a�?…don’t you start talking about how I feel about my beloved West Ham. Cos I love ’em…a�?
For those that genuinely do, take a moment; your favorite club has now beaten Arsenal, Liverpool, and Manchester Citya��in the same season, mind youa��away from home. Logic dictates this will not keep up, but it’s been such a strange campaign for West Ham that it’s difficult to gauge what they’re going to do next.
After wilting in the qualification stages of the Europa League to FC Astra Giurgiu (a blessing in disguise?), and suffering consecutive losses to Leicester City and AFC Bournemouth, it was looking like quite the shaky start for new manager Slaven BiliA�a��the man who coached the Croatian national team from 2006-2012 and most recently BeAYiktaAY at the club level from 2013-2015.
But the 47-year-old and his side recovered gracefully; keep in mind that his BeAYiktaAY side took Arsenal to the limit in last year’s Champions League qualifier, ultimately falling 1-0 on aggregate. Then, they won their Europa League group that Tottenham Hotspur shared with them. Finally, they took out Liverpool in the round of 32 back in February (1-1 on aggregate, 5-4 on penalties).
The common theme with BiliA�’s side in those four legs against Arsenal and Liverpool was defensive discipline, displayed by the fact that they allowed just two goals from open play against two of the EPL’s more revered sides. He’s had a little more of an attacking threat with his West Ham squad thus far.
This is heavily hindsight, of course, but maybe a 0-2 victory Arsenal wasn’t all that surprising. That said, 0-3 over Liverpool certainly isa��both scorelines in their own right suggest a certain dominance that we just haven’t seen from West Ham.
So, how is it that they conceded six goals between Leicester and Bournemouth? Maybe that’s just football, as BiliA�’s men did show they could beat the easier-on-paper opponents with a comprehensive 2-0 victory over Newcastle back on September 14. They also scored five goals in those aforementioned losses, so it’s not as though they were blown out of the water.
Over the weekend, it was the counter attack that did the Citizens in, with the Hammers bagging two goals within 31 minutes. Kevin De Bruyne opened his Manchester City account just before halftime to cut the deficit, but City couldn’t find the equalizer in the second half. Again, defensive discipline. One outstanding stat from this match: center-back Winston Reid had 21 clearances.
As for the manager’s thoughts, well, how could BiliA� not be pleased?
a�?You need a bit about you if you want to score two goals here, or two goals at the Emirates or three at Anfield… You’ve got no chance unless you sprint until the end of the game. We deserved it, considering the way we played in the first half and fought in the second… But this was hard – City pressed us and City were the better team in the second half.a�?
Despite the relentless pressing, it was not enough for the Citizens. I can only imagine the faces of West Ham supporters when they saw that their club’s first three away games were at Arsenal, Liverpool, and City. I believe they’re doing just fine now.
As for the Manchester side, they’ll look to get back on track quickly as they travel to White Hart Lane to take on Tottenham Hotspur. Meanwhile, West Ham host Norwich City; can they build on their already impressive campaigna��one that sees them currently sitting in third place? I wouldn’t bet against it.
Tottenham won their second league match in a row with another 1-0 victory over a normally strong away team in Crystal Palace, with new signing Son Heung-min opening his EPL account after Christian Eriksen put him through. Boy, that’s a combination fans are going to like this season.
Their defense has conceded the second fewest amount of goals so far (4). They’ve also only scored the second fewest (5), which ties them with three other clubs (Arsenal, Watford, Stoke). Will they wilt in a big match against the Citizens this weekend?
Speaking of Watford, their victory over Newcastle marks two in a row for the newly promoted side, as Newcastle has quickly found themselves in the relegation zonea��sandwiched between Stoke and Sunderland.
On the subject of newly promoted sides, Norwich City claimed a point against Liverpool at Anfield over the weekend, while Bournemouth won their second match of the season with a 2-0 victory over the massively underwhelming Sunderland.
After soaring against Chelsea last weekend, Everton settled for a scoreless draw with Swansea City, who continue to struggle to find the net.
As for Chelsea, they’ve won two matches in a row (UCL last week) after dispatching Arsenal 2-0, even reducing them to nine men before the final whistle.
Leicester erased another two-goal deficit, this time to Stoke, and finished level at 2-2. The Foxes are currently fourth in the table after six matches. How about that?
Southampton and Aston Villa continued their early season struggles with losses to Manchester United and West Brom, respectively. After such an unexpectedly great term last year, the Saints look to be a little lost. Meanwhile, finishing out matches has been a problem for Villa.
One note on United: Anthony Martial. He scored in his debut against Liverpool and followed that up with a brace against Southamptona��already starting to justify that ludicrous price tag. Can he keep it up?
What’s the suggested match next weekend? I’m going to say Tottenham Hotspura��Manchester City, though you’ll have to wake up pretty early to catch it with kick off at 7:45 a.m. ET.