West Ham were held 1-1 by Swansea City after having taken the lead for the third successive match and they are now without a win in their last five in all competitions.
Andy Carroll’s superb strike was not enough to gift the Hammers what would have been an impressive victory at the Liberty Stadium – a ground which has been a fortress this term with only Southampton and Tottenham coming away with three points.
The visitors instead tried to hold on to what they had and like the two previous matches, they couldn’t see it through as Mark Noble could only divert Bafetimbi Gomis' header into his own net with just over 15 minutes remaining.
Here we take a look at five things we learned from the result.
1. CARROLL LOVES PLAYING SWANSEA
The towering number nine returned to the side having missed the FA Cup clash with Everton to make his 50th West Ham appearance and fortunately for him it was against the Swans – a team he had already scored twice against this season.
He terrorised them at the Boleyn Ground and was hugely influential in the Hammers’ 3-1 victory, although in that encounter it was his aerial ability that tormented Garry Monk’s defence, whereas on Saturday it was his quick feet and sharp precision that bamboozled the Welsh outfit.
Carroll now has four goals in 11 Premier League appearances this term, three of those have come against Swansea. The striker must wish he could play against them every week.
2. KEY ABSENTEES NOT OVERLY MISSED
Despite West Ham being without key figures Alex Song, Diafra Sakho and Cheikhou Kouyate their tactics and team selection was almost spot on in ensuring they still had the tools to get the victory.
They set up in a 3-5-2 formation with Carl Jenkinson and Aaron Cresswell as wing-backs and the former had a brilliant match bombing forward and even getting a few attempts on goal.
The formation was a clever ploy by the Hammers and had they not been so naïve as to think they could hold on to a 1-0 lead, they may well have been able to finish Swansea off in the second period.
3. VALENCIA’S LACKING CONFIDENCE
Enner Valencia definitely seems to struggle to have an impact when playing up top with Carroll, as oppose to when he and Sakho were leading the line in the early stages of the campaign to great effect.
The Ecuadorian has the talent and the tools to be a great asset in east London, but at the moment he is not covering himself in glory. With Sakho injured for the next few weeks he needs to step up his game, all it may take is one goal to give him the confidence and lift that he desperately needs.
4. NOBLE IS A ROCK
Noble ran the show in Song’s absence and was by far West Ham’s best player on the pitch, making some great passes and constantly putting in hard tackles.
The Englishman completed 55/64 passes (86%), won possession 21 times and created three chances; he was everywhere in the middle of the park and made sure Swansea had not time or space on the ball which was key in the first period especially.
5. HAMMERS MUST LEARN TO KILL GAMES OFF
One major lesson learned from the last few weeks is that West Ham must sort out holding onto leads. Three successive 1-1 draws, all of which West Ham have been the first to score in is not the sort of form that will see them finish in a European place come May.
They are currently seventh in the league table which is still hugely respectable and a point away to Swansea is a great result, but had they been braver they could well have taken three.
Next week’s home game against Hull City is now vital for the Hammers as they really need to get back to winning ways fast.
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