Our win on Saturday was a very hard one and sprinkled with luck, but the best team won and I am glad that Moyes’ tactics did not undo Arteta’s.
It looks like we are gliding back to Emeryball, and that’s not good. It is inevitable to happen now and again, but key is now for Arteta to get the team to listen to him and change their ways. I only watched our second half which I believe was our best one. The team was too stretched: our midfielders were isolated, our attackers were not connecting with midfield and our defence sat back too much: it really looked like we were being managed by Unai again.
I don’t know why we are not pushing up more from the back. Moyes had set up the team to beat us on the counter and we were scared of them, can be the only conclusion. Still, our tactics of sitting deep(er than usual) and leaving our midfield isolated let to a lot of chances for the Hammers and only poor finishing and decent saves by Leno prevented a loss for us on Saturday.
Up-front the Hammers’ defenders outnumbered our attackers and especially their central defenders had a good game. They anticipated Ozil’s cleverness and were too fast for our ‘runners’ Eddie and Auba. It needed something special or a dollop of luck, and the latter came our way thirteen minutes from the end. Auba’s shot was blocked and reached the head of Ozil; the German cushioned the ball for Laca and he took his chance without any hesitation.
I guess our defence are less sure as per the changes Arteta’s has made. Mustafi’s connecting skills were missed, even though Mari did his best to make up for it. Big Sok as FB has its plusses and minuses, but that is two changes to the back four and I can well imagine that pushing up and hemming in the opponent was a scary prospect for them.
Luckily, Ceballos had a decent game and tried hard to connect with the attack when he could. Same goes for Xhaka even though his passing lacked its usual sharpness. The MOTM for me was Mesut Ozil, who was together with Saka the only one with the vision and ability to add quality to our attack. Mesut had the assist so MOTM seems right.
It was not a beautiful or a good game, but the team spirit was high and that pulled us over the line. Next up is Citeh, Arteta’s management learning ground, and that will of course be a different kind of challenge.