West Ham opened their Premier League campaign with a victory over Arsenal, in what was the best display of the opening weekend. The perfect combination of tenacious defending and skill in attack saw them take the three points at the Emirates Stadium after many thought they would struggle without Sam Allardyce at the helm. Although it is very early to judge sides, it looks like the Hammers will be difficult to beat under Slaven Bilic. They have a talented squad of players, but they could do with another forward before the window closes, especially with the injuries to Andy Carroll and Enner Valencia.
The most impressive things about the Hammers on Sunday was their defending as a team. They played narrow and packed the middle of the pitch, which prevented Arsenal playing the way they have been accustomed to. The visitors only had 38% of possession, but their game-plan was centred around Arsenal having the majority of the ball. The Hammers relied on Dimitri Payet to create chances in the final third, which paid dividends as the Frenchman had a wondeful debut, grabbing an assist for the first goal. Although West Ham were on the defensive, they restricted their foul count to just nine committed, which was important as Arsenal can be threatening from set pieces.
Also Bilic showed that he wouldn’t be scared to put noses out of joint when selecting the team. The selection of Reece Oxford was brave, especially in the first match of the season. However, he was picked for his ability and he didn’t disappoint Bilic as he put in a man of the match display. He made several key interceptions and impressively had the highest pass completion rate on the pitch at 95%. It was a display of the highest quality and if he continues to develop, West Ham could have a huge talent on their hands.
On Sunday, West Ham played with two forwards as Mauro Zarate partnered Diafra Sakho. Although the former scored against Arsenal, he hasn’t had the best time at the club and a better striker could be brought in to partner Sakho. The links to Javier Hernandez are very interesting, as he would be the perfect foil for West Ham’s Senegelese striker. The Mexican is a poacher, known for his darting runs in behind and would form a big man-little man partnership with Sakho.
The Manchester United forward was an unused substitute on Saturday and doesn’t appear to be wanted by Louis van Gaal after the Dutchman loaned him out to Real Madrid last summer. Chicharito has been used as an impact for the majority of his career, which is why he represents a risk for West Ham as it isn’t known if he can still contribute as a regular starter. However his big match experience would be a huge coup to start the new era at Upton Park. Furthermore, his pace, ability to time runs in behind and finishing quality means that he guarantees goals in this division.
Last season, he managed a goal every 122.7 minutes for Real Madrid, while he also contributed four assists. Although his playing time was limited, the Mexican showed his attacking quality and another side will benefit from it this season. If he is signed by West Ham and given a main role in their attack, he could have a devastating impact in the Premier League.
After their performance yesterday, many will be hyping up this West Ham side over the coming days. It’s clear that Slaven Bilic will organise the side well, while he has added attacking flair to make the side more entertaining in the final third. The Premier League is very competitive this season with many sides adding players of the highest quality. West Ham are a side that will shock many this season, but it’s too early to judge whether they can break the top half or not.