It’s now time to trawl over some of the main causes of discussion in the wake of yesterday’s thrilling 3-3 draw at the Vitality Stadium with Eddie Howe’s AFC Bournemouth, As David Moyes’ Hammers remained just above the bottom three.
Fans Slam Referee Madley Over Key Decisions
Supporters and Pundits alike have been among those to condemn the performance of Referee Robert Madley in yesterday’s Christmas Cracker of a clash on a very rainy South Coast.
The Official, the youngest of the Select Group Referees, was widely criticised for three huge calls that he had to make at three different stages of the fast-paced affair.
By far the most outrageous of them was the last, however, the first two slices of drama both came in the first period, a half that was filled to the brim with action.
Just after the half-hour mark, Cherries Skipper Simon Francis lunged in dangerously on Cheikhou Kouyate, the bottom of his boot striking the Senegal Captain in the facial area.
It looked on replay a certain dismissal, not uncanny to that of Sadio Mane for Liverpool on Ederson earlier in the season, but the Referee only opted for a yellow card, much to the anger of the travelling Claret & Blue Army.
This came moments before a worrying off-ball altercation between home forward Josh King and away midfielder Pedro Obiang in which the Norwegian appeared to land a punch on the head of the Spaniard.
The incident wasn’t seen by any of the on-field Officials making it illegible for retrospective action by the FA, there is little doubt that had any of them had a clear view, King would have been very lucky to stay on the pitch, much like Francis.
But, these instances would seem fairly insignificant in the end as they led up to the mother of all errors from Madley and it came in the third minute of added-time.
Mere moments post Marko Arnautovic’s double giving the visitors a 2-3 lead late on, England U21 starlet Lewis Cook put a deep cross into the area that was met by Nathan Ake.
His header back across the face of goal reached Callum Wilson who turned it into the net, however, before the home fans could celebrate too much, they noticed the flag of Linesman Simon Long up on the near side.
He had flagged for offside against Wilson and the goal was initially ruled out, although Madley race over to question Long on his call and bizarrely overturn it after a thorough discussion.
Re-runs of the strike not only confirmed that Long was correct in altering the Referee of an offside, but Wilson had also used his arm to guide the ball home, something that Madley had also failed to spot.
Moyes was understandably left furious by the string of blunders and it’s unclear whether or not the FA will step-in to punish the showing, one thing is sure, however, Madley’s bemusing calls may just prove vital in denying the Hammers precious points in the Relegation battle.
Collins Marks Captaincy In Style
One of the more positive storylines from yesterday afternoon was that of veteran Welsh centre-back James Collins as he came back into the side for Winston Reid and assumed the role of Skipper.
Just seven minutes after putting on the armband, Collins got himself on the end of a superb Aaron Cresswell delivery and beat Asmir Begovic at his near post with a bullet header.
The strike was his first of what has been an injury warped season for him so far, his last goal coming in similar fashion back in April, a header from a corner away at Sunderland.
Despite spending a few months on the sidelines himself, the former Wales International has been aided since his return by injuries to those around him, making three starts since coming back.
The latest in that list was the aforementioned Reid, who was believed to be suffering with a slight knock, he joined the likes of Jose Fonte and Sam Byram in defence.
But it is not known whether or not “Ginger Pele” as he is affectionately known will be able to hold on to his spot when other players return, as Collins looked a little off the pace as the match developed, although, for most Hammers, it’s good to see him back fit and firing.
Magic Marko Continues Wondrous Form
One man who certainly is on the top of his game at the moment is club-record Austrian Marko Arnautovic, as his rise to Cult Hero levels with yet another superb showing at the Vitality Stadium.
In recent weeks, his showings have seen him become something of a fan favourite with the Claret & Blue Army and that romance showed no sign of ending as Arnautovic made it five goals in five Premier League games.
After 80 minutes of hard work in all areas of the pitch and with the hosts looking to hold out for a 2-1 win, the former Stoke City man was able to take full advantage of a costly error.
This was, of course, Begovic’s dramatic slip that gifted him an open goal to turn and finish into, his pressure to draw the error must be lauded, however, and he would be in the right place at the right time once more in the 89th minute.
When Arthur Masuaku fizzed a low cross in from the left ab substitute Javier Hernandez was there to meet it, Begovic could only parry his shot into the path of Arnautovic.
Unsurprisingly, the Austrian International made no mistake and celebrated in trademark fashion with the corner of travelling West Ham United fans, having adopted the traditional crossed Hammers celebration.
There is little doubt that he is beginning to pay back his pricy summer tag of £25 million and he is doing it in goals, something that he will be looking to continue next Tuesday night as West Bromwich Albion visit East London.
Leaky Hammers Defence Made To Pay
To finish on a more negative note, it was not hard to notice another shaky and error-strewn showing from the Irons back five, as the tremendous form of earlier this month fades away.
Mistakes at the back weren’t a rare commodity for either of the two sides yesterday, however, they were perhaps more vivid at one end rather than the other.
The blunders began early when such forwards as King were left on their own to miss several chances throughout the tie, but when Dan Gosling found himself free in the middle of the box, he made no mistake on 29 minutes to make the score 1-1.
Early in the second-half, Bournemouth edged ahead, and this was hugely helped by some sloppy Collins defending as Ryan Fraser drove the ball in low and he missed it, allowing Nathan Ake to slot home from close-range.
Lazy play within the back line could also be pointed out in Howe’s men’s dramatic late leveller, both Ake and Wilson being left unmarked to combine to level.
Moyes’ defence have now conceded six goals in the space of two games against teams that were in the bottom three at the start of the match, having only let in three in the previous five, a rapid improvement will be needed heading into the New Year.
So, now that everything there was to talk about from an afternoon to savour for so many reasons, has been well and truly covered, will there be quite as much to discuss come January 2nd? When Alan Pardew’s Baggies have made the trip to the London Stadium.