On paper, West Ham’s 1-1 draw with Stoke seems a decent – maybe even unsurprising – result for both sides. In reality, the home side’s inability to see the game through to the end has put them in a very difficult position as they head into their toughest set of fixtures to date after the international break.
It really was not pleasant viewing at times. The atmosphere was dire, the players could not string together more than five passes and they allowed Stoke to get off to the better start. The final ball is just not coming off, dangerous passes are often over hit and the team once again struggled to create clear-cut chances. Things did gradually improve and by the time Michail Antonio (65′) header deflected off Glenn Whelan and the post, it was the hosts who were in the ascendancy. The expected Stoke response did little to trouble the West Ham defence, but in typical fashion a calamitous individual error cost the Hammers dearly.
After winning man-of-the-match against Everton, Adrian decided to reignite the Adrian-Randolph debate with what can only be described as a moment of sheer idiocy. A rush of blood to the head saw the Spaniard rush out, leaving his goal exposed and almost conceding a penalty by hacking down Jonathan Walters. That did not matter, however, as Walters had already sent the ball over Adrian and that allowed substitute Bojan Krkic (75′) to level things up by firing into the empty net. In truth, Stoke had offered very little in terms of a comeback, but they were gifted an equaliser by a side who continue to be all to willing to shoot themselves in the foot. It was not great and there was very little to get excited about, but some were not as bad as others:
Adrian – 2
What was he thinking? Adrian is a maverick, but that was ridiculous even by his standards. The occasion clearly got to him and he tried to take matters into his own hands despite having a defence who had done a solid job up until that point. It was reckless, stupid and ultimately costly. Two valuable points were dropped and Adrian’s entirely to blame for that, nothing else matters.
Cheikhou Kouyate – 6
A decent performance from Kouyate after something of a game to forget last week at Everton. He won the ball back and his positioning was much better than it has been in recent weeks. The team do seem to be missing his surging runs forward – something he teased in the later spells of the game against Stoke – but it is understandable why Bilic is reluctant to change things as his presence at the back has helped shore up a leaky defence.
James Collins – 6
It was unsurprising to see Collins drafted in as Reid’s replacement, especially as Bilic seems to have taken a shine to the club’s current defensive system. He looked comfortable and I felt the leadership he brought to the defence played a huge part in keeping Ogbonna and Kouyate focused and disciplined. He can still be effective when used sparingly and he proved today that sometimes sticking to the basics is the best thing a defender can do.
Angelo Ogbonna – 6
This was the most comfortable Ogbonna has looked all season. He seemed confident and nearly always got his head on the ball when it mattered. That nearly saw the Italian score the opening goal in the first-half. His passing still needs a lot of work if he does insist on carrying the ball out of defence. Like the rest of the defence, it is just a shame his goalkeeper deprived him of a clean sheet.
Michail Antonio – 6.5
Yes, Antonio’s header from Payet’s cross gave West Ham the lead and he should still be regarded as the goalscorer (even though it was ‘officially’ an own goal). That doesn’t take away from what was yet another really average performance from him. He cannot be faulted for his effort, but things are just not going his way. Unfortunately, he seems to be the latest in a long line of West Ham players to have been handed an international cap only to see his club form slump drastically soon after.
Pedro Obiang – 7 (MOTM)
Obiang is one of those quiet, but effective players. He continues to go about his job in the middle of the park, yet he is deservedly receiving praise for his efforts. He was once again instrumental in breaking up play and regaining possession in midfield. He played a leading role in calming things down after the goal by ensuring Stoke did not punish the Hammers. Again, it was strange to seem him substituted so it might be a case that he is simply not able to last the entire 90 minutes.
Mark Noble – 5.5
It does pain me to say it, but Noble is really struggling this season. Barring a good ongoing battle with the in-form Joe Allen, Noble was infuriating to watch. He was constantly killing attacks before they even had a chance to develop and around 80% of his passes went five yards across the pitch or back to the defence. Where has his initiative gone? Where are the defence-splitting forward passes that caused teams so many problems last year? There are glimpses, but there needs to be more.
Aaron Cresswell – 6
Drifted in and out of the game. He did make his presence felt more than last time out and he did the defensive side of his job well. I do think Payet should stand aside from the next free-kick and let Cresswell have a pop because his left-foot is special – as he has proven already against Newcastle. He has a fantastic understanding of the game and he rarely has a bad game, so it is a shame his teammates are not quite on the same wavelength.
Manuel Lanzini – 6.5
I am surprised by just how many people thought Lanzini was having a bad game before he was subbed off in the second-half. His footwork was brilliant and he was arguably the only player (aside from Obiang) who was able to create space in the midfield. He was guilty of making some of his passes too predictable, but his link-up player with Ayew – admittedly one that needs work – has the potential to be lethal.
Dimitri Payet – 6
A quiet figure for much of the game. He saw much less of the ball, but he did little in defensive terms to try and win it back for the team. It was another game where his frustrations with the referee perhaps impacted his game, but it remains to be seen why the Frenchman is being given the cold shoulder on a regular basis from the officials. Like last weekend, he continues to lose the ball more often than he should do, but his set-pieces did at least improve. A free-kick on the stroke of half-time had fans out of their seats and a good cross into the box provided Antonio with an assist that really should have secured the Hammers the three points.
Andre Ayew – 6
Ayew looks a class player, however it was evident against Stoke that he cannot be expected to be the focal point of the attack. Neat touches and an encouraging awareness of those around him should give fans a reason to be excited, but the former Swansea man needs to be given a supporting role in which he can thrive. He was an isolated figure up front, so maybe the time has come to either start Ashley Fletcher or to play with two up top, at least then Ayew will have somebody to work with.
Edmilison Fernandes (62′ for Lanzini) – 5
A bright spot in the last few weeks, it was a little surprising to see him dropped from the starting XI given his recent performances. However, he struggled with the physicality of Stoke and he was easily dealt with by their defenders. No player should lose possession in such a feeble manner and that unfortunately meant he was targeted by Stoke every time he had the ball. He needs to adapt to that side of the Premier League.
Ashley Fletcher (62′ for Ayew) – 7
Fletcher’s introduction elicited one of the biggest cheers of the match and he did not disappoint. Strong on the ball, clever movement and able to carry the ball comfortably in his stride, he still looks to be the club’s biggest coup of the transfer window.
Sofiane Feghouli (89′ for Obiang) – N/A
Produced his best cross in a West Ham shirt, but did little else of note for the short time he was on the pitch.