West Ham 0 Chelsea 3: Three talking points as Blues cruise
West Ham 0 Chelsea 3: What lessons did we learn as the Blues sealed a comfortable victory in east London?
West Ham need a Christmas Carroll…now!
With Andy Carroll injured, and Carlton Cole, re-signed on a short-term deal, struggling for match fitness, West Ham have faced a serious shortage of strikers this season, and coming into this game had scored just nine in 11. Today, again, Allardyce employed what has been described as both a 4-6-0 and 4-2-4. Trouble is, West Ham – and Allardyce – are hardly Cruyff-era Holland exponents of Total Football. The game was fairly even for the first 20 minutes, but after the first goal, Chelsea began to dominate possession, which led to the second – Chelsea rolling the ball around their high back-line, unpressured by any challenging forward, before a simple pass to Hazard and a flick by him opened West Ham up. It seems this kind of amorphous blob of the six players who aren’t defenders are not entirely sure what they are meant to do – not necessarily a problem in a free-flowing attack, as Chelsea have shown, but potentially very problematic when defending. The difference in league positions with Southampton (fourth from top, not bottom) – on paper a team of similar quality, but one with a much more cohesive system and pressing game – is telling of the east London side’s tactical problems. As Jamie Redknapp said, the fact that the injured Carroll is beginning to appear like Cristiano Ronaldo shows the depth of their attacking options. The only shot on target West Ham had was basically the last kick (or head) of the game. Modibo Maïga shows flashes of brilliance, but only flashes. And Kevin Nolan was, as ever, game to the task, but he is just not an out-an-out striker – far better arriving late to the box or taking knockdowns from Carroll, or someone like him.
Three is the magic number for Chelsea, but which three?
Jose Mourinho has established, like many managers today, a regular 4-2-3-1 system, but the cogs in the system, particularly the three, have been far from stable, with everyone from Eden Hazard, to Oscar, to Ramires, to Juan Mata, to Willian, to Frank Lampard, to Andre Schurrle in strong contention for the spots. Oscar and Hazard staked very strong claims for their places here, particularly the Brazilian in winning the penalty for the first, scoring the second, and getting involved elsewhere in some of the dirty work – something Mourinho has claimed the out-of-favour Mata doesn’t do. The skilful Spaniard could return in place of Ramires, but the Brazilian does offer a lot of industry, as did here the very impressive Lampard, who was given some licence to roam by Mikel. Schurrle came on and, as he has in other games, showed good pace and cutting edge. They even have Michael Essien (remember him?) returning to fold. A very nice dilemma for Mr Mourinho to have.
West Ham’s defence
Given the aforementioned problems in attack, that West Ham stand above the relegation zone at all is due to a generally parsimonious defence. The absence here of the impressive Winston Reid – injured in their last game, a 3-1 loss to Norwich – was evident, as central defenders James Collins and James Tomkins struggled. Granted, they will not face many attacks as impressive as Chelsea’s this season. But there was a distinct lack of cohesion here. This was evident not just in the first goal – an inexplicably thighed backpass which fell well short of Jussi Jaaskelainen, leading to the penalty – but in the build up to it; a series of only half-cleared headers. And it was shown in West Ham’s defending in general, which never came close to containing the comfortable Chelsea.