a loan move to Crystal Palace earlier in the day, to join a bench of four academy graduates and four old-timers.
It was a bench that, truthfully, mocked any ideas that this club could maintain a top-six position and play in the knockouts of the Europa League. If none of them played a single minute next season, you suspect the manager would be happy, and it would be a surprise to see Cornet, Ogbonna and Cresswell with the club next season. Fabianski and Ings? Hardly by choice.
New loan signing Kalvin Phillips went straight into the team as Moyes reverted back to his comfortable 4-2-3-1 system. Soucek played the advanced role in the centre ahead of Alvarez - back fit - and Phillips, with Ward-Prowse in Paqueta's role on the left. Johnson was also pushed into the starting line-up, in for the suspended Coufal.
The good news was the return of Mohammed Kudus, the Ghanaian back from the AFCON, and the manager will be delighted to know Aguerd is not far behind him.
As if to confirm how important the Moroccan's return will be, Kurt Zouma's inability to pass the ball out of defence was exposed to give Bournemouth a lead inside three minutes of action.
West Ham were passing in their own half, but going nowhere, and there is rarely any other team that looks to panic more as their time on the ball increases.
Zouma had been given a little bit of space and time to either play a pass or clear quickly, but dallied as he retreated closer to the left corner. Panicked, he played a pass to Phillips that put the midfielder under pressure in his own box.
Not only did Phillips have Christie rushing in from behind him, Solanke had wandered into the box to close off Zouma's route to Areola, and Phillips was stuck between them.
The midfielder was ponderous himself, maybe not quite aware of the pressure, maybe just rusty having played so little football this season, but his reaction to try beat Christie to the ball only saw him prod to Solanke, who swiftly finished first-time from six yards to give his side the lead.
The flag went up, but VAR replays showed the touch to the striker had come from Phillips, and West Ham had gifted their visitors a goal from absolutely nothing.
The away side had another chance a minute after the restart as a freekick deep to the far post was headed back into the box, but just a little behind Senesi. The defender recovered to hit a half-volley at goal, but sent it over.
The Hammers were shocked, and they looked unable to snap out of it as Iraola's side swarmed them in possession over and over again. In the past, teams pushing high have been perfect for Moyes's West Ham, but today his side seemed to have neither the ability to pass through, round or over it, nor the instruction to sit deep and absorb it.
It looked a little like the lost performance against Aston Villa, where the team seemed unsure if they were meant to take the game to their opponent, but knew they were not to sit deep and counter-punch.
It should also be noted that the away side were absolute fantastic off the ball, working extremely hard to get back into position whenever possession was lost. It was similar to how Bowen and Fornals used to be high up the pitch but still cover the space in behind them, and with a ponderous West Ham side unable to move the ball with speed and precision at once, The Cherries recovered ground repeatedly to stop counters.
Moyes watched on in frustration as his side failed to fire to life, not really starting to play for 35 minutes. In that time, Bournemouth had two high-value chances to extend their lead.
The first came as his team switched off on a corner, allowing Bournemouth to play a simple, short routine that ended with Scott dropping a delightful cross into the six-yard-box. Fortunately for West Ham, the two men flying at the ball seemed to lose flight of it, and it smacked off one attacker before ricocheting off the arm of Solanke and straight to Areola.
Then, just as the home side had woken, Bournemouth should have sat them back down again and taken a 2-0 lead.
More sloppy passing from the team in their own half not only made the case for Aguerd's instant recall to the side, but also gave Bournemouth a one-on-one.
A real sign of how bad things were back there, it was the usually composed and assured Alvarez who gave it away, trying to nutmeg a player as he put pressure on him from behind.
He lost the ball, and it was quickly at the feet of the impressive Solanke, who played it on to Semenyo on his right, bursting into the box alone.
Semenyo is another just home after a disappointing AFCON for Ghana, and he brought back some of their form as he opted for power with only Areola to beat, and smashed the ball right at the French goalkeeper, who reacted well to save a powerful hit from close range.
Maybe that chance made The Hammers realise they could be beaten before they started playing, but a minute later, they should have equalised.
It came from good work down an otherwise uninspiring left flank, Ward-Prowse too right-footed to work on the wing, mostly narrowing West Ham, and not forming a link with Emerson.
But in this move, you could see the reason he was placed out there. A ball set back to him gave the former-Southampton captain a chance to curl in a cross at goal, the ball sitting as if to be struck like a set-piece.
It was a gorgeous cross, full of dangerous whip and dip at goal. Bowen lost his man and looked destined to score, but failed to make contact on his header, only yards from goal. Instead the ball rushed beyond him and hit the diving Neto.
Moments later, Kudus beat Kelly around the outside of the left back and fired a ball across goal, but Soucek throwing himself at it only had the effect of sending the ball flying over.
The improvement came with Emerson finally making moves forward. It has been interesting to see his form dip with Paqueta out. The full back seems to play within himself without his best mate there, and it isn't really excusable.
There was still enough of the half left for a stoppage-time counter-attack that could have had Bournemouth two-up on the stroke of half-time, but Alvarez made a great challenge to deflect Semenyo's shot up with a loop, and Areola pushed it over.
A poor first half came to an end for The Hammers, and the manager made his tweaks at the break. Gone was the 4-2-3-1 that had failed, and the side looked now to be lined up in closer to a diamond midfield. Alvarez was holding deepest, with Phillips and Soucek in the middle, and Ward-Prowse back to hunting for the ball and supporting attacks ahead of the midfield.
It's a formation that depends on the full backs for width, a test for Johnson, who has failed to consistently show attacking intent with the ball. His first two forays forward were anticlimactic, with two poor crosses under minimal pressure.
