Written by Rhys Paul
West Ham made it back-to-back wins for the first time this season with a last minute win against bottom-of-the-table, Sunderland. Winston Reid (94′) scored with virtually the last kick of the game to hand the Hammers the three points and to continue his trend of only scoring decisive goals.
It was another encouraging team performance from the home side, but one that was particularly toothless in the final third. Only three of the twenty shots were on-target and that is something that is becoming an all too familiar statistic. The team’s tiki-taka style was pleasing on the eye and for the first 25 minutes as it contributed to a buzz around the stadium. However, too often the team took it too far and tried to walk the ball into the back of the net against an increasingly defensive Sunderland side. Reid’s winner was deserved in the end and it ensured the club’s current upward trajectory continued. In regards to the players, several positives can be drawn from individual performances and things do seem to be gradually falling into place for some. The away trip next week to Everton will be a good test for the players and it should provide a good indication of how far they have come since the beginning of the season. Until then, let’s reflect on how each player performed against Sunderland:
Adrian – 6.5
A relatively quiet game for Adrian. He did well when he was called on, notably in denying Wahbi Khazri in a one-on-one at the start of the second-half and with an impressive one-handed save in the first-half. He was quick to collect the ball when it came into the six yard and looked a lot more confident with the defenders in front of him.
Cheikhou Kouyate – 7
Another very strong showing from Kouyate. Unusually, his impact was subtle compared to his midfield-splitting drives. He was dominant in the air and successfully regained possession on several occasions. He wasn’t assigned a specific task in the same way he was against Palace and that sometimes meant he drifted out of position, meaning he occasionally found himself in his more natural midfield position.
Winston Reid – 8 (MOTM)
Reid has narrowly missed out on being man-of-the-match for the last few games, but he has more than deserved the title for his performance against Sunderland. He once again led the back-three superbly and he hardly put a foot wrong. He played a big part in isolating Jermain Defoe and that essentially deprived the away side of their only real threat. If one moment could sum up his recent form, it was late in the first-half when he refused to lose possession despite it seeming an inevitability. His low-driven winner was fully deserved.
Angelo Ogbonna – 7
Ogbonna has been overshadowed in recent weeks by his teammates. He held his own against Sunderland and looked more comfortable passing the ball out of defence. He was strong in the air and he has a good understanding of the game, as proven with his clever through ball which was unfortunately wasted on Simone Zaza.
Michail Antonio – 6
Antonio enjoyed a lot of success in the first half an hour when the Hammers were dominating. He seemed to relish taking on Patrick van Aanholt in this period, yet he went missing for the next half an hour he was on the pitch. He enjoyed a lot of success down the right-wing and it was a shame that his delivery couldn’t do his hard work justice. There are still huge doubts over his ability as a right wing-back as it clearly takes something away from his game with his attacking instincts often having a detrimental impact on his defensive positioning.
Pedro Obiang – 7
This was by no means a bad performance from Obiang. He quietly went about his game and his presence continues to provide structure to the midfield. His passing was on point yet again too, even if his shooting leaves much to be desired. He wasn’t quite as influential as he has been and his positioning did let him down, but these are minor criticisms of an otherwise solid performance.
Mark Noble – 7.5
Another week, another improved performance. This was more like the 2015/16 Mark Noble. He was confident, made himself known in midfield and his passing range had significantly improved. Like Reid, he has been epitomising the club’s recent effort to dig deep and drag the team out of their slump. He is guilty of being too eager in offloading the ball to Dimitri Payet, but it was a pleasant change to see him on the ball so much.
Edimilson Fernandes – 6.5
Slaven Bilic’s decision to name the 20 year old, Fernandes as Aaron Cresswell’s replacement at left wing-back certainly raised a few eyebrows. Admittedly, he did not have much to do defensively, but he acquitted himself well going forward and he made it clear why Bilic has such high hopes for him. He was too predictable at times, particularly when cutting inside from the wing, but that didn’t seem to stop him enjoying a good degree of success against the Sunderland defenders and that subsequently allowed him to create several chances for his teammates.
Manuel Lanzini – 6.5
Like Antonio, his best spell in the game came during the first-half. He was lively and his footwork allowed him to effortlessly find space in a Sunderland midfield packed with the likes of Jack Rodwell and Didier Ndong. Encouraging and exciting link-up play was all good, but he was a chief offender when it came to trying to walk the back into the back of the net. His influence diminished throughout the second-half and he was rightfully sacrificed for an extra striker in the dying minutes. He does not seem to be a player who can perform for the entire 90 minutes.
Dimitri Payet – 7
Payet’s quality was all too apparent against Sunderland. The ball stuck to him like glue and he was instrumental in the home side’s domination for the first 25 minutes. Before Reid’s strike, he came closest to opening the scoring with an effort that hit the post in the 27th minute. Whilst he did provide the assist for Reid’s winner, his final ball really let him down in the second-half. He also tried to do too much at times and seemed to lose possession more as the game progressed and as the team became more desperate. His frustration with Bobby Madley’s persistent refusal to penalise fouls against him might have contributed, but it did at least share similarities with a certain Paolo Di Canio – although not to same memorable extent.
Simone Zaza – 5.5
Zaza is simply not equipped to lead the line for West Ham. Attacks are constantly undermined by his movement (or rather lack of) and he does not look like scoring anytime soon. Aside from a few neat touches, what does he actually bring to the team? His work-rate was his saving grace against Palace, but it wasn’t quite at that level against Sunderland. He wasted several opportunities with defenders finding it easy to block his efforts and he completely ruined Ogbonna’s promising through ball by taking the ball away from goal. He isn’t going to score enough at this level.
Sofiane Feghouli (62′ for Antonio) – 7
A good decision to replace Antonio with the fresh, pacey legs of Feghouli. He immediately asked questions of van Aanholt and the best chances created by the home side in the last half an hour came from the Algerian.
Jonathan Calleri (68′ for Zaza) – 6
He is looking better with each game and his movement off the ball did offer a welcome change from the man he replaced. It appears that Calleri is somebody who needs time to adjust to the English game, so I am prepared to give him time at this stage.
Ashley Fletcher (84′ for Lanzini) – N/A
He saw a fair amount of the ball for the brief time he was on the pitch. Had it not been for Reid’s last-minute winner, supporters might have been lambasting his fluffed pass that completely killed a promising move in Sunderland’s box.