Written by Rhys Paul
If only a game of football lasted 33 minutes. The frantic start to the game always made an early goal seem inevitable and it was West Ham who made their pressure count as Michail Antonio headed them in front in the 5th minute. Supporters were full of hope. With new signings and players fresh from injury in the squad, it did appear that the team was revitalised in the early exchanges against Watford. Dimitri Payet was one of those who returned to action and he had the biggest impact of the lot. After providing the assist for the opener, he produced an outrageous Rabona cross for Antonio to add a second at the far post (33′). From then on, it was all downhill. The visitors had hardly threatened before Odion Ighalo’s shot deflected off James Collins and proceeded to somehow roll underneath Adrian. It went from bad to worse after that with the Collins-Adrian combination again to blame. Poor communication between two vocal individuals is inexcusable and it was painfully obvious when Collins headed the ball out of Adrian’s reach that Watford were going to equalise. Admittedly, I was not expecting Troy Deeney to take the shot on himself, but the Hornet’s skipper curled the ball home superbly. West Ham’s 2-0 lead lasted a total of 14 minutes.
It might have been a different story had the Hammers gone into the break 2-1 up, but Deeney’s equaliser swung the momentum in Watford’s favour. There was only one team who looked capable of winning in the second-half. Etienne Capoue’s well-struck half volley (53′) gave Watford the lead for the first time in the game and Jose Holebas (63′) effectively ended the contest with just under half an hour to go. It was worrying just how easy the visitors were finding it to walk through the West Ham defence. In truth, they probably should have scored more. The players were void of ideas and it was telling in the increasing number of passes that went backwards and sideways despite the team chasing the game. It was too one dimensional and capped of yet another lacklustre, disappointing display from West Ham. The first half an hour was an attacking masterclass, whereas the last hour was a masterclass in how not to defend. In the end, Watford were unlucky to only win 4-2. Unsurprisingly, I haven’t chosen a West Ham man-of-the-match, but here are each player’s individual rating:
Adrian – 4
This was one of Adrian’s worst performances in a West Ham shirt. Weak, complacent goalkeeping allowed Ighalo’s shot to slip past and he was just as guilty as Collins for the mix-up that resulted in Deeney’s equaliser. Even the fourth goal could have been avoided with some competent goalkeeping. A couple of good reaction saves stop the rating being even lower. After this performance, Darren Randolph should start against West Brom.
Sam Byram – 4
It was a long afternoon for Byram. He needed a good performance to stop Slaven Bilic drafting Alvaro Arbeloa straight into the team when he’s match-fit and he did little to support his case. Poor clearances and an inability to win a tackle (although that seemed the case for the whole defence) were the story of his afternoon. He was ineffective going forward as well and looked out of his depth when he did.
James Collins – 2
And there it is. James Collins usually follows up a series of good performances with a fatal mistake and this time around it wasn’t just the one he made either. It was a horror show and Bilic should have hauled him off at half-time after he gifted Watford the equaliser. I cannot recall him winning a single tackle and the only thing he did win was a couple of aerial battles when West Ham were on top in the first-half. Another who should be dropped next week.
Winston Reid – 5
Reid hardly caught my attention until the second-half. He wasn’t great, but he wasn’t atrocious either. Watford enjoyed most of their success down the right, but they were still able to cut through the middle far too easily at points – something which Reid must take some blame for. Again, I can’t recall him winning the ball in a challenge, but he looked much better than the rest of the defence.
Arthur Masuaku – 6
Very good early in the contest, but he seemed more intent on attacking rather than defending. A couple of good dribbles into promising positions got fans on their feet. Defensively, he did his part in preventing Ighalo from grabbing an early equaliser with the score at 1-0. He lost his way as the game progressed and seemed content to just pass the ball from side-to-side rather than carrying the ball forward as he was earlier in the match.
Mark Noble – 5
The skipper’s lack of influence contributed to the dismal performance. He went missing in the middle of the park and constantly seemed one step behind the rest of the action. His substitution wasn’t a surprise, but it effectively marked the end of any hopes the Hammers had of salvaging a draw because Noble is one of the few players who could have inspired the team in such a situation.
Cheikhou Kouyate – 4
A player of Kouyate’s stature should be making his presence felt in every game. Again, he impressed in the early stages as he fought, and often won the second balls, but that desire seemed to disappear in the second-half. The game was crying out for a powerful Kouyate drive up the field to get West Ham back into it. He seemed unwilling to do so and actually looked too tired to even attempt it.
Michail Antonio – 7
Another two headed goals for Antonio. The second is becoming all too familiar with a cross to the far post being nodded in by the former Nottingham Forest winger. It seemed to be the only route the team were attempting when trying to find a third goal and teams are surely going to catch on soon enough, especially as Watford defended easily against it after they had taken the lead. Antonio was a constant threat down the right, but naturally found himself seeing less of the ball as the game ran away from the hosts. He seemed to be one of the few players who kept going until the end.
Manuel Lanzini – 6
Lanzini’s presence gave the team the energetic, creative presence they had missed in the first three games of the season. A handful of neat dribbles and some equally neat touches got fans excited, it’s just a shame his shots at goal were awful. Faded as the game wore on, but that could be attributed to lack of playing time.
Dimitri Payet – 7
In those first thirty minutes, Payet was quite simply a joy to watch. The hosts controlled the game and played perfectly into the Frenchman’s hands (or feet). Two fantastic assists (including that perfect Rabona) and an inability to lose the ball had fans believing the team had turned a corner. As Watford took control, Payet’s influence diminished and he failed to maintain possession for long periods. One criticism is his naive attempt at defending which I’m sure was much better last season. The rest of the team need to start pulling their weight to prevent an over-reliance on him.
Simone Zaza – 5
An overhead kick with one of his first touches in a West Ham shirt almost released Antonio for what would have been an extraordinary goal. Started off promising, but became an isolated figure by the time he was substituted. He seemed content with letting the ball come to him and this often allowed the Watford defence to get to the ball first. Admittedly, there were few chances created for him and he did demonstrate his quality on the ball. I was disappointed with his overall performance, but I’m prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt and blame it on the lack of service on this occasion.
Jonathan Calleiri (69′ for Noble) – 5
Still yet to find his feet at the club, yet continues to be Bilic’s ‘go to’ attacking option on the bench. He doesn’t seem capable of being the impact sub Bilic sees him as and that showed again against Watford.
Ashley Fletcher (77′ for Zaza) – 5
This was the quietest game Fletcher has had since joining the club. That in itself reveals how isolated the frontmen were and it didn’t help that he was only given 13 minutes to make an impact.
Gokhan Tore (85′ for Byram) – 5
Had little time to do anything of note.
West Ham fans, do you agree with these ratings? Let us know in the comments below!