It’s now time to look at some of the main causes of discussion in the wake of yesterday’s slim defeat to the League leaders at the Etihad stadium, as we remained in the bottom three with a painful run of fixtures laying ahead.
Hammers Come Dangerously Close To Ending Citizens’ Run
If one was to take a single plus point from coming so agonisingly close to leaving Manchester with a point on Sunday, it was that the opposition had dispatched their last 18 opponents in all Competitions.
While teams such as Huddersfield Town and Southampton have forced late winners out of Blue Moon in recent times, a win for us would have been far more significant when it comes to the history books.
City’s victory yesterday took them on to 13 on the spin in The Premier League, equalling the feats of Arsenal and Chelsea previously and just one win away from breaking the long-standing record.
But, Hammers sides are no strangers when it comes to stopping The Citizens from achieving feats at The Etihad, our 2015 win on the ground ended a run of 11 Top-Flight wins for the hosts, although were couldn’t quite get there yesterday.
Perhaps most impressively of all, however, was the margin of defeat suffered in the wake of a 4-0 loss at Goodison Park, something that most fans felt would be far more severe heading into the clash.
And who could have blamed them? Seeing Pep Guardiola’s men defeat the likes of Liverpool and Watford 5-0 and 0-6 respectively, this game should prove a confidence booster to a depleted Hammers side with a frantic Festive period ahead.
First-Half Performance A Sure Positive In Manchester
From a Hammers standpoint, there was one half’s showing that stood out far more than the other and that was of course in the first period, where we punished a tentative Manchester City.
If having the better of the first-half chances against the most creative team in The Division wasn’t one thing, Angelo Ogbonna’s late header had given us the lead at half-time.
However, most impressively of all before the break was the solidity of our back three playing in central defence, with Ogbonna the only conventional centre-half alongside 18-year-old prodigy Declan Rice and left-back Aaron Cresswell.
With the help of a stern early midfield showing, they were able to restrict the home side to little or no clear goal-scoring opportunities, making our lead all the more deserved.
This came in gargantuan contrast to the form of the defence for most of this campaign, as a particularly frail unit under Slaven Bilic, which was slammed after home defeats to Jurgen Klopp’s reds and Brighton & Hove Albion.
In addition to this, David Moyes was without as many as three of his regular defenders Skipper Winston Reid, Portugal star Jose Fonte, veteran Welshman James Collins and starlet Sam Byram as well as four other absences further afield.
Many Hammers are now posing questions about whether the defence should be set out in such a way in the games that lay ahead after what can only be described as one of the most impressive defensive showings of the campaign so far.
Although there is still doubt over whether we will be able to deal with such attacking mavericks as Eden hazard and Alvaro Morata next Saturday against The Blues, will Moyes stick or twist?
Stroke Of Luck In City Leveller
For all of the hosts’ attacking dominance in the second period, there was no disputing that they were handed a slice of fortune when it came to equalising in the 58th minute of yesterday’s affair.
Substitute Gabriel Jesus was allowed to skip into the right side of the box and fire a tantalising low drive across the face, meeting it were Nicolas Otamendi and Rice.
The Argentinian International defender was able to get across his marker and reach the ball first, getting a glancing touch on it that cruelly deflected off the Irish charge and beat Adrian San-Miguel at his near post.
Although there was nothing fortunate about the way that David Silva secured the three points for his team, converting a floated Kevin De Bruyne delivery, Blue Moon’s first ultimately turned the tide on the tie.
As the stereotype goes “You just don’t get the luck when you’re down there at the bottom” and this was never truer this time around.
Despite this, when looking back, we also didn’t get the rub of the green in an attacking sense either with some superb chances to take something from the clash going by the wayside, such as when Ederson saved from Manuel Lanzini and Michail Antonio, not to forget Diafra Sakho’s late miss.
Moyes will certainly be hoping for a bit more fortune than he has enjoyed in his first few weeks in East London over the next few games, but composure in front of goal is certainly something that also needs to be worked on.
Ogbonna Claims First PL Goal As Adrian Impresses
To finish on two confidence-boosters to take away going forward, it would be a very special afternoon for a certain Italian in defence.
Ogbonna, who has netted in consecutive Rounds of the Carabao Cup this season, had only ever netted in Cup Competitions in Claret & Blue coming into the affair, his only other stroke coming during his first season at the Club.
But this all changed on the stroke of half-time as Cresswell was able to lift in a quite magnificent deft ball that was met by his powerful head, giving Ederson little chance of preventing his side from going behind.
Meanwhile, at the other end, another Hammer was impressing wildly in the form of long-serving goalkeeper Adrian.
The Spaniard’s chance to show the new Manager just what he can do came about when Joe Hart was ineligible to face his parent club under the terms of his loan deal.
The former Real Betis man grabbed it with both hands, quite literally, earning away Man of the Match with his acrobatic display of shot stopping.
The pick of the bunch surely came in the second period, when he kept out a superb Jesus effort from close-range, after denying Leroy Sane twice and keeping out a clever De Bruyne free-kick.
Before that, Adrian saved magnificently from a deflected Silva effort earning plaudits from afar and certainly giving his Boss a huge selection headache for next weekend, will the shot-stopper be able to retake The No1 spot for a very busy December indeed?
So, now that we have covered everything that there was to pick at in the wake of an impressively narrow loss to the most form side in The Premier League, will there be more pluses to draw on come Saturday afternoon? When Antonio Conte’s West Londoners make the short trip to Stratford.