Written by Rhys Paul
The move to the former Olympic Stadium is finally a reality. Admittedly, Thursday’s tie against NK Domzale was the first game to be played under a new set of floodlights, but everything had been built towards Juventus and, in truth, it felt much more like it as well. The showcase fixture did not disappoint either. Serie A Champions, Juventus ran out 3-2 winners in a match which saw the hosts fight back from two goals down courtesy of an Andy Carroll double. It was hardly a surprising result, particularly given that Juventus are undoubtedly one of the few elite European clubs. Within three minutes of each other, Paulo Dybala and Mario Mandzukic fired the visitors into a 2-0 lead before Carroll brought the hosts level. Widespread substitutions killed the momentum of the game and, by the time the winner was struck, the Hammers had given several youngsters a run-out. In typical West Ham fashion, it was inevitably the man (Simone Zaza) the club has been linked with who struck the decisive goal in the 85th minute to claim the historic Betway Cup for the ‘Old Lady’. All-in-all it was a relatively good showing for West Ham despite clearly still being in pre-season mode. The result means the team head into the new campaign with only a single win in pre-season, but history has taught us that pre-season can often be misleading and this is even more so in the case of West Ham. The most important thing was that the squad got a good run-out against good opposition without suffering any further injuries and this was the case. With many of the squad featuring, I’ve rated them on their performance against Juventus and awarded the man-of-the-match crown to the individual who I believe impressed the most for the home side.
Adrian – 7
He came under some criticism last season, but he continues to thrive in ‘big game’ scenarios. Confident and sharp – exactly what we love about Adrian. There was little he could have done about the three conceded and a couple of good saves kept the side in it.
Michail Antonio – 5
What has happened to Antonio? He refuses to run for loose balls and he was easily out-muscled by Alex Sandro, it was the type of lazy play the former Forest winger is unaccustomed for. It could simply be that he doesn’t want to play right-back (something he has made clear to Bilic) or he’s somebody who isn’t willing to put in the same level of effort into a friendly. No defensive errors though and he did appear slightly more ‘up for it’ when he was pushed to his more preferred attacking position for a brief period at the start of the second-half.
Winston Reid – 5
He won a good number of aerial tussles, but lost the battles that mattered. His attempt at a rash and thoughtless attempt to win the ball from Dybala was made to look foolish as he was subsequently left on his backside by the Argentinian. His partnership with Ogbonna simply wasn’t good enough and the defence was too open until they were replaced for the second-half.
Angelo Ogbonna – 6
Like Reid, he must take some responsibility for the poor defensive showing that allowed Juventus to race into a two-goal lead. His lack of match fitness was apparent and he appeared too eager to make a statement against his former team as opposed to focusing on the job at hand.
Sam Byram – 7
After being an area of concern in the first leg against NK Domzale, Byram has quickly adapted to his unfamiliar role as a temporary left-back. He should really be playing in his preferred right-back position – especially ahead of Antonio – but he did a solid job in one of the busier areas of the pitch (at least for the first half) and provided the cross which led to Carroll’s first. He possesses a good sense of positioning and he is willing to get stuck-in as well – and that is always an encouraging sign.
Mark Noble – 7
Whilst it was a glorified friendly, Noble looked right at home competing with some of the world’s best. The skipper really has come on leaps-and-bounds since being handed the armband. The strongest aspect of his game was once again on show today in his ability to break up play and win the ball back. His in-swinging free-kick was a touch of quality and ultimately put the equaliser on a plate for Carroll.
Havard Nordtveit – 6
Another solid 90 minutes under the belt for Nordtveit. He quietly goes about his game, but does so with a touch of class about him. He looks a really good signing and his versatility could be a useful asset if the club’s traditional bad luck with injuries continues.
Sofiane Feghouli – 6
One of the more impressive players over the course of pre-season, he was unable to have the same impact as he had on Thursday. A few neat touches and it was also reassuring to see him help Antonio out with his defensive duties, but not a hugely eventful game for the Algerian.
Josh Cullen – 7
I was very impressed with the 20 year old. He was the first player to catch my eye with his tidy display in the centre of the park. A couple of good tackles also helped Cullen slot in almost effortlessly alongside Noble and Nordtveit. His work rate is unquestionable and it was clear he was trying to impress. Burke and Oxford’s development has overshadowed him so far, but Bilic’s decision to put Cullen in the starting XI shows the manager has high hopes for the youngster.
Enner Valencia – 6
Although the player wants the move, he must be applauded for the way he has conducted himself on the pitch. He remains frustrating at times, but he was kept quiet by Dani Alves for most of his time on the pitch. One decent run in the second half was cynically brought to a premature end.
Andy Carroll – 8 (Man-of-the-Match)
It’s been strange having Carroll for a whole pre-season. Juventus’ famed Italian defence struggled with the No.9 and he was ruthless with the only two real chances he had. Gianluigi Buffon denied his initial header with a fantastic save, but Carroll’s hunger prevailed as he reacted first to the loose ball and his second showed his aerial prowess against a typically resolute defence. A fantastic goal line clearance also kept the team in it. His fitness has never been better and that should be a huge worry for other Premier League teams.
Reece Burke – 6
Not sure about Burke as a right-back, but he did a good enough job. Looks stronger than this time last year, the loan spell at Bradford has paid off,
James ‘Ginger Pele’ Collins – 7
Did better than both Reid and Ogbonna. Also pocketed a seemingly unfit Gonzalo Higuain and he doesn’t seem too far off match fitness.
Reece Oxford – 6
Followed up an impressive display on Thursday with another composed, if error-prone showing. Poor positioning played a part in Zaza’s winner and he was responsible for a couple of misplaced passes from pedestrian play, but a few good challenges saved his performance.
Lewis Page – 5
Nothing of real significance in what was essentially a cameo appearance.
Martin Samuelsen – 6
Another who didn’t see much of the ball, but good, energetic movement and a nice period of interplay with Quina and Browne.
Marcus Browne – 5
Other than the aforementioned interplay, he did nothing of note. It was good to see him feature and he can only get better.
Domingos Quina – 6
Easily his best game since joining, but that hardly says a lot. He fought for the ball, but needs to learn to release sooner. He is understandably raw at 16 years old, but he’s not done much to justify the hype surrounding his move so far.
Dimitri Payet – 6
A fantastic reception for the returning hero, but that was the highlight of his first pre-season match. It was a pleasant surprise to see him even feature since he’s only just returned to training, but his quality was clear from the moment he touched the ball.
Ashley Fletcher – 7
He had a tough act to follow after replacing Carroll so soon after the equaliser, but he certainly made his presence felt. He’s good on the ball and he stood toe-to-toe with Giorgio Chiellini. He has real potential to make a name for himself at the club, so hopefully the arrival of another striker will not see him fade into the background.
West Ham fans, do you agree with these ratings? Let us know in the comments below!
featured image by John Seb Barber