Written by Rhys Paul
Romelu Lukaku (50′) and Ross Barkley (76′) scored and created one apiece as West Ham fell to a 2-0 defeat against Everton at Goodison Park. The Hammers revival proved to be short-lived as the Toffees ended a winless run of six to move five points off the top of the table. It was a reasonably enjoyable game with both sides playing some attractive football in an evenly-contested opening 45 minutes. West Ham’s recent form appeared to have impacted their confidence as the away side took the game to the hosts and created several good chances, but they would once again come to rue their mistakes as the second-half completely ran away from them following the ever-predictable Lukaku goal. That makes it 9 goals in 9 appearances against the Hammers and the Belgian getting on the scoresheet is just as much of a guarantee these days as a fourth-placed Arsenal finish. Barkley put in a good shift for the home side, but – in truth – he found it much easier after the opening goal deflated the visitors.
It was very much a game of two halves for West Ham; the first was played by a team on a three-game winning run and the second by a team who had previously failed to win six of their last seven games before that. For a lot of players, it was a bad day at the office and several became increasingly frustrating to watch as the game slipped out of their grasp. The only saving grace(s) came in the first-half, yet a lacklustre second 45 minutes overshadowed those good moments. Nevertheless, I found it quite easy to select a man-of-the-match this week:
Adrian – 7.5 (MOTM)
An incredible save with his right-hand denied Barkley the opening goal in the 26th minute and it is a shame that the team didn’t take advantage of such a world-class stop. Produced a good save from Tom Cleverley in stoppage time and he did well to stand his ground to deny Lukaku a second at the end of a good piece of football from the hosts. It was good to see him command his area with far more confidence than he has done this season and it showed at set-pieces. Without him, the game might have been over sooner.
Cheikhou Kouyate – 4.5
Constantly drifted out of position and found himself drawn to the ball more than he should have. It was this that allowed Everton to extend their lead and put the game beyond the visitors as Barkley was able to waltz unmarked into the West Ham box. He simply is not disciplined enough to be expected to do a job he isn’t specifically told to do and he might have been better used a man-marker for Lukaku all game in the same way he was against Christian Benteke.
Winston Reid – 6
Once again embodied the team’s performance on the day, although that is not necessarily a good thing. Just like the team were good in patches, so was Reid. He relished the challenge against Lukaku more than any other defender and he undoubtedly enjoyed the most success against the Belgian. However, avoidable mistakes creeped back into his game, notably drifting towards towards the ball and leaving a gaping hole in the middle of the defence. He dived into challenges and that allowed the likes of Barkley to skip away. This and a poor clearance contributed to the first goal – one that proved to do irreparable damage. Even so, he will be missed against Stoke next week.
Angelo Ogbonna – 5
Ogbonna only seemed to makes mistakes against Everton. Needless fouls put the team under unnecessary pressure and he was fortunate not to have given away a penalty in stoppage time. He looked the most uncomfortable against Lukaku and his failure to close Lukaku gave him the luxury to pick out Barkley for the second goal.
Edmilison Fernandes – 6
Another encouraging showing from the youngster. He saw a lot of the ball and the team seem keen to get him on it wherever possible. He does looked shackled by his defensive duties as right-wing back, so it will be interesting to see just how much of an attacking threat he can be when he is eventually pushed higher up the field.
Pedro Obiang – 6.5
Arguably his toughest game to date and it showed at times. A series of neat passes put him through, but his effort sailed horribly over Joel Robles and the crossbar. Had he scored, the result might have been more favourable to the Hammers. He still held the midfield together well and it was a baffling decision to take him off when there were far less effective players on the pitch. The team’s structure collapsed after his withdrawal and that essentially diluted the decision to bring on two strikers as they quickly found themselves isolated from the game.
Mark Noble – 5
Awful game from the skipper. A diving block in the first-half had me out of my seat and, just like Adrian’s superb save, it would have had even greater importance if it had inspired the team to the win. Unfortunately it did not and Noble spent the rest of the match chasing the game to little avail. Simple passes went straight to a blue shirt and he lost the battle with Barkley.
Aaron Cresswell – 6
Little impact following his return from suspension. He changed the game against Crystal Palace, but failed to do the same against Everton. It didn’t help that he saw little of the ball and the attacking threat of Seamus Coleman also kept the Englishman occupied. He did nothing of note, but at the same time did nothing wrong.
Manuel Lanzini – 4.5
In my opinion, one of the worst players on the pitch against Everton. He was always trying to do too much with the ball as he constantly skipped away from two defenders only to allow the ball to run straight into the path of a third. Another player who should have done more to prevent the second goal, it was a game to forget for Lanzini who really should have been substituted sooner. He can get away with having a bad game when Payet is on-form, but the team cannot hope to get by if both are struggling to exert their influence on proceedings.
Dimitri Payet – 5
Barring a few glimpses, the Frenchman has failed to reach the heights of last season. He was unusually sloppy – frequently losing control of the ball or making the challenge too easy for the defender – and his set-pieces hit a new low with corners having too much on them and free-kicks that never once beat the wall. He seemed out of ideas and that enabled Everton to have his number. He cannot steal the show every week, but equally cannot afford to play that badly either.
Michail Antonio – 6.5
Supporters who claimed Antonio would score for fun as a striker were proved to be horribly naive. He is a fantastic goal-scoring midfielder from the wing as it gives him the freedom and space to make something happen. He was muscled out of the game by two experienced centre-backs as he simply lacks the presence to lead the line. This contributed to the team’s struggles in front of goal. He was one of the few who improved after the break, but that arguably because he was allowed to drift to his more favoured position on the wing.
Andre Ayew (60′ for Obiang) – 5
I’m still surprised to actually see him fit as I’m sure there is some rule that new signings need to experience a setback before making a full recovery. He’s clearly not fully fit yet and the system did not appear to suit him in the slightest. I’m excited to see what he brings to the team when he is fit.
Simone Zaza (72′ for Fernandes) – 4
It has reached the point where Zaza’s introduction from the bench is met predominately with groans. He was never going to get the team back into the contest and his first touch continues to be one of the worst I have seen.
Sofiane Feghouli (78′ for Lanzini) – 4.5
Probably one of the few players who could have improved things from the bench, but he once again failed to make any sort of impact. At this stage, he has done little to prove he is anything other than a pace merchant. His crosses fail to beat the first man and he does not pick out any of his teammates on the occasions where he does manage to beat the defender.
West Ham fans, do you agree with these ratings? Let us know in the comments below!