It didn't stop Bournemouth having the better of things. Iraola's management may not have had instant results, but they're recent form has been exceptional, and it is clear now that the Spaniard has got this team going places.
But whilst his team looked the better of the two, whilst his players seemed to be on the same page and had deserved to be further ahead, individuals are still big deciders of football games, and West Ham had the best player on the pitch.
Mohammed Kudus had got the beating of Kelly once or twice in the first half, and with his confidence up, the Ghanaianwas ready for more.
This time, just short of the hour-mark, he received possession to the right of the box and set the left-back up beautifully.
With the ball at his feet, he slowed, almost to a stop, and waited for Kelly to settle. The defender paused, pausing with Kudus, but that pause was his error. Kudus immediately burst forward with it, going around his man and into the box.
Kelly struggled desperately to stay with him, and he did, but only with a hand on his shoulder and his feet clattering into the back of Kudus's legs.
The referee waved play on, and Moyes will have been fearing more officiating calamities costing his team, but VAR, this time, came to the rescue.
After checking the video screen, the decision was changed, and Ward-Prowse stepped-up once more to hit from the spot. With the composure you would expect, the midfielder hit low down the middle of the goal, Neto dived, and the ball sailed into the back of the net. 1-1 with just under half an hour to play.
You would hope that would spur the home side on, but there just didn't seem to be much life to draw out of the players.
Instead, Bournemouth went straight at goal from the restart, and Kelly forced a low save from Areola, having crept into the box.
Christie came close minutes later, spinning at speed on the edge of the box and hitting just wide, quickly followed by Bowen heading a Ward-Prowse cross wide at the back post.
It was enough to give both teams encouragement, but it was almost sad watching Moyes turn to his bench and throwing on Ings (for Phillips) at the same time Iraola could replace both Scott and Semenyo with Kluivert and Sinisterra.
As for Phillips's debut, it is hard to judge him. He has played so few minutes in the last two seasons, time must be given to him to get sharp again. He showed glimpses, an eye for a pass and a good tempo on them, but too many were cut-out or lost. The last thing he needed was that pass from Zouma in the opening three minutes, and the Frenchman should shoulder the blame.
Ings went up top, with Bowen to the left and Kudus staying right, the mdifield diamond cast aside.
It inspired one chance, with 15 minutes to go, after Johnson played a great pass after pushing into midfield. The ball slipped Bowen in down the left of the Bournemouth defence, and he burst down the side of the box. But his ball across goal found nobody, deflecting out and soon wasted after Soucek had recovered.
In the end, West Ham were left defending manfully to hold onto the point they had never deserved, and managed to see the game out.
There had been little drama on the pitch, and disheartening drama off it. Lyon finished the night issuing a statement claiming a lack of respect from West Ham for them and Benrahma in the move. As Fornals waited to find his move was not going through either, Lyon, Real Betis and the two players started to know how the West Ham fans felt.
David Moyes 5/10: Should be able to get more from his team, even with such limited options. They were playing awfully and his changes didn't fix enough to get his side on top at any point.
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Player RatingsAlphonse Areola
A couple very important saves, and left with no chance on the goal.
A relatively average game, and the usual from Johnson. All the excitement before the match was about him staking his claim as the starting right back for West Ham. Once more, when given that shot, he put in a timid performance that was solid at the back, but limited in most other aspects.
Improved as the game went on, but has become more contained and almost timid in the last few weeks. Paqueta should not be that key to how Emerson plays.
Some abysmal use of the ball, and didn't look comfortable in defence. He's the man to blame for the first goal, and he had other moments just clipping balls to nobody or giving away dangerous possession. As a captain, and an experienced player, he needs to show more bravery in dealing with possession.
Solid defending, and he dealt with Solanke well, plus one block near the end that possibly saved a goal. Rough to watch on the ball, and it's likely he's back to the bench with Aguerd's return.
Poor performance, maybe a little rusty from his own time away. Took risks in bad places, and whilst his composure is often an asset, he seemed almost lackadaisical, and probably wasn't ready for the intensity of Bournemouth's press.
Not a good start, both within this game and as a whole at the club. Just couldn't get going, although it was nice to see him get physical into some challenges as the game went on. Will need grit to force his way back into form.
Just seemed lost in the shuffle of this game. Didn't make an impact, not one to handle the energy in midfield of a team like Bournemouth.
Thrown into a left-wing role he would never suit and didn't look comfortable, but he will always work hard, protect the ball, and that one cross he delivered was fantastic. Stepped-up and took the pressure penalty.
Not at his best, a touch more periphery than usual, but came up trumps in the big moment. The only real threat in the team.
The team was ineffective behind him, for the most part, and that makes it very hard for him to shine.
(Replaced Phillips, 67) Added little, but worked hard and gave Bowen and Kudus something to play around.
(Replaced Kudus, 90+3) Introduced too late - in the third of eight added-on minutes - to make any impact.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Match FactsWest Ham United: Alphonse Areola, Ben Johnson, Emerson Palmieri, Kurt Zouma, Konstantinos Mavropanos, Edson Alvarez, Kalvin Phillips, Tomas Soucek, James Ward-Prowse, Mohammed Kudus, Jarrod Bowen.
Goals: James Ward-Prowse 61 .
Booked: Jarrod Bowen 0 .
Sent off: None.
Bournemouth: Neto, Smith, Zabarnyi, Senesi, Kelly (Kerkez 78), Cook, Christie, Semenyo (Sinisterra 68), Scott (Kluivert 68), Tavernier (Faivre 90+2), Solanke.
Subs not used: Travers, Mepham, Kilkenny, Billing, Kinsey-Wellings.
Goals: Solanke (3).
Booked: Christie, Cook.
Sent off: None.
Referee: Tim Robinson.
Man of the Match: Alphonse Areola.