West Ham put in a convincing display on Monday night to send David Moyes’ side temporarily into 4th place.
Goals from Declan Rice, Issa Diop, and Ryan Fredericks ensured the three points remained at the London Stadium.
The Hammers opened the scoring after 41 minutes with their long awaited first penalty of the season. The East London side had another penalty awarded earlier in the half, but VAR ruled that Craig Dawson was offside in the build up.
It was the revitalized Jesse Lingard who won the penalty when Chris Basham brought him down after a slick counter attacking move.
The skipper Declan Rice slotted the penalty with precision to open his account for the season.
Despite their dominance, Polish international Łukasz Fabiański was forced into action early in the second half when David McGoldrick’s deflected header was travelling on target. Other than that, the veteran keeper had little to do.
The Blades had little hope of coming back into the game when Issa Diop guided Aaron Cresswell’s corner into the bottom right hand corner of the net in the 58th minute.
Substitutes combined for West Ham’s third with Said Benrahma giving the ball to Ryan Fredericks on the edge of the box who’s shot was unchallenged by any of Chris Wilder’s defenders, finding the bottom left hand corner.
Passing on the baton.
The transition of the captaincy from Mark Noble to Declan Rice couldn’t be smoother, with Noble spending most of his time on the bench, Rice has stepped up massively.
Throughout the season Rice has offered the protection in front of the defense that has been crucial to their success so far this campaign and it was no different in this game, making 8 ball recoveries, more than anyone else.
He has also been the leader on the pitch that is missing without Noble, it’s remarkable that at just 22 years old he is such a commanding figure.
This is reflected heavily in the Monday night game when he took responsibility for the penalty, taking the ball off Lingard who wanted to take it himself and slotting the ball with confidence.
You can see how Rice has learned from Noble who himself has the highest penalty conversion rate in Europe’s top 5 leagues.
It’s clear to see why West Ham fans are so excited about their young midfielder who is following in the footsteps of Noble as captain and penalty taker. He could become a legend at West Ham, that is if he isn’t lured away by the elite clubs.
How concerned should West Ham be with Antonio’s injuries?
There’s no doubt that coming into this game there was concern over the lack of a natural number 9.
However, Jarrod Bowen deputised well. Although he didn’t grab himself a goal or an assist he led the line professionally and linked up with Lingard and Lanzini well in attack.
It will be interesting to see how Bowen leads the line against tougher opposition as his lack of physical power that Antonio has in abundance may cause problems in the way David Moyes has set his team up to play this season.
Although this game cannot tell us how well Bowen will continue to play as a striker it shows that there are various options for West Ham to use in Antonio’s absence.
Moyes also has the options of Benrahma and highly rated youngster, Mipo Odubeko at his disposal.
So, whilst it seemed a strange decision to sell Sebastian Haller without a replacement lined up, there may be potential for West Ham to maintain their top 4 challenge even with Antonio’s hamstring issues.
We will have to wait and see, I suppose but it would be foolish to assume a top manager like David Moyes does not have control of the situation.
Unless there are further long term injuries to the forward line I believe Moyes has the tools at his disposal to continue the push for Europe.
Sheffield United, set for relegation.
You don’t need me to tell you, but Chris Wilder will need to work miracles to keep The Blades up this season.
Their performance against West Ham wasn’t one that screams relegation at you, but you can clearly see why they’re in the position that they are.
Despite having quite a lot of the ball, Sheffield United didn’t do a lot with it at all, giving West Ham’s defense little problems.
Their only significant chance was that of McGoldrick’s which in fairness did force Fabianski to make a quality save but it’s not enough.
The lack of fire power in their attack, or anywhere in fact gives The Blades no chance of survival.
If you want to win games in a league as relentless as the Premier League it is absolutely vital that you take your chances when they come and unfortunately for Chris Wilder, his team just aren’t doing that.
featured image credit sky sports