West Ham ensured they remained unbeaten in 2015 with a scintillating second-half performance against Hull which moved them back to within four points of the Champions League places.
Sam Allardyce’s outfit were under the cosh for the first 45 minutes with Hull dominating the midfield, but after a change of system at the break the game turned on its head.
Andy Carroll, Morgan Amalfitano and Stewart Downing scored the goals which consigned relegation-threatened Hull to a third consecutive defeat, however if they took their first-half chances it could’ve been a completely different story.
Here we take a look at five things we learned from the Hammers victory.
1. ALLARDYCE EMPLOYED WRONG TACTICS
West Ham’s set-up on Sunday was horribly wrong and if against a more ruthless side they would have been at least three down by the mid-way point.
Allardyce had Downing and Enner Valencia lumbered out wide, with Alex Song and Mark Noble sitting far too deep in the middle. They were largely outnumbered by Hull’s five-man midfield and couldn’t get a foot on the ball for the majority of the opening stages.
Furthermore, Carroll’s aerial efforts were made futile with only Kevin Nolan within 10 yards of him up top, as the wingers loitered out wide without anything to feed off.
It was a sizeable risk from Allardyce to leave it until half-time before altering the system but they got away with it in the end.
2. COLLINS IS A HERO
One man that did shine for the home side in their dismal first-half was James Collins.
While James Tomkins was guilty of giving the ball away with numerous loose passes, Collins was always on-hand to cut-off any danger with some exceptional last-ditch tackles and blocks.
Just when Hull looked like getting a shot away at Adrian, Collins would step in almost out of nowhere to save the day. The Welshman is largely to thank for West Ham keeping their first clean sheet in nine league matches.
3. DIAMOND FORMATION THE WAY FORWARD
After a painful 45 minutes the Hammers reverted to the system that has made them so exciting to watch this campaign – a 4-4-2 diamond.
It really is baffling as to why Allardyce felt the need to change it against a poor, injury-ravaged Hull outfit, but what it did do was conspicuously show how much better everyone performs in the diamond.
The second-half display was unrecognisable to the first and three goals demonstrates just how much more of an attacking threat they pose in this system.
4. DOWNING AND VALENCIA EXCEL CENTRALLY
A big factor to the improvement was when Downing and Valencia moved more centrally, they reaped the benefits of support after playing in isolation for the vast majority of the opening period.
Downing in particular looks a completely different player when he’s in a central role and it’s almost a crime to waste him on the wings. His confidence seems to improve tenfold as he is far more willing to take players on. He capped his performance with a brilliantly taken goal, but also made four key passes and six take-ons.
Valenica may still be some way from reaching his full potential but against Hull he was very impressive. Although he didn’t score, he created the first two goals and made life extremely difficult for the visitors in the latter half.
5. TEAMS WILL FEAR HAMMERS
After four games without a win since Christmas, the victory revives Allardyce's hopes of earning the club a first appearance in a continental competition since 2006.
The east London outfit are currently in seventh place and back in good form with five wins, three draws and two defeats in their last ten matches. Not really much of a blip after all and teams will be wary of the threat they pose.
But with Liverpool, Manchester United, Southampton and Tottenham on the horizon things could change drastically. However the Hammers should have no fear and there is no doubt they can take points from those next four fixtures.
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