West Ham’s unbeaten run ended against Everton on Saturday, but the Hammers continued to demonstrate their rise in quality and were unlucky not to take something from the game.
Sam Allardyce’s men were looking to make it six league matches unbeaten for the first time since 2009, but against a Toffees side they have failed to beat since 2007 it proved to be too big of an ask.
They were unfortunate not to, though, as Romelu Lukaku’s opener was clearly offside and when Leon Osman scored the winner late on in the second-half West Ham were in the ascendency.
Mauro Zarate’s deflected effort proved to be a mere consolation in the end, but on another day the Irons could have come away from Goodison Park with a positive result – something the fans have not seen often.
Here we take a look at five things we learnt from the defeat.
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1. HAMMERS HAVE GREAT CHARACTER
West Ham may have been expected to lose the match by some with five key players absent through injury, top scorer Diafra Sakho joined on the sidelines by Enner Valencia, Stewart Downing, Alex Song and Cheikhou Kouyate.
However it is a massive testament to the character, quality and confidence in the squad that they coped so well without them and tested a strong Everton side’s resolve. They deserved at least a point from the game and without the injuries it is hard to envisage them not taking all three.
2. CARROLL NEEDS TIME
Andy Carroll was handed his first start of the season due to the absentees which perhaps forced Allardyce to throw him into the mix. He was partnered up to by Carlton Cole, whom he linked up well with in the behind-closed-doors friendly with Fulham last week.
The striker had a fairly poor day at the office, though, and looked rusty as he struggled to have an impact on proceedings. The former England international wasn’t helped by some wasteful deliveries which didn’t give him much of a chance, but he certainly looked like a man that has been out for several months.
3. ZARATE HAS A LOT TO GIVE
The Argentine was left on the bench but Allardyce brought him on after 51 minutes, realising that Cole was not having the desired effect. It took only five minutes for Zarate to have an impact as his shot from 25 yards took a big deflection off Phil Jagielka and looped beyond Tim Howard in the Everton goal.
The performance suggests he is by no means done in east London and he will have given his manager plenty to ponder. It was after his introduction that the visitors took control of the game, Zarate made some great runs and his quick feet combined with his creative outlook helped push the side forward.
4. NOLAN STILL HAS SOMETHING TO OFFER
Kevin Nolan has been criticised by fans in the past after some questionable performances and as a result he has not featured in the starting lineup for some time. However he justified his inclusion on Saturday with a commanding display, winning possession six times, completing 76% of his passes and creating more chances than any other player on the pitch (3).
Although it could be argued if the captain busted a gut to stay with Osman he may well have been able to cut out the cross which led to the winning goal, but that’s being harsh as he was one of few trying to recover.
Nolan may not be deserving of a place in the first-team when everyone is back fit, but the 32-year-old has proved he still has something to bring to the table when the side is short on numbers.
5. ALLARDYCE TACTICALLY ASTUTE
Injuries did Allardyce no favours this week and as a result he had to shuffle the pack, which resulted in him experimenting with a 5-3-2 formation. It took the Hammers a while to find their feet using this system but in the end it almost paid dividends.
Allardyce demonstrated tactical nous to try and utilise his flying full-backs by giving them a freer role in the side operating as wing-backs, which was expected to benefit Carroll. Carl Jenkinson and Aaron Cresswell did not have their best of games, though, as they failed to provide any deliveries of real quality.
It was the second-half substitutions the manager made, too, which swung the game West Ham’s way. He brought on Zarate and Matt Jarvis early on and they both had a big impact. In the end it was just not the Hammers’ day, as it has often been the case when they have come up against Everton, but their was still plenty of positives to take away